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What Exactly is Automation – Creating Your Ideal Taxi Business


Automation is a word on everyone’s lips these days.

But for a taxi business like yours, what exactly does taxi dispatch automation mean? What impact will it have on your business and why do you need to pay attention to it?

That’s the purpose of this article – to put automation under the microscope, to understand what it is, why it’s important and what to do to prepare your business for what is probably one of the biggest, and most profound changes ever to face our industry.

First though, let’s look at the huge benefits of automation

Taxi business automation makes some very big claims, and the truth is that it delivers. Done right, automation can give you these huge benefits…

  • Significant costs savings – these savings are real, are fast to achieve, are permanent and can add up too many tens of thousands of pounds in extra profits.
  • Attracts new customers – with the advent and rapid growth of taxi apps like Uber, your customers have higher expectations. Automation tools help you to win new customers.
  • Keep customers – your customers can be easily tempted away by another taxi service with great automation tools, such as a customer app or web booker. Automation helps you keep your customers.
  • Happier drivers – great automation makes your drivers’ lives much easier and keeps them busy. Happier drivers stay with your firm.
  • More drivers – happier drivers ATTRACT other, new drivers.
  • Compete against Uber – Uber has some significant weaknesses that you can exploit with automation of your own.

What Exactly is Automation?

For a taxi business like yours, automation refers to the combination of several key systems and technologies.

Together, these systems and tools can and will literally transform your business, they will help you create your dream taxi business.

The four key elements for taxi business automation are…

  1. Your Customer App – a great customer app (there are poor apps out there) can truly transform your business.
  2. Your Driver App – the link to making it all work, putting essential information, tools and systems at your drivers’ fingertips.
  3. An Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Phone System – some customers want to talk to an operator, but today many don’t and are completely happy to manage their booking through your automated phone system.
  4. Web Booker – having a great web booker is another key element to creating your dream taxi business. It gives your customers the tools to book through their PC or mobile device (if they don’t yet have your app).

Here, we’re going to look at each key component of automation and examine how they work together to give you the ability to make a massive change to how your taxi business runs.

Consumer App

Whether you call it a customer app, passenger app or consumer app – this is perhaps the most powerful element of taxi dispatch automation.

A great taxi dispatch system gives you the ability to have your own branded (to your business with your logo, colours and details) app for your customers to download onto their smartphone, which opens a whole world of great features.

When your customers download your app from the App Store (for iPhone users) or Google Play Store (for Android users), they will be able to book with your firm with a few swipes on their screen.

They can then track their taxi on screen, make a call and speak directly with the driver and even pay, all through the app.

While you personally may feel that your customers don’t like apps and that they may prefer personal contact – the stats show that when a cab firm gives their customers the option, 20% to 30% of customers quickly decide that using the customer app is what they prefer.

That’s 20-30% of bookings that are easier to process, cheaper to fulfil and, with the right set of features, virtually self-managing.

With some taxi firms seeing up to 75% of all bookings being made through automation, your customer app has a huge role to play.

Driver App

Your driver app is the essential link between your dispatch system, your customer app and your drivers.

It means that all the interaction between your dispatch system and your drivers is completed automatically – bookings, GPS data, customer details and payments.

A great driver app is simple to use, has fantastic navigation, a big bright screen and makes life much easier for a driver.

The key message here is that utilising ‘Uber-like’ technology with your own great driver app (such as iCabbi) helps keep your drivers busy, efficient and happy.

When combined with the extra work that flows from your customer app, your IVR phone system and your web booker – a great driver app means that they will be less likely to think about joining another firm, and will stay loyal to you.

Interactive Voice Response – IVR Phone System

When once the only option was the ability to talk to your operator, now customers can choose between an operator or IVR (Interactive Voice Response), allowing the system to automatically ‘talk’ to your customers.

How Interactive Voice Response (IVR) works…

  • When a customer calls your firm and the system recognises their number, IVR automatically offers them collection from their top 3 pick-up points.
  • IVR can answer unlimited calls simultaneously – meaning your business takes more bookings and can totally eliminate lost calls.
  • Customers are given the option to speak with an operator – on EVERY call. This means that your customers get to choose whether they want to speak to your dispatcher, or complete the call using your automation.
  • Any of your customers can opt-out of IVR at any time – and the next time they ring they automatically go through to an operator.

A good example of the huge benefits that IVR offers is ABOP (Automatic Back on Phone). This automatically gives customers who call back after making a booking (and when it’s in progress) live information such as the driver’s name, vehicle details and wait time.

Today, 90% of ‘back on the phone customers’ are happy with this experience and don’t need to speak to an operator. This is a huge efficiency gain for you and a great service for your customers.

No matter how much we may think our customers love to talk to us and our operators, the facts prove that a very high percentage of them choose to use IVR, even when they have the option to speak to a real person.

Web Booker

Your web booker is the final piece in the automation jigsaw. Easily integrated into your website, this allows your customers to book directly from their desktop computer, laptop, tablet or even smartphone (if they don’t yet have your customer app).

Bookings go directly into your dispatch system, and your customers can manage their bookings through the web booker as well. For example, a good web booker will enable them to track their taxi right to the collection point.

The combined effect

Achieving rates of up to 75% automation, a great taxi dispatch system can literally revolutionise your business.

For automation to be successful and to really deliver on the automation promise, each of the four elements (customer app, driver app, IVR phone system and web booker) must be seamlessly integrated to achieve the benefits on offer.

If any of these four elements are weak, for example if your consumer app doesn’t perform to your customers’ expectations or if the driver app frustrates your drivers, then achieving the benefits of automation is difficult.

Why Choosing the Wrong Customer App Could Cripple Your Business

However, when you get it right and implement great taxi dispatch automation, you really can create your ideal business.

Automation also gives you the tools to defend your business against taxi booking apps such as Uber.

It also means that you are ideally placed to take advantage of, and integrate your business with other booking services like Taxi Butler (a device that orders taxis in busy locations such as pubs, bars, restaurants, hotels and clubs).

And with industry leading automation tools now available in ‘The Cloud’ (all accessed via the internet), you don’t even need to invest in new servers or your own IT support.

It is easy to implement, fast to deploy, robust and safe.

You can even run your business from anywhere in the world from your laptop, iPad or even your smartphone.

Automation is a game changer. The good news is that even the smallest taxi firm can have an incredibly powerful taxi dispatch system – they are no longer just for big firms with large fleets.

If you have any questions about taxi dispatch automation for your business or about iCabbi, then please contact our friendly team of expert advisors any time, by calling 01623 44 22 11 or emailing enquiries@icabbi.etgl.co.uk.