I am sharing one such intriguing experience that I had recently from none other than the cab driver of a radio taxi who had come to pick me for an early morning flight. For the sake of proprietary I would prefer to avoid taking any names as the larger objective is to learn than anything else.
My Coach - Radio Taxi Driver
I had booked a radio taxi to pick me at 5:15 am from my home in Gurgaon to catch an early morning flight from T3. The cab driver diligently called me at 5 am to check about my readiness and I requested him to come by 5:30 since I had just received a message that my flight has got delayed by half an hour. As I was leaving my home to board the cab I get a call from the radio taxi company at 5:35 that my waiting time is getting over and the cab will be asked to move to another pick-up. Luckily I managed to be in time!
This first time experience intrigued me to break into a conversation with the cab driver about how their business is run and why this call was made to me. He was one of their oldest and seasoned drivers who understood the company's operations fairly well and explained that the call was made as currently there was shortage of cabs in Gurgaon and cabs were being sent from Delhi for airport pick-ups as the company had a zero default policy for airport pick and drops. During the course of my journey to the airport the cab driver helped me understand why company had a strict zero default policy. Besides this how any booking cancelation is investigated seriously to ensure accountability amongst the drivers and operating staff. Then there are strict guidelines for maintenance and cleanliness of the vehicle and presentation of the drivers. According to him in competing companies monitoring of operational discipline is quite lax and they'll simply move the cab to next booking without making a call to the customer who'll never be able to prove that he reported well within the waiting time.
All of the above have helped them build trust and credibility with their customers who give them repeat business. It is helping them to differentiate with their competition that don't have such a regimented value system and may have a more transactional approach towards picking up assured business volumes through corporate tie-ups or last minute cancelation of bookings in favour of more lucrative bookings. This has helped them build a reliable brand which not only gets repeat business from their existing patrons but also attracts new customers. This has helped them scale their business to lead with 1365 cabs in Delhi NCR with the closest rival having only 700 cabs.
An interesting story indeed of how the foundations of quality and discipline can get success by bridging trust deficit with customers in the market. But is it enough just to have a reliable service platform to attract and retain customers in a hyper competitive landscape of India. Probably this was the first leg of my lesson and the second part was yet to come.
Cab Driver has two words – Cab & Driver
I reached Chennai and shared this experience with my colleague singing all praises for the company which served me this morning. To my surprise he informed me that he had horrible experience with the same company in Mumbai in terms of booking cancellation for airport drop on account of non-availability of cabs. This set me thinking that its just not enough to have a reliable organizational platform which brings in operational discipline and technology which can fail too if their resources are stretched. The only way to complete the gap is the personal touch which can only happen at the level of the cab drivers who are an important last mile connect between the platform and its customers creating real moments of truth every day. So even if the organizational fails, its people could chip in and a customer doesn't have to deal with a faceless and helpless call centre.
I reflected upon my own behavior as a customer of giving repeat business to dedicated cab drivers from the same company whenever I am traveling to other cities for airport pick and drops whenever I am not using the dedicated transport vendors to our offices. I would just call these dedicated drivers a few hours before and they would report without fail. So the risk of resource gap at the end of an organization hadn't affected me till now and therefore converted me into a happy customer giving repeat business to the same people working for the same company. I had chosen the best platform of my choice and gave the repeat business to its people who always showed up. There can't be a better win win deal for all stakeholders. Clients, Associates and the company which is built around it!
This was the second leg of my learning – customers today look for a combination of reliable platform and dependable people associated with that platform to access services which have a repeat pattern to avoid the risk of unforeseen surprises.
There couldn't have been a better way to validate this learning when on my way back very surprisingly for the first time ever none of the 2 dedicated cab drivers that I use were reachable. In that case I simply booked another cab through the organizational platform. So where the people failed organization was there!
Lessons for the private wealth industry
So are there any valuable parallels that can be drawn with our industry about the emerging rules of the game. The answer is an emphatic YES.
10 years back when we founded Client Associates the market place for private wealth services was very different than what it is today and could be heading towards over next few years. Size of the market in terms of both number of customers and their managed wealth was much smaller. Accordingly, the extent of the services available both in terms of the number of service providers and depth of services provided by them was much shallower. In this scenario the client was either driven by the comfort of working with larger established organizations or the attention of independent advisors offering personalized services. This could be very similar to the good old neighborhood taxi stand or private operators who ruled the roost.
As the industry grew over the years it attracted a large number of players while the expectation of the clients have gone north as the scale of their wealth has gone through the roof. From the client's perspective his stakes are much higher today for the simple reason the scale of wealth to be looked after is far higher while from the perspective of service providers they have to justify their existence amongst a much deeper and intense competition. So it calls for earning client's trust faster than the competition could and retaining it longer than the competition could. This would require leveraging both organizational and individual strengths rather than either of them in isolation which would result in earning only that much trust which a partial strength could pull off on its own and therefore the relationship not only takes much longer to scale but also plateaus beyond a point
Over the years in the industry I have seen sub-optimal growth in case of advisors which fail to bring in the X-factor of ownership of their clients and are too dependent on the organizational boundaries. Similar pattern is there in case of advisors on the other extreme which rely only on their personal X-Factor and keep the organizational magnets at bay. However, some of the biggest relationships have happened over a relatively much lesser time where both have joined hands. Therefore the smarter amongst the growing community of wealth managers are either sticking to credible and stable platforms or have started gravitating towards the same as they know that the rules of the game are changing if not changed already. As Private Wealth Industry consolidates the Big Boys and the Jerry McGuires have to team up!
The moral of the story is to continue to get more business a radio taxi business requires a credible, stable and professionally run platform and seasoned drivers who stick with the platform and are able to evangelize the merits of the platform to the end users.
Best wishes for a Very Happy Holiday Season and a Wonderful New Year ahead!