DisruptionEditorial, Top Highlights Thursday, January 19th, 2017
I experienced why disruption happens in an industry the other day when I decided to take a cab. I must admit that I am Mr. Uber. I take the car service to and from work practically every day. The cost is cheap and I can make focused phone calls, relax or simply have a pleasant conversation with the driver. In fact, if you look at all the costs associated with owning a car, ride sharing might be a cheaper option.
I have friends who no longer own a car, use Uber or Lyft and rent cars for long trips. Disruption is a term used when a start-up business upsets the apple cart in industries long dominated by a handful of players. For example, Amazon initially disrupted the way that people bought books. A customer did not need to feel and touch a hardcover or paperback book to decide to make a purchase. The result was that most bookstores have slowly disappeared.
I was picking up some heavy binders at a printer the other day and I was in a rush to get home to do some work. I came out of the printer and there was a cab stand across the street. I thought I haven’t taken a cab in ages, why not give it a try.
I approached the first cab in line, knocked on the window and said “I have a short trip, less than ten blocks, are you interested in taking me?” My thought was that I didn’t want the cab driver to feel like he was getting stiffed if he had been waiting in line for an hour.
The cabbie said, “Do you want to go?” I thought no, I’m just asking because I don’t want the ride. I said “yes.” I get into the cab with my heavy binders and off we go. I have become accustomed to friendly Uber drivers who ask you about your day or make pleasant small talk. Not a word to me from the cabbie, even as I thanked him for agreeing to take me the short distance.
When we arrive at my home, the meter displayed $5.50. I said I would like to pay by credit card. The cabbie says, “you need to pay cash or it will be a $10 minimum charge. Can’t you read, it is on the signs all over the cab.” That ended the nice tip I planned to give the cab driver. I paid the $10 and got out of the cab. No tip.
Disruption happens when businesses become so big, or are monopolies, that customer service is no longer important. Cab companies felt the customer had no other option except a bus. The result was cabs that were often dirty, rude drivers who would not even load and unload luggage in the trunk, unknown wait times and exorbitant prices. Enter Uber and Lyft.
Uber and Lyft eliminated all the problems with cabs. I know how long it will be before the car arrives, the car is clean, often almost immaculately, and the drivers are pleasant and perform the services that cab drivers used to perform like helping you with your luggage. An added benefit is that I know what the ride will cost before I get in the car. Heaven.
I tried to support the cab industry the other day and I was easily reminded why it will go slowly into the night. Even with competition from Uber and Lyft, the cab industry refuses to change to adapt to the needs of the customer. Disruption can only happen when an industry forgets the most important person in a transaction: the customer. Take a picture of a yellow cab. In 20 years, it will look like a picture of a Dodo bird. STAMPP CORBIN
San Diego LGBT Weekly
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