Every passenger’s got a tale or two about a shocking or unpleasant journey.
Many have shared those stories on social media, damaging the reputation of the driver or company in question.
While the UK has strict regulations to eradicate the worst drivers, there are still some who either disregard the laws or offer very poor customer service. At Take Me we pride ourselves on our reputation and professional standards.
If you’re a taxi/private hire driver who wants to keep your reputation unblemished, what behaviours should you avoid? And which ones could land you in trouble with the authorities and possibly invalidate your insurance?
Read on for our guide to putting your passengers at ease and boosting your brand:
1. Making passengers feel uncomfortable or unsafe – inappropriate behaviour
Most drivers are courteous – even when passengers are not. Some drivers, however can overstep the mark.
You need to behave in a professional manner towards all passengers, but especially women on their own. Even if she’s chatty, she wants to feel safe – that’s probably why she’s taken your cab rather than the bus, she feels safer.
Even if it’s a regular passenger and she’s usually dressed in a uniform for work, but you pick her up on a Saturday night when she’s out on the town, you should never say “You look nice” – it’s inappropriate.
If you have a young, lone female passenger these are likely to feel vulnerable with a male driver. Maybe keep the chat to a minimum and vague, just “Hi, how are you?” is acceptable. Do not engage in any other chat that could make her feel uncomfortable.
Being overfamiliar whether day or night with a female passenger is not acceptable and could land you in trouble with your operator, licensing authority or worse the police.
If it’s late at night, or if she’s drunk, then it’s doubly important that you don’t act in an inappropriate way.
Putting any customer in an awkward position will mean they’re very reluctant to travel with us again. If you’re persistent or intimidating, you could well find they make a complaint about your behaviour to your operator, local authority – or even the police.
2. Looking for a more profitable fare
For a driver, it’s pretty annoying to queue in a zone, only to pick up a passenger who wants a short hop that will net you just a fiver.
However, drivers are allowed to refuse to take passengers only in certain circumstances, such as when they want to travel outside the district. Failing to take a passenger on a short journey could lose you your licence, be warned.
Better to accept the situation as just part and parcel of a driver’s life, take the passenger with good grace – and hope they give you a generous tip.
3. Not taking passengers all the way to their destination
Driving, especially in cities, can be a frustrating business. Just one set of roadworks can easily double your journey time.
It’s tempting in those situations to suggest to the passenger that they walk the final stretch. They might reach their destination quicker, and you can get onto your next fare in good time but you should never do this, it could void your insurance.
4. Taking a longer route
So you’re picking up passengers from the airport and it’s on the meter. You can see they’re foreign, lost, and desperate to get to their hotel in this strange city. Are you tempted to take them the scenic route – even though it’s dark?
Plenty of local drivers do just that. Indeed, many tourists suspect you’re doing it even when you’re not, which can be hurtful for honest cab drivers.
These days, with Google Maps on smartphones, passengers are pretty savvy. The best way to boost your fare with a tip is by offering an excellent service, not by trying to bamboozle people.
5. Failing to wait
It’s understandable that drivers don’t want to wait too long. Each minute spent idling outside someone’s home is wasted as far as you’re concerned – we get that it’s frustrating.
But if you arrive at a pick-up point five minutes early then speed off four minutes later, passengers are understandably aggrieved and mightily inconvenienced.
Sure, you might pick up your next fare more quickly, and earn yourself an extra tenner. But in the longer term, your reputation and your business will suffer.
If the fare is an account one then we have service agreements that we must wait sometimes up to 15 minutes after the booking time. Inform dispatch of the waiting time and allow them to contact the passenger.
6. Trying to charge passengers extra
Whether it’s extra bags, extra passengers or extra mileage, some drivers will attempt to use them as leverage to gain extra cash. Passengers feel they’ve no choice but to accept grudgingly.
Charging an “admin fee” for a passenger paying by card in the car is forbidden. Under no circumstances should you do this – again you could lose your license if you do.
Unless there’s a good reason for extra charges and you spell it out at the time of pick up or booking, you’re going to anger a lot of passengers this way.
Reputation matters – there’s a lot of competition out there between taxi firms. So if word spreads that you’ve hit passengers with an unexpected and unexplained charge, expect the business to suffer in the long term.
7. Failing to give passengers change
It’s understandable that drivers don’t carry a lot of change. You’re in a vulnerable position, and large sums of money could make you a magnet for trouble.
But no change of a tenner for an £8 fare? That’s hard to believe.
As society goes increasingly cashless, more and more drivers are accepting card and phone payments so maybe this irritation will soon be a thing of the past.
8. Driving badly
If you’re on the road all day, it gets very tempting to cut corners. After all, you’ll see countless other drivers running red lights and undertaking some very alarming U-turns.
Don’t do it.
As a professional driver, you’re already at a higher risk of traffic accidents than most people, simply because you spend so many hours on the road.
Don’t make accidents more likely by breaking road laws – they’re there for a reason, which is to keep you, your passengers and other road users safe.
Stick to the road laws – and make sure you’ve got good taxi insurance in case of accidents.
9. Failing to turn up
Passengers don’t book taxis just for fun. They want to get somewhere – usually by a certain time.
So if you fail to turn up when expected, our reputation will plummet. That passenger will turn to your competitor immediately and will tell their friends and neighbours about our failure too.
We make sure support staff are clued up. And when you say you’ll be somewhere at a certain time, make sure you are! Once you accept a booking you are contractually obliged to carry out the journey.
10. Discriminating against disabled passengers
Now this is about more than just reputation. This is a moral and legal issue, too.
It’s against the law to refuse to carry a wheelchair if a passenger needs one, most modern wheelchairs are made to fold small enough to fit into a family car boot. Likewise, assistance dogs, unless you are already displaying a medical certificate that shows you’re allergic to them – refusing to carry an assistance dog is illegal and can land you in very troubled water with licensing that could lead to you losing your license.
You face a fine and the loss of your licence if you’re found to have refused to carry a passenger because of their disability.
And assistance dogs are really not going to cause you any trouble. They’re perfectly trained in how to behave in a car – which is more than you can say for some passengers right?!
11. Driving without a taxi licence
There’s a fair amount of paperwork involved in becoming a driver, so it’s understandable that some drivers just want to get on the road and start earning money before they’re properly licensed.
But doing so could land you with a large fine, and invalidate your taxi insurance as well as criminal proceedings.
12. Smoking in your vehicle
The law is clear: you are not permitted to smoke in your licensed vehicle, even if you are not carrying passengers at the time.
If you need to smoke, take a break and have your cigarette well away from your vehicle.
However, be aware that smoke clings to your clothes. While that’s not illegal, many customers find it unpleasant to be in a confined space with the smell of stale cigarette smoke and might avoid travelling with us again. Yet another reason to kick the habit for good!
As for drinking and driving – it’s illegal and dangerous. Don’t even think about doing it.
13. Charging excessive fares
Local authorities have the power to set fares for hackney journeys, though these don’t apply to private hire vehicles.
If you’re on a meter, that’s the maximum you can charge – and exceeding it puts you at risk of losing your taxi licence.
If you’re a private hire driver, we as an operator set or agree our own prices.
Setting high prices – or, worse, agreeing one price before the journey and then demanding more at the end – is a sure-fire way to upset your customers and damage your reputation and earn you a complaint, and with growing competition from the likes of Uber, you really can’t afford to do that.
14. Having a dirty or shabby vehicle
Your car is your livelihood. You should be caring for it: getting it checked and serviced regularly, and covering it with a suitable taxi insurance policy.
From a passenger’s point of view, they want to travel in a recently valeted car. They don’t want to sit in rubbish left behind by other passengers, or smell the lingering traces of a take away.
Of course, at the end of a busy Friday night, your vehicle interior may not be as pristine as when you began your shift. But keep it as tidy as possible.
Tell passengers – politely – not to eat in your vehicle and ask them to take their rubbish home with them. Take a quick look in the passenger area between rides and clear out any obvious mess.
15. Not returning lost property
It’s frustrating that so many passengers leave [hones wallets, glasses, coats, umbrellas and suchlike behind, one passenger even left a radiator behind recently! You can’t keep track of every item – particularly not if you’re on a busy shift.
But if you find mobile phones, laptops, cameras or anything with an internal memory; personal ID such as passports or bank cards; or large sums of money, you should try to return them as soon as possible or take them to a police station. You should also inform dispatch that you have an item that was left behind in your vehicle.
Drugs should also be handed in, for obvious reasons!
Other items you should hand in to the office and we keep them for at least 28 days.
Drivers who go that extra mile to reunite passengers with their lost property will quickly win praise and boost their reputation.
16. Carrying out your own personal business
When you’re giving a passenger a ride, you’re at work. So you need to act professionally.
That means not holding any phone calls with your family/friends or personal business. It means not stopping to pick something up from a shop. And certainly not giving a lift to a friend or family member!
All the above can be disconcerting or intimidating for nervous passengers, many of whom find being in a confined space with strangers somewhat alarming.
Keep everyone happy by separating your personal and your professional lives.
If you follow the above guidance, we can assure you that you will have a much happier life as a driver with Take Me and beyond.