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Customer Expectations: Are they clearly defined, measurable and verifiable?

Some years ago I was riding in a cab in Atlanta. For the first time ever, I had in front of me a Passenger “Bill of Rights” that informed me of what I could expect from this ride. I was impressed by the efforts of the Atlanta Taxi Bureau to create an explicit list…but after re-reading the list, I became somewhat frustrated by those “rights” that were subject to interpretation and likely neither measurable nor verifiable. Apparently, I was “entitled” to the following:

#1: An air conditioned ride: If you have ever been to “Hot”lanta, you know that this is a MUST HAVE requirement. I suspect even the driver is going to demand this of his vehicle.

#2: Adequate trunk space: The word “adequate” is subjective to say the least. Adequate for whom? Someone just heading over to a friend’s house for dinner or someone traveling with their entire family overseas? This could be an objective measurable characteristic but think of adequate storage bin space on an airplane. There are just some people that figure they can squeeze a bag into a space that was not designed to hold it.

#3: The most direct or preferred route: These days with Uber and Lyft, we have the ability to track what is happening in real time. Back in the old days, if you didn’t know the city, the traffic patterns, the construction… you sometimes felt like you really were being “taken for a ride.” I suspect this is very difficult to measure unless you have local knowledge.

#4: A noise free (radio, tapes, etc) environment: Tapes? You can easily tell how dated this document is… but this is truly a blessing. This is a Go/No-Go Specification. Easily measured. Even today on Lyft you can request a “quiet” car that will have no talking or music being played during your ride.

#5: A smoke free environment: With the decline in the number of smokers, this is probably less of an issue, but now it would need to be reframed as a “vape-free environment” with all the e-cigarettes.

#6: A clean vehicle: Clean is VERY subjective… just ask your teenage son.

#7: A courteous driver: Also very subjective. In some cities –New York perhaps– we are generally just thrilled that they actually stop to pick us up. Courteous is WAY beyond our expectations.

#8: A driver that adheres to a proper dress code: I asked a drive once what a “proper” dress code was. His response was, “I have to wear clothes.” I would say this one is a bit too subjective as well.

#9: An explanation of any fare charged: Back in the day, when you got into the taxi, particularly late at night, there seemed to always be unexpected charges. Fortunately, with Lyft and Uber, the charges are known upfront before you even commit to a ride. This will continue to be a significant hurdle in my mind to hailing a taxi. I just don’t like surprises.

#10: A receipt upon request with the company name, phone number and drivers name: Rarely do taxi drivers provide more than just a blank card for me to fill in my own information.

Part of Process Management is knowing what your customer’s “wants” are…and then delivering on them in a consistent way. If the customer requirements are vague and not easily measurable or verifiable, how are you going to know they are actually being met? Lyft and Uber have created a timely, measurable response mechanism to receive feedback and also to close the loop when we as customers provide it.

Recently I was picked up on a rainy day in a car that had a headlight out. The driver was driving somewhat erratically including, running a red light in morning traffic. As soon as I left the car, I sent their customer service a note through their app. Within 15 minutes they responded, “The driver has been notified of their safety violations and will no longer be receiving ride assignments until these issues have been resolved.”

I was impressed that they not only seemed to have taken action to address the issue but also quickly notified me of the fact. It is true that I really don’t know if that driver was taken out of service, but at least they made me –the customer– feel better by saying that they did. Sadly, still not verifiable…but a step in the right direction.

If you want to learn more about the culture war between Uber/Lyft and traditional cab, check out this article in Atlanta Magazine.

Bob Boehringer

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