In the age of Uber you might be forgiven for overlooking the innovation taking place in the taxi industry in east London.
But one company is seeking to make a name for itself on the back of exactly the sort of customer service values that can fall by the wayside in the pursuit of cost and speed.
Carrot Cars was founded seven years ago by two local businessmen, one with a background in the taxi industry and one from the hospitality sector.
And as their pasts might indicate, everything the company has done since it opened its head office in Admirals Way, just over the water from Canary Wharf, has been about raising the standard of service they’re able to offer their.
The company, winner in the Customer Service Excellence category at The Wharf Innovation In Business Awards 2016, started out with a modest fleet serving only the E1 and E16 areas.
Today it has 20 people in its office, with 140 drivers on its books. The drivers own the cars themselves, but with that comes the company’s trademark orange tie and a commitment to service etiquette in line with the brand.
General manager Adam Wiltsher said: “People always faced the same experience when they wanted a cab at night time, they had to look for flashing lights above shop windows.
“That could make the experience quite stressful for those simply looking to get home after a night out.
“I think service was something there was a lack of in the minicab industry. There wasn’t enough focus on the customer.
“But we’ve listened to the feedback we’ve received and asked for, and we committed ourselves to setting consistently high standards. It has to be always the best, or it’s not worth doing.”
Today Carrot Cars will pick up and drop off in areas including WC1 And WC2, with a longer term view to extend its service across London in its entirety. It already serves all of the capital’s airports. Even those in the honorary suburbs of Luton and Stansted.
On another note, Adam doesn’t see Uber as a threat to Carrot Cars’ business.
“It’s been an interesting time to be in the industry, that’s for certain,” he said.
“But competition is good, and if things are changing then I don’t see it as a threat, more a challenge to make us improve the way we do things.
“A lot of customers prefer to use us – they know what we stand for, that we’re reliable and we have a central call centre they can always call if their requirements change. We have some real brand loyalty.”
A reputation built on customer service has also helped Carrot Cars retain business clients.
It counts on regular custom from hospitality clients, such as bars, restaurants and hotels, who rely on the firm to ferry guests to and from their forecourts.
And Uber is not the only cab company with an app. While the phones are answered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the app that Carrot Cars launched at the beginning of the year is already having an impact on its business.
“It enables people to pre-book airport runs or book several cars at once,” said Adam. “It also provides customers with a cab tracking system, and every booking made using the app has a 10% discount .”
The company recently introduced eco cars to its fleet that includes saloons, estates, MPVs and a recently a revamped luxury class that offers free wi-fi, in-car mobile device charging and refreshments.
As for future plans, Adam said “We will continue to grow but we’ll always offer quick and easy access to cars at fair prices – our drivers have to earn their fair share as well.”
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