I took my son to London Zoo at the weekend. He absolutely loves taxis, so as the zoo is a fair way from the tube, I treated him to a taxi ride each way.
The London cabbie is a very interesting kind of a chap. Due to the nature of “the knowledge” qualification test to be a London cabbie, you will often find them a bit more bright and switched on than your average taxi driver. But we had two very interesting experiences, which got me thinking….
We got in the first cab, and asked the driver for the Prince Albert Gate of London Zoo (we were going to a PR event, of which more in a later blog…) He started off by saying that he had never heard of the Prince Albert Gate, then for the duration of the 20 minute journey, he went of on a complete monologue. The basic text of it was that he had done the knowledge and he was very proud of his knowledge, but he had never heard of my place. that made him very upset and ashamed of himself, as in his total 18 years of experience he had never been asked about the Prince Albert Gate before.
He clearly was in a bad mood – he just droned on and on, saying the same thing in 20 different ways over and over again. I think he was expecting to find no such gate when he got to the zoo. Whne we found it (and it was very well signposted) he was crestfallen.
Lesson from Cabbie No.1 I have the greatest respect for ‘the knowledge’ and any other course of study that takes time and effort. But one thing I have learned in buinsess is that your knowledge is never complete. I was over 10 years in accountancy, but when I come back to running my own business there is plenty I do not know, and I learn new things every day.
I found the cabbie’s attitude very strange and somewhat sad – when I am presented with things I don’t know I see an opportunity to learn something new. I particularly love it when my children bring home a fact from school that I don’t know – “well there is one thing that I have learned today” I say. I hope I am still learning something new right up until the day I die…
On the trip back we got in the cab – my son did his own seatbelt. It didn’t look right and then an alarm started to ring in the car. The driver came round to help us, caused a fuss, wouldn’t let me get involved, then said the seatbelt was OK (but the alarm was still ringing). He fiddled about with it still further (the alarm was still ringing) then decided he didn’t know what the alarm was, said it was probably nothing to do with the seatbelt at all, and got back into the driver’s seat and went to drive off (with the alarm still going).
Once he had left me in peace I could see very clearly what was wrong with the seatbelt (it was one with two clips just like in our car, of which only one was fastened) and I soon had it fixed (and the alarm stopped). By this time the cab was driving but I noticed that he had had the meter on for the duration of the time he was fiddling with us, and failing to fix the problem, so I asked him to stop and reset the meter.
That journey passed off in silence, and even though I always tip cab drivers, that particular one got not a penny.
Lesson from Cab Driver Number 2: Get the basics right in your business. Know your products and service inside out. Incompetence is the biggest turn off in business.