October 7, 2020

6 Strategies to Increase Your Ridership for the long term

Nikhil Venkatesa

Welcome back to the Mobile22 Blog!

In our previous post, we laid out three research-based dimensions — price, reliability and availability — by which your riders evaluate whether to book a ride with you or with a ride-hail service instead.

In this post, we're picking up where we left off, and giving you specific strategies around these dimensions that you can implement in your business.

These research-based strategies aren't quick hacks that will temporarily boost your ridership overnight. They're designed to improve your service over the long term and help it become the go-to transport service of choice in your local market.

Since this is a longer post, we’re listing out each strategy below so that you can easily navigate to the ones you’re more interested in:

  1. Have your drivers follow a GPS routing system
  2. Give your riders upfront fare estimates
  3. Provide a mobile app to your riders
  4. Join a taxi provider network
  5. Conduct a customer experience audit
  6. Have money-back guarantees for your riders

Ready? Let’s help you increase your ridership!

Price-Driven Strategies

To recap from our previous post, the price dimension isn't just about the actual fare cost of your rides. It also covers price consistency and predictability around your fares.

Since fare prices for taxis are regulated by the government and not by providers, you can't really compete with ride-hail services here.

However, you can ease rider anxiety around fare unpredictability and variability in the following ways:

1. Have your drivers follow a GPS routing system

Make it standard protocol for your drivers to use Google Maps or Apple Maps to route their rides. A GPS routing system will give your drivers shorter routes, which give your riders lower fares if you follow a meter-based pricing model.

By implementing this strategy, you'll remove dependency on your drivers to give your riders shorter and faster rides. You'll also be able to give your riders fare estimates when they book their rides — you can use the distance calculated by the routing system to calculate their fares when they call to book a ride with you.

2. Give your riders upfront fare estimates

Whether your riders are booking on an app, on a website or over the phone, upfront fare estimates are the best way to reduce rider anxiety around price.

This is easier to implement when your drivers are using a GPS routing system because it means your estimates will be close to the final fare riders pay at the end of their rides.

If you're a provider that uses a zone-based pricing model, then it might be a good idea to have a custom calculator for all your zone fares if you don't have one already. You can easily create one on Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel.

With one of these, your call-takers can:

  1. Easily type in a rider's pickup and destination locations on Google Maps, then  
  2. Estimate your fare in your custom calculator, and finally  
  3. Communicate the estimate to the rider!

A much easier way to give fare estimates to your riders?
Mobile22 Rider App!

Reliability-Driven Strategies

The reliability dimension of ridership is about improving pickup success and reducing wait times.

One of the reasons why ride-hail services have higher pickup success rates and lower wait times than taxi providers is that they can balance supply and demand flexibly. Companies like Uber and Lyft can recruit more drivers and add more vehicles on their networks when their demand outstrips their supply.

Taxi providers, on the other hand, cannot respond dynamically to market conditions. Taxi regulations generally limit the number of taxis that are allowed to operate in each market, and transportation commissions are usually slow to raise these limits to respond to growing demand.

So if providers cannot add more vehicles to their fleet to reduce wait times, what can they do?

Research shows that the solution lies with technology. Here are some strategies you can implement to improve the reliability dimension of your business:

3. Provide a mobile app for your riders

This strategy may sound obvious to you in 2020, but it deserves mention.

If you do not have a mobile app available for your riders, you are seriously jeopardizing your quality of service, your pickup success, and your wait times for your riders.

The research behind why mobile apps improve reliability for taxi and ride-hail services is proven.

Evidence from as far back as 2007 shows that real-time arrival or location information reduces rider anxiety around wait times. It leads to higher pickup success since riders cancel less often when they can see how far away their drivers are from their pickup locations. And it also leads to lower wait times since taxi providers are better able to measure their average wait times more systematically.

Real-time information displayed on a Mobile22 trip

But there are significant challenges associated with making a custom mobile app for your riders and drivers — the financial and time investment required can make it really prohibitive if you're a local taxi company in a smaller market.

Contracting ride-hailing rider and driver mobile apps from a technology provider may be an easier option for you to get started quickly. The problem with this option is that these technology providers leave you to fend for yourself.

They provide custom apps for your service, branded with your logo and your business. But they don't generate demand for you through digital marketing and advertising. And what point is having an app if you can't find anyone to use it?

The other issue with having a custom app of your own is that it forces your riders to consider downloading another app on their phones. Only your power users will consider doing so — so does it justify the cost?

Luckily, there is another way to get a mobile app for your service that may be more affordable for you.  

4. Join a taxi provider network

This is a relatively newer option that has become available to taxi providers in the last 2-3 years. In this model, providers join a single platform that's accessible to riders across multiple markets.

Providers get access to mobile apps for their riders and drivers, and any backend technology required to run their operations on the platform. They don't have to worry about generating demand because the platform focuses on demand generation for them. Riders get access to a wide network of providers in different markets, so they don't have to download an app for every provider.

It's a win-win situation for providers and riders — and it's what we're building at Mobile22.

Providers on networks like ours get access to a whole suite of tools, like our Dispatch Portal.

In fact, the researchers from the Los Angeles study we quoted in our previous blog post were supportive on single ride-hailing platforms for taxi providers:

A single hailing platform would add efficiency and formalize the currently ad-hoc referral system observed in this research, in which taxi companies referred riders to other companies when they had no cabs available.

Looking to join the Mobile22 network? Get started by letting us know right here.

Accountability-Driven Strategies

The accountability dimension of ridership is about adding feedback mechanisms and using customer feedback to improve rider service.

Why is customer feedback important for your ridership? Because 80% of people who have a bad customer experience tell someone about it. If you're not measuring your customer satisfaction and trying to improve it, you won't be able to improve your ridership.

Ride-hail services perform better on the accountability dimension because of their driver rating systems and quick refund mechanisms.

How can taxi providers compete on this dimension? We have some strategies for you:

5. Conduct a customer experience audit

CX audits enable you to quickly identify the biggest pain points your customers are having with your service and help you zero in on where to improve.

CX audits have three phases — designing your audit, conducting your audit and collecting customer data, and analyzing the data you've collected and identifying areas where you need to improve.

Your CX audit doesn't have to be complicated. It can be as simple as sending a Google Form to riders every day during the data collection period of your audit. Here's a template from Qualtrics to get you started.

An example of a CX survey from Google after people used their food ordering app for the first time.
Guess what they used

Here are a few best practices for your own CX audit:

  1. Designate a member of your customer service team to spearhead the audit.
    Since they're closest to your customers on a daily basis, they'll have the awareness on what data collection and analysis methods make the most sense for your audit.  
  1. Set a fixed time period for your audit.  
    Audits are effective for diagnosing customer experience when they are structured within a fixed period of time. Depending on your weekly ride volume, you can either set the customer survey period of your audit for one week, two weeks, or one month.  
  1. Collect some basic demographic information.  
    CX audits are a great opportunity to understand your customers a little better. Is there a particular age group or demographic that books with you?

    Understanding this information gives you insight into where you may need to increase your marketing efforts to attract other demographics and riders for your service.  

    Here's a template from SurveyMonkey for collecting demographics data in your audit.  
  1. Incentivize your customers!
    Why should your customer take your audit? Make it attractive to them - offer them a discount on their next ride if they take your audit, or send them a nominal gift card to show your appreciation.  

    By offering your customers an incentive for their feedback and time, you'll increase participation and have more data to work with in your audit.  
A sample survey request sent by web design company Webflow. They used an Amazon gift card to incentivize their customers to take their survey.

6. Have money-back guarantees with your riders

No one likes to pay for a bad customer experience. One strategy you can adopt to increase trust with your riders and improve on your accountability dimension is to offer money-back guarantees to them if they've had a bad rider experience.

Before you raise your arms and say that this strategy can easily be abused by your ridership, research shows that money-back guarantees actually increase consumer willingness to purchase and their perceived credibility of a service.

As long as you set strict policies around when a fare is eligible for a refund (ex: wait time greater than 30 mins, or unacceptable driver behaviors like swearing during a ride), then you'll be able to avail the accountability benefits of a money-back guarantee while also protecting yourself from any abuse.

Start increasing your ridership today

So there you have it! Six actionable strategies designed to improve your ridership in the long-term. We hope this is a good place for you to get started, and we'll try getting more in-depth with each of these strategies in the future.

Which of these strategies will you implement first? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

Looking for an easier way to increase your ridership? At Mobile22, we're helping taxi providers across the country and increasing their ridership every day. Contact us today to get started!

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