Bad customer experience killed the taxicab

Fast. Friendly. Frictionless.

Today’s customers accept nothing less. That is why this year, 89% of companies expect to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience.

This January, Yellow Cab Co-Op, the largest traditional taxicab company, filed for bankruptcy. Meanwhile, ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft have become household names, and continue to grow exponentially.


With the shift to mobile, customer experience has evolved from individual opinions to a collective intelligence, and customers have taken the wheel. The death of the taxicab is solid yellow proof.

When the first taxi roared to life in 1897, transportation meant simply getting from Point A to Point B. Drivers drove, passengers sat and paid the fare, no one else was involved. Customer experience improvement did not determine success, it only earned drivers a nice cash tip.

The birth of smartphones marked the beginning of the end for the taxicab. Suddenly all customers were connected and sharing experiences instantaneously, raising expectations for both efficiency and trust. Unpredictably unpleasant rides in cabs were even more frustrating with these heightened standards, but there was no alternative.

Experience drives reviews and ratings

That is, until 2009, when Uber rolled up to the curb, redefining convenience by putting customers at the center of their business. Customers are asked to rate their drivers immediately after their ride, and drivers are rigorously evaluated based on customer feedback: those with a 4.6 average rating or lower after 100 rides are “deactivated”–a euphemism for “fired”.  As the company explained, “deactivating the accounts of the drivers who provide consistently bad customer experiences ensures that Uber continues to be known for quality.”

A few years later, customer experience grew a bright pink mustache. Lyft, another ridesharing service, encourages its drivers to act like friends: greeting passengers with a fistbump used to be a requirement for drivers. Their standards are even higher than Uber’s: an average rating below 4.8 means the driver must improve or risk deactivation. Drivers are evaluated based on four success metrics, or “Flags”:

  • Navigation
  • Safety
  • Cleanliness
  • Friendliness

Each week, drivers receive an email with all the feedback and flags from their passengers. In the spirit of friendship, if any pair of driver and passenger rates one another 3 stars or lower, they will not be paired again.

The future is fueled by customer satisfaction

To make the travel experience more comfortable, both companies aim to establish trust between drivers and riders. They provide profiles of the approaching driver and a description of their car so riders aren’t traveling with complete strangers. Drivers are encouraged to be themselves, make conversation and even stock their cars with accommodations for their riders in order to keep ratings high.

When was the last time a taxi driver offered you water, snacks, or a phone charger?

Taking convenience to the next level is Luxe, an on-demand valet service. Luxe drivers meet customers at their cars and park them in secure Luxe lots, then return when needed to pick customers up wherever they are.

Traditional transportation is only one of the many victims of today’s customer-centric consumer culture.

And it makes sense. As they say, it is not the destination, but the journey.

Improve customer experience – it DOES drive revenue

About BirdEye

With BirdEye, it’s easier than ever to get new authentic customer reviews, building trust that leads to more sales. In today’s reputation economy, BirdEye provides the eyes, ears, and algorithms necessary to create the five-star customer experiences that keep your business at the top.

Want to see it in action? Visit To learn more, go to or call toll-free #1-800-561-3357. Follow us on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter.

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