Ever hired a Call Taxi in India ? It is a pretty strange situation. 50-60% of the time , bookings made for Call Taxi will arrive on time or even few minutes before and on that particular day , you may not have any time bound commitment .You begin to build a trust with the services offered.
‘Will be there in few mins’ false promises
So next time ,you book the same taxi service for a time bound appointment like catching train or attending a function. The panic attack will slowly build its momentum when you do not get any call from cab driver even 10 mins before your requested departure time.
When you reach the call center to get an explanation ,you will have to run through the whole details once again – your pick up point ,destination etc and they promise to call back soon. At this point they do not give you the taxi details or driver’s number .This is when you can smell some thing is fishy. But still over the trust you built with the service during your past , you hope the taxi will reach on time.
But still there is no taxi coming to you . Worse is that there is no update from the call center. You will have call up once again and they give you the template response : ‘Taxi is coming on the way’.
15 mins later , still there is no sign of taxi.
25 mins later , you get a call from the cab driver asking for landmarks and other details on how to reach your pick up point. But irony is that the driver would be quite far from your pick up point that it would take even more time for him to reach your pick up point and then drop you at destination.
And in most scenarios , you need to plan alternate options or be prepared to wait for the taxi and miss your train .
So this is the problem with many of the call taxi service in India – they screw up when you are depending on them the most . Try to provide your feedback on the bad taxi experience , nobody gives a damn about it .
Irony is that , next time when you book a taxi , you book it some 15-20 mins before the time you actually wanted to leave. And on that particular day , the taxi will reach 20 mins well in advance there by leading to a situation where in you reach a party that is scheduled for 7 by 6:30 itself.
Where do things mess up exactly ?
Each one of us would have encountered a bad taxi experience but still continue to use taxi because there is no alternate options available .Every bad experience will find it’s root in any of the variety of reasons listed below :
Scheduling and Co-ordination Issues
Most of the time it would be a human error – some one in charge at the call center would have missed to co-ordinate properly and schedule with the taxi drivers. This also include the shortage of taxi due to the huge demand at peak times.
Getting stuck in Traffic
This is again possible during peak times. Normally it would take X minutes for the driver to reach the destination . But on that particular day , due to the frequent public buses break down or to some other reasons ,the traffic pile could be huge and it can lead to slip in reaching the pick up destination on time.
No Fall Back Plan B
This happens when the allocated driver for an early morning pick up forgets about it and happily sleeps there by making the situation for both the passenger and the taxi service a nightmare since it is very difficult to re-schedule for early morning or mid-night trips.
Arriving at a methodical,scalable solution
In order to build a solution that solves this problem of scheduling taxi without human errors on a large-scale, there are some important data points that you require which can be used with the best technology available :
- Get the live co-ordinates or location of the taxi at all times
- Schedule cabs based on assessing the live traffic of that area
- Shortest and quickest should be booked for pick up to reduce empty dead travel
Location Based Tracking Technology
GPS enabled on the taxi will help in getting the latest co-ordinates of the taxi that can help a long way to improving accuracy for better scheduling. Even the customers should be provided with an interface to track latest location update of the taxi by means of an application either through web interface or mobile based so that the customers can get the actual position of the car and there by making up for alternate plans if there is a delay .
Scheduling based on Live Traffic Feed
With the advent in technology, live traffic information integrated with data from the GPS on current location can be provided as inputs to a scheduling algorithm that should automatically pick the taxi that is either nearest or quicker to reach the pick up point.
Be honest and sincere
And some human aspect as well. Even in case if the taxi is held up due to some issues , call center guys need to be honest on how long it will take to reach so that customer will have a choice to either plan with other options if possible or be prepared to wait.
But in most cases, the taxi services are not honest and make you trust them until the last-minute, only to find yourselves stuck up missing the train.
Emerging Taxi Startups
Taxi services have been there without any major changes over the last few years to decade. There is a technology disruption that is happening throughout the world in the Point to Point Taxi Market with new players like Uber,GetTaxi who run this whole service as technology service .In India as well, there are slew of taxi start ups emerging primarily focused on making the taxi experience more pleasant and hassle free.
OlaCabs is the new rock star in the taxi start-up market in India . It’s CEO is a young IIT and Microsoft alumina has sought the help of technology to solve the problem.
So here’s how it works :
1.Book a cab through your smart phone or website or call center .
2.Get the cab details and driver number immediately.
3.Track how far is the cab from your pick point using the smart phone.
4.Jump into the cab and enjoy the ride.
5.Receipt sent as e-bill in your smart phone app.
6.Finally enter the feedback on the service to complete the transaction.
Yeah this is really cool.They are even trying to achieve the magical number of taxi within 20 minutes of booking or promise a free ride.
Behind the scenes , Ola Cabs is primarily an aggregator of small time taxi operators , coordinating between taxi operators and customers with good use of technology and scheduling software systems in place .The company by itself do not own any taxi on its own and works with the model of earning a commission for every booking made through it.This kind of technology coupled with methodical approach leads to a better customer service that is reliable and efficient as well. Currently they do operate in cities like Delhi , Mumbai and Bangalore but I wish they expand to all major cities quickly .
OlaCabs has pushed the envelope of innovation and now many players who were established but with little online presence are jumping into the online booking/gps tracking technology bandwagon.
Missing Piece – Mobile Payment
While the whole experience of OlaCabs is cool, the last step with regard to payment is still the traditional way . You have to hand over the exact change which means you have to either have the correct change or keep running around.
Idle time spent on running around for change could potentially cost a new trip for the taxi.
Mobile enabled payment should be part of this whole experience. Internationally there are players like Square who have disrupted the mobile payment industry with their innovative technologies that is proving to be a big boon to the small business.
But the advent of such technology in the payment market is not possible in India in current scenarios .Thanks to RBI to some extent , the mobile payment industry itself is not growing as fast as it is expected to grow . So there are challenges to cross this final hurdle but it is very crucial in offering customers a totally satisfied hassle free experience.
Budding start-ups like OnMobilePay similar to Square is looking out for potential investors but people will think twice before investing since the restrained regulations can hinder growth in the mobile payment industry in India.
Currently there are no loyalty program for customers who frequently use taxi . So a slew of attractive schemes can make the customer be a brand marketer for the taxi service. Some of them could be like:
- Referring a friend can entail you to a discount
- ‘Frequent Traveler Miles’ like Airlines will entice customers to stick the brand and be loyal
- Like how every late delivery of pizza is made free, every late pick up should have discounts attached to it so that the taxi service is accountable for the delay
Corporate should push for better technology in taxi
With the advent in IT and BPO industries booming over the past decade, a large number of employees are ferried every day and night in and out of the city. Women who start late from office or attending night shift needs to feel safe and secure during the travel. If Corporate can demand better technology from taxi operators to track the taxi, it could be a great step in the right direction towards mass adoption.
Two incentives for Corporate to include GPS and Scheduling system in their cabs
1.For late night trips ,it is easy to track the taxi movement and make sure the employees are reaching home safely.
2.Monitor the speed of the cab thereby making sure the cab driver do not to drive rash and fast.
All in all , what I can see is that the technology disruption is coming to the taxi market and has the potential to fundamentally alter the way how we plan to commute from Point A to Point B in the future.