Transport and logistics

Hong Kong taxi drivers to launch courtesy campaign to get customers on board troubled sector

Drivers to be told to greet passengers and get them to rate the service on a special gadget; those failing the test will be asked to take a courtesy course

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 February, 2017, 12:02pm
UPDATED : Monday, 02 October, 2017, 3:11pm

In a desperate bid to salvage the image of Hong Kong cabbies and fend off aggressive competition from Uber, a 5,000-strong taxi group will on Tuesday launch a courtesy campaign using a driver rating gadget to win the hearts and minds of passengers.

The city’s 40,000 taxi drivers are being encouraged to join the campaign and say at least two greetings to passengers during each trip, such as “good morning miss” and “thank you and bye bye”.

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A rating device will be installed at the back of the front passenger seat in the first batch of 200 taxis for riders to rate the driver’s performance. The device, costing about HK$2,000, has three buttons – “satisfactory”, “average” and “unsatisfactory” – for customers to choose. The data will be transmitted via the cab’s GPS system to the organiser’s control centre.

The five top performers will be given prizes every three months while those with low ratings will be referred to a subsidised training course to learn good manners.

The courtesy campaign, organised by the Association of Taxi Industry Development and involving 5,000 taxis, will be the first of its kind for the taxi industry.

The “saving cabbies” campaign comes as the industry’s reputation in recent years has been hit by increasing customer complaints about cabbies’ poor attitude and misconduct, including overcharging, taking unnecessarily long routes and cherry-picking or refusing passengers.

The number of complaints against cabbies reached a record high in 2015 with 10,359 complaints, compared with 6,227 in 2005. In the third quarter of last year, the number of complaints rose to 2,932 from 2,590 in the previous quarter.

The taxi trade has also been battling increasing competition from ride-sharing firm Uber, which recently bought local insurance coverage for its riders and third parties.

A court ruling on five Uber drivers charged with using a car for hire without a permit and driving without third-party insurance is expected to be delivered soon.

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Association spokesman Chan Man-keung expressed hope that the campaign could reverse the poor image of Hong Kong cabbies.

“We all hope to raise the service standards of taxi drivers. Those basic greetings can certainly bring the driver-passenger relationship closer. I hope all the city’s taxi drivers will join us and greet their customers,” he said.

“As to the rating gadget, we will reflect the overall ratings to relevant cabbies every three months so they know how customers perceive their performance. We’ll also fully subsidise those with low ratings in taking a short training course,” Chan added.

The spokesman hoped the owners of the city’s 18,163 cabs would be willing to pay for the installation of the rating gadget in their taxis.

Chan said the response had been positive to an association move to introduce 40 CCTV-equipped taxis to improve driver-customer relations. “From September last year, we haven’t received any customer complaints about the drivers,” he said.

A spokesman for the Transport Department said the association had already informed it about the campaign and the rating gadget. “We welcome the trade initiating any lawful measures to improve service quality,” he told the Post.

“It is our policy that public transport services are operated by the private sector on commercial principles to maximise the benefits of cost-effectiveness. This applies equally to the taxi trade,” he added.

Quentin Cheng Hin-kei, spokesman for the Public Transport Research Team, said he welcomed the taxi trade taking the first step to improve service standards.

“These new initiatives are certainly good things. But the problems with the taxi industry such as blocking the roads and refusing passengers are deep-seated which cannot be overcome in a short time,” he said.