Saturday, 23 January 2010

CB Taxi Rules

There is a taxi company in Sofia called CB Taxi. I made two surprising observations about it: it has strict rules to improve client satisfaction ; and actually controls how drives implement them. While these two are important enough to tell about in the context of Bulgarian realities, there is one more important reason for me to write about CB Taxi in this blog: it is very unlikely that I would be able to do it in a traditional mass media outlet. Indeed, reporting positively on a business company goes against journalism norms accoring to many in Bulgaria, as it is automatically considered advertising.

My first finding about CB Taxi might seem like a very obvious good business practice. Indeed, all taxi operators in Sofia probably have similar rules on paper that require arrival deadlines after a phone order and polite attitude to clients. But CB Taxi seems to have tougher rules than others, as I heard from one of their drivers tonight. Until recently their drivers were obliged to take an order only if they were able to arrive to the address within 5 minutes after it was first announced on air, and within 10 minutes after the second call. But in order to minimize unnecessary competition among drivers and optimize client satisfaction the management of CB Taxi has recently shortened the arrival deadlines to 1 minute after the first, and 4 minutes after the second call, my souce said.

Yet, my second observation marks the major difference that CB Taxi makes: they do punish drivers for not keeping the rules. Using their cabs previously I had heard from their radio sets male voices disciplining drivers. One one case I heard that a driver was fined for speaking on air without permission and obstructing the operator. I had never heard anything similar during almost two decades of regular cab usage in Sofia. "One justified client complaint and a driver is kicked out", my source told me tonight. Remarkably, he sounded supportive and somewhat proud of what his company is doing.

That is no surprise. Lack of enforcement of any rules is inherent in almost all sectors of Bulgarian society and economy. I will not go in depth analyzing the reasons for this syndrom, but some that come immediately to mind are: low personal and business ethics; bad regulations and inefficient regulatirs; lack of free market; corruption; and public acceptance of profit maximalisation as a supreme universal right at any time and by all means. In these circumstances coming across a company - particulalry a taxi one - that actually tries to compete by serving better its customers and applying rules is unheard of and therefore truly amazing. My natural reactions to this are:
- as a regular cab user to become a most loyal client of CV Taxi and ask all my friends to do so;
- as an active citizen to co-operate with the company management and tell them every time I see a driver cheat on the rules - e.g. by not switching on the taximeter or by smoking in the car; and
- as a journalist to write and tell the whole world about it.

The last action, which might possibly be most effective in terms of multiplying the good effects in society turns out to be almost impossible. One of the basic rules in journalism is the 'wall' between editorial and advertising. But in Bulgarian television newsrooms it seems to have taken a new shape: no potential advertiser's name should ever be mentioned in the news. Justified by the seemingly noble intention to minimize hidden advertising, the new rule actually deprives viewers of any possible comparison between different services. It also takes away the chance for businesses who offer better service or do something positive or visionary to get acknowledged and noticed by the public. In this sense the new rule serves the status quo of low quality user unfriendly service culture which dominates the Bulgarian market.

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