For some, a taxi ride is regarded simply as a means to an end—a way to get from one point to another. What is there to transform or enhance, right?

A good answer to this question requires a closer look at how far the taxi industry has come since “for-hire transportation” first began.  Automobiles, meters, dispatch services, credit card terminals and a popular back-of-cab game show have all been significant developments in the personal transportation business over the years–all made possible because someone asked: “What can technology do next?”

The most recent development comes to users on their smartphones.

With apps like Hailo, customers and cab drivers are now open to a world of new taxi experiences. Through innovative technology, app users are able to hail a cab and watch it arrive in real time, with just two taps on a smartphone.  Drivers are updated on traffic issues, can track their daily business targets and are notified of fares throughout the city–all from their smartphones.

Transform and enhance the _______________ experience.

For Hailo, that blank space reads: taxi. But no matter how a technology startup fills the blank, there are some important things to keep in mind when breaking into a new market, or even just a different city. Since Hailo’s development and rollout, here is a list of the lessons we’ve learned.

  • Understand the current level of technology proficiency of your key stakeholders. You cannot force customers to move faster than they want to. Capitalize on their desire to experience something new. Move them to the optimum level to operate and appreciate your service.
  • Be sure the business model and operations can be quickly and clearly described.  If the technology is easy to use, it will be easy to explain. Like so many other situations, the people most critical to your success are time-challenged.  Highlight benefits of the technology and business model quickly and easily.
  • Provide training to ensure optimal usage of the technology.  Incent and make it convenient. Take it to the consumer. Use online tools.
  • Leverage the entrepreneurial spirit in your key partners. Three London cab drivers took part in creating Hailo. To imitate the impact these drivers had on the development of the business, every market identifies “driver partners” to be part of the local team. The driver partners provide a great understanding of how to communicate with, recruit, train and motivate their fellow drivers. The credibility they offer is critical to success. With an operational model that applies consistently market by market, we encourage market leaders to use their entrepreneurial talents to customize and localize to ensure the relevance of Hailo to local drivers and passengers.
  • Deliver a high-quality experience. A successful first-time trial of your product is critical. The opportunity to further customize the product, based on consumer feedback, increases engagement. The ability to consistently meet consumers’ needs generates greater loyalty.
  • Develop methodology to reinforce your ongoing commitment to stakeholders. You have to change, modify, update based on feedback. And, seek feedback all the time in a variety of ways.
  • Celebrate the fact that technology is bringing people together to enhance the operational model and the user experience. It’s a classic opportunity to combine “high touch with high tech.” Hailo learned the app’s technology actually sets up a dialogue between driver and passenger that celebrates “the way it used to be.” Passengers relay stories about Hailo rides being “safe and sociable.”

Learning experiences never stop. New challenges and opportunities for a technology startup are never-ending. For Hailo, a recent $30 million investment from venture capitalists, including Union Square Ventures, provided the company with significant new opportunities to reach our end goal: to consistently transform and enhance the taxi experience.

How will you transform and enhance your own industry?