Want a Different Punchline? Wrecked ‘em? I Nearly Killed ‘em!

What would you be doing today if you’d been the one who’d paid 2.5 million dollars in 2013 for “mini-fleet” of two New York City taxi medallions? Three years later, a 2-medallion “mini-fleet” is listed on nycitycab.com for 1.2 million dollars. Uber and its imitators have put the hurt on the taxi business in NYC.05.30 Picture1

It’s an all-too-familiar tale of digital disruption. The licensed, governmentally-controlled legacy business versus the internet-enabled startup. NYC taxi operators lobbied and then sued city hall to try to keep Uber off the streets. Last year the taxis finally got their own smartphone apps to try to level the playing field.

If you were working for a taxi fleet operator who’d gotten in near the top of the medallion market, what would you be doing to push back against Uber and Lyft?

You’d continue lobbying efforts, of course, trying to force regulators to impose steeper fees and controls on the insurgents to try to level the playing field.

You’d make sure that your cabs were available through any and all of the NYC taxi-hailing apps – and you’d make sure your drivers were well trained on dealing with those apps, to make the rider experience as Uber-like as possible.

You’d do research to find out what riders don’t like about using cabs and work like crazy to eliminate or minimize those negatives. Maybe you need newer, cleaner taxis? Maybe drivers need training to be better at greeting the public?

In your research you’d also try to find out what riders like about cabs versus Uber, so you could emphasize those aspects in some way.

You’d recognize that many of these negatives and positives would concern all the NYC taxis – well beyond the ones owned by your company. So, you’d reach out and share the information you’d gathered to try to encourage other taxi owners to make changes to minimize negatives and enhance the positives. If you were fortunate, you’d be able to build a coalition of like-minded taxi owners and operators with which to share information and coordinate initiatives.

Perhaps with the cooperation of your coalition of like-minded taxi owners and operators, you’d develop a communication strategy to let potential riders know about the changes you’d made and to help deepen their positive perceptions of using taxis instead of Uber. After all, potential riders can’t fully appreciate the positive changes you’ve made until they’ve experienced them and they may not experience them unless they know you’ve made them.

You might offer incentives to get consumers to try the upgraded taxi experience. And you might ask for feedback through multiple channels to see if your changes were having the desired effect. When riders had nice things to say, you might give them incentives to publish those nice things in Social Media to help get out the word.

You’d be working like crazy to find ways to make taxis better, safer, cleaner, more pleasant, more helpful, more dependable and everything else you could think of compared to Uber and its imitators.

So, what’s the punchline? Of course, NuVoodoo has no interests in the taxi or ride-sharing business – and you probably don’t either. But, a battle between legacy businesses operating with governmentally-issued licenses acquired at very high cost and internet-enabled digital startups seemed, well, familiar to us.

There’s the school of thought that NYC taxicab operators should spend less maintaining their vehicles while reducing their workforce and lowering wages. They could try importing drivers from outside the NYC area to get people who’ll work for even lower compensation. But, who would do that?

Want a different punchline? Wrecked ‘em? I nearly killed ‘em!