It's not new that managing a taxi or a private hire fleet is a demanding business. From vehicle maintenance, to customer satisfaction, and driver retention, fleet owners, have always had their own set of challenges. Adding on top of that competition with ride-hailing giants and the recent coronavirus outbreak, the situation for transportation providers is today even more difficult than before.
That said, with challenges come opportunities. For instance, social distancing restrictions and safety concerns have pushed people away from public transit. As we now see lockdowns lifting around the world, the need for safer travel and for commuting alternatives is increasing. This article will look into the measures and strategies transportation fleets can implement to maintain (and even grow) their business during this challenging time.
In this article:
- Diversify your activity
- Adopt the right technology
- Ensure 5 star quality of service
- Enforce cleaning
- Incentivize loyalty
- Communicate efficiently
- Maintain the best relationship with drivers
Diversify Your Activity
During the outbreak, online ordering from stores, groceries, and restaurants, increased to unprecedented levels. Whether these trends are temporary or not, the impacts on consumer behavior are expected to last. Therefore, it might be a good time to consider offering delivery services to consumers. By partnering with local grocery shops, restaurants, and stores, transportation fleets can increase their activity in the long run.
However, delivery is only one of the many strategic field fleet owners should look at. In fact, the need for private transportation is much wider and touches almost every single institution. Fleet owners and transport suppliers should consider partnering with airports, corporations, banks, hotels, universities, senior communities, and can even apply to get licensed for Non-Emergency Medical Transportation. With concern rising over the potential of a second COVID-19 wave, it may be an excellent time to initiate discussions with local businesses and institutions to enrich customer bases. Solutions like the HERE Mobility Marketplace, connect transportation providers with leading businesses globally, and can be particularly handy for fleets looking to diversify their activity.
Adopt the Right Technology
With competition from the ride-hailing giants, many transportation providers need to close the technological gap. Technology is one of the most important tools to improve driver management, customer experience, route optimization, and more. Below is a non-exhaustive list of solutions fleet owners and operators should look into:
Dispatch solutions: There are many advanced dispatch solutions in the market that can streamline communication between operators and drivers in a digital way. The HERE Mobility dispatch solution is free and comes with a driver app. This technology allows operators to see the status and location of drivers in real-time, monitor pre-booked and canceled rides, and more.
Route optimization tools: When it comes to pre-booked rides, route optimization and driver allocation can be a terrible headache for fleet managers. By adopting an optimization tool for scheduling and routes, fleet managers can improve their ROI up to 40% by saving driven kilometers and reducing maintenance costs.
- Contactless payments: Contact between passengers and drivers is one of the main concerns in terms of safety. By offering contactless payments through an app, or even by allowing people to pay with a credit card via a device close to their seat, transportation providers can reduce this concern.
- Passenger apps: Not every company can afford to create its own app. But when possible, offering passengers to book, track, and pay for their rides via an application is a great way to improve their experience. It can also be done through a link sent to their smartphone, sending to a webpage that includes the details of the rides.
Ensure 5 Star Quality of Service
Customer satisfaction equals returning clientele. This doesn't mean taxis or private hires need to renew their vehicles to impress their clients. It's all about the passenger experience: it should be high class. From instructing drivers with "greeting protocol," to offering a bottle of water to clients, making sure the prices are fixed and transparent, or even requesting a dress-code if appropriate, there are many simple steps that can be implemented to quickly improve the customer experience. It goes without saying that arriving on time to and from the destination is a must. As mentioned, technology could be helpful to give customers the comfort and visibility when ordering and paying.
Speaking of consumer satisfaction, it's today essential to answer the primary concern caused by the virus: hygiene and sanitization. Transportation providers should make sure passengers and drivers wear masks and have a hand sanitizer available. In addition, cleaning and sanitizing between rides is a must in order to reassure passengers. Ride-hailing giant Didi even spent 1.4 million dollars to install protective plastic sheets in its vehicles. Of course, not all fleets can afford this kind of measures, but it remains interesting to see how big companies are acting during this time. This article gives a nice overview of the main precautions that were adopted by the key market players during the outbreak.
Returning customers are the key to any successful transportation business. By incentivizing them to come back through special offers, creating retention programs (similar to airline frequent flyers initiatives), giving special discounts in partners' shops and restaurants, or even simply sending a thank you message after rides, there are countless steps that can be done in order to ensure customer retention. It can even be symbolic titles depending on the number of rides (chief, boss, master, VIP, VVIP, King of the North... you name it). It sounds like nothing, but by giving the impression to the customers that their loyalty is appreciated, even symbolically, transportation providers can easily strengthen their relationship with returning passengers.
Wouldn't it be a shame to invest so many efforts and not make a noise about it? Every step or measure a company takes should be communicated as much as possible. From updating the website to sending newsletters to customers, notifications in the app, and targeted social promotion, transportations fleets should make sure to let their customers (and potential customers) know about all the actions they've made for their comfort. It can be even done by putting a temporary sticker on the vehicles – or inside them. The more, the better – yet, without spamming.
Maintain the Best Relationship With Drivers
Drivers are the heart of any transportation business. It's right that in crisis time, there might be a situation when, unfortunately, not everyone gets rides. That said, it's essential to help drivers as much as possible, and to make the transition the easiest it can be. If there is such an option, offering another position in the company, or negotiating with partners that can still hire can be helpful. For instance, Uber created a hub to help drivers find alternative jobs, and Grab redeployed its drivers for delivery verticals.
However, regardless of the crisis, driver retention should always be a focus. To make sure they're satisfied with their job, taxi and private hires companies should make sure of the following:
Praise good work: Praise can be more valuable than financial rewards for many workers – see our article on employee satisfaction.
- Offer rewards and referral bonuses: This point is straightforward. Compensation over good work and referral bonuses is the very basic of employees' hiring and retention.
- Distribute rides evenly: It allows drivers to feel they're treated as equals and create solidarity.
- Provide convenient technology: The same way customers are looking for convenient technology to order their rides, drivers are looking for apps and tools to make their work easier.
- Communicate transparently: All employees appreciate transparency. By keeping the communication as clear as possible, fleet owners can create more trust and loyalty.
- Ensure maximum safety: Being a driver has never been the safest job. Drivers were one of the most affected populations of COVID-19. Therefore, today more than ever, it's essential to guarantee their safety by taking the right precautions.
Like in every crisis, businesses are forced to reinvent themselves and innovate. This unprecedented situation can be an opportunity for transportation fleets to diversify their services, adopt new technologies, and reinforce their relationship with drivers and passengers. At some point, the crisis will end, and when it does, the players who have succeeded to navigate (and even accelerate), under such severe conditions, will increase their chances to be in pole position the day after.