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What We Can Learn From London Taxi Drivers

by Brenda Hall, CEO

Brenda_Hall_100_x_120They say the US and the UK are very much alike, and only separated by a common language. Although this is intended to be humorous (which I think it is), there’s a little more to it. Anyone who has taken a taxi in New York City, and then somehow managed to experience a taxi ride in London can attest — there’s just no comparison.

Did you know London taxi drivers usually spend anywhere from 2-4 years learning and being tested (written and oral) to achieve the position of a London taxi driver? I didn’t until I started to write this blog. My point is that London taxi drivers take their role and position very seriously. Their taxi’s are uber clean, the driver knows exactly where he needs to go without calling back to his garage for directions, and they don’t use navigation systems. That’s right — they must memorize over 2500 London streets to pass their exams. They see themselves as professionals, and mini-business owners. They care about the fare they carry, their luggage and even though most of them are not ‘touristy chatty’, all of them want to ensure visitors and non-visitors alike move around London under their watchful and careful driving.

If you take a taxi in New York City… not so much. You will usually get a driver that speaks English… though likely with a strong foreign accent, but that’s okay. They will get you where you want to go and often by using technology (navigation systems), or calling back to their garage for additional help. The taxi will likely be well worn; many without shocks because potholes really do a lot of damage to them… so they just don’t replace them. Most taxi’s are quite dirty as well. It’s sad, but that’s my experience for the most part, and I am in NYC quite a lot.

But the real difference, and the point I’m making here, is work ethic. London taxi drivers will do more than simply take you from point A to point B. Returning to the US recently, one actually dropped me at Heathrow and told me to wait in the car while he made sure Virgin Atlantic was open at that early time of morning. Then, he helped me with my luggage; and not just out of the trunk and onto the curb, but in through the terminal door, and pointed me in the right direction to the counter. I don’t see any NYC taxi driver doing that! The message? You’ll enjoy your London experience even more with the help, support and guidance of taxi drivers who really care about your experience traveling in their taxi!

It’s all about customer service! Pure and Simple! And, you know what? I gave the London taxi drivers better tips, too.