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Seattle-area taxi drivers going back to school to improve customer service

Whether it’s rudeness, unreliability, lack of knowledge or other issues, Seattle-area taxi drivers have faced widespread criticism along with growing competition from services like Uber. So now hundreds of drivers are going back to school to help turn the tide.

The Western Washington Taxicab Operators Association is partnering with Teamsters Local 117 and the Hospitality Management program at South Seattle College for a series of trainings next week to help drivers learn the basics of customer service.

“We need to change sometimes,” says Salah Mohamed, a 14-year cab driver with Yellow Cab in Seattle. “People need to be updated and understand they have to be professional and courteous and do the right thing, and that’s the mentality behind these classes.”

The first 4-hour course will be taught by instructors in SSC’s Hospitality Management program. It will focus on increasing customer satisfaction, enhancing professionalism, improving customer comfort and safety and developing better relationships with institutional clients.

Mohamed says drivers have heard the criticisms and realize they need to significantly improve in order to remain competitive. And he says they’re eager to step up their game, with over 450 signing up for the $60 class.

“We know that we have good drivers, but we have to do the right things the customer is expecting us,” he says. “If you’ve been driving a cab for a long time, you take some things for granted and then you slack a little bit and you need something to remind you to do these things.”

Mohamed says area cab drivers will also soon implement a rating system similar to the ones employed by Uber and others. Customers will be able to provide immediate feedback about their driver and the service, with the information provided to drivers and companies to continue improving the quality of their service and better compete.

“The small stuff can make a big difference. It’s going to really take us to a new level,” he says.

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