I had a conversation with a taxi cab driver who was upset about the impact of Uber on his livelihood. He cited unfairness, that they were unlicensed, and several other reasons. Although, I was sympathetic, it dawned on me that he didn’t realize why Uber and Lyft are successful. Sadly, the leaders of the Taxi Industry probably don’t understand either what the issue is. To paraphrase the Clinton Presidential Campaign, it’s the user experience, stupid.
The Thrill of Catching a Cab: So, to put this in perspective, I have never had a good experience with cabs. I have never been successful hailing a cab from the street (this is pretty emasculating). I have tried calling for a cab only to never have one show up. As such, I’ve learned to find a nice hotel and get in line for a taxi…and when you enter a cab, you never know what you’ll find. My experience includes being greeted by the smells that consisted of a mixture of cigarette smoke mixed with body odor. This is followed by a terrifying high speed ride to the airport only to find that the cabbie only accepted cash. Anybody able to relate?
The Ride Sharing Experience: In contrast, my experience with a Lyft driver was quite pleasant. Literally within 3 minutes of requesting a ride, a Lyft driver arrives. He’s pleasant and through polite conversation, I find that he’s working his way through college. The entire transaction is handled by the app so I don’t have to pull out my wallet. Everyone that I have talked to that have taken an Uber or Lyft will never take a cab given a choice.
The Taxi Industry Response: What is the cab industry doing to respond to the Ride Sharing Threat? I’ve seen essentially two ways that the Taxi Industry has responded:
- Legislation: The Taxi Industry has been successful in keeping out ride sharing services in cities like Las Vegas and Portland, Oregon through legislation. However, I feel that this is only temporary for a couple of reasons. Because of Uber and Lyft’s success, they now have deep pockets and can hire their own lobbyists. And more importantly, because they provide such a terrific customer experience, public sentiment will eventually win over the politicians.
- Technology: Several cab companies have developed an app with Uber-like features thinking that this will provide a level playing field. However, this only helps in hailing the cab. The user experience once after entering the cab still is unchanged. This is why the cab companies are not really seeing much success with their apps.
A Cautionary Tale? The Taxi vs. Ride Sharing Service fight is still playing out. However, in my life time, I’ve seen the rise and fall of Blockbuster. I don’t think the leadership of Blockbuster understood why the public stopped renting videos until it was too late. Plain and simple, people rather get a video rental from the comfort of their home (be it streaming or through the mail). It’s the user experience, stupid.
By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014. Follow Rich on Twitter at @ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.