A role model for Hong Kong’s taxi industry
Taxis in the city have a rather negative reputation, with allegations like overcharging, dodgy meters and cherry-picking passengers. But William Wong, dubbed the city’s ‘happiest taxi driver’, bucks the stereotype
Taxi drivers have a unique place in every society. To foreign tourists, they are one of the first impressions of a city. To locals, it is often a love-hate relationship, depending on the drivers’ work attitude and the standard of service. In Hong Kong, the industry has a rather negative reputation, although role models can still be found.
William Wong is one of them. Dubbed the city’s “happiest taxi driver”, the 68-year-old has been behind the wheel for decades. He is trying to buck the stereotype that the industry is swarming with bad-tempered, impolite and dishonest drivers. His strategy is simple – providing a guest book in his red cab for passengers to leave comments during the ride. The idea was first mooted in 1996 when the veteran travelled in Europe and saw restaurants and hotels collecting customer feedback with guest books. When he finally put it into practice four years ago, passengers liked it so much that their kind words have filled up 10 books already.
Wong’s gesture of hospitality may look alien in an industry known for its poor quality of service. But his thoughtfulness helps make a difference to the industry’s bad name. Taxi driving is, after all, a service industry. Passengers will be impressed when their feelings matter. Wong believes that good attitude is essential. It would be good if more drivers are guided by the same principle.
Wong may be the only cabbie with a guest book in Hong Kong. But he is certainly not the only one who has a customer-first attitude. Unfortunately, they are the minority. The government received 2,410 complaints in the first three months of this year, 10 per cent higher than in the same quarter last year.
On average, there are 27 cases a day. The figure may look relatively small for a fleet of 18,000 taxis and 40,000 drivers. But when allegations like overcharging, dodgy meters and cherry-picking passengers become daily occurrences, the industry needs to address the problems seriously.
Taxi drivers’ bad manners is part of the reasons behind the recent boom of unlicensed limousine services. Given the growing popularity of Uber and the like, it is in the industry’s own interest to improve its service.