改寫運將面貌──台灣大車隊

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2011 / 5月

文‧王婉嘉 圖‧莊坤儒


計程車服務精緻化,是近年產業的一大轉變,整潔儀容、親切問候,不抽菸、不嚼檳榔,不拒載短程,不僅逐漸扭轉社會過去對運將的負面形象,也象徵計程車由傳統運輸業,加值轉型為服務業。


台灣計程車形象的改變風潮,由全台最大計程車業者「台灣大車隊」啟動。

2002年,台灣交通運輸規劃龍頭「鼎漢國際工程顧問」的子公司「鼎華科技」和台大土木系博士洪鈞澤領軍的經營團隊,看準消費者對乘車安全及服務品質要求日漸提升,自新加坡引進衛星派遣系統,以電腦紀錄行車軌跡,標榜「人在『坐』,天在看」的安心服務。

他們開始設立車隊管理總部,要求司機必須遵守洋洋灑灑近百則的隊員公約,包括制服儀容、問候話術、不談論政治、宗教等敏感話題……,建立專業品牌形象,草創時期經一一面試後,找來300位司機作為首批核心隊員。

當時計程車同業普遍不看好,認為既然空車滿街跑,乘客何需電話叫車,沒想到策略奏效,業績亮眼,到2004年底時,派遣中心單日已湧入上萬通電話,領先同業,也連帶吸引多家車隊紛紛引進衛星派遣,並仿效其服務模式。

之後台灣大車隊面臨股東紛爭、擴張腳步過快、財務捉襟見肘等危機,經營團隊兩度重整,2005年才由前全虹電信董事長林村田入主接手,全新的經營團隊讓台灣大車隊在不景氣中逆勢成長,隊員數由2005年的1,200台成長至目前1萬台,司機每月平均淨賺自4萬元起跳,更有超過500名司機躋身「百萬年薪俱樂部」。

運將企業化

究竟台灣大車隊的經營秘訣是什麼?又如何讓這群向來不受拘束的「城市遊俠」,一夕之間走入體制,配合企業文化?

台灣大車隊執行副總李瓊淑回憶初上任時,林村田語重心長說道:「運將如同《水滸傳》中的梁山泊好漢,各有本領故事,很容易結黨成社,形成自己的小山頭。」在這三教九流齊聚的團體中,如何善用不同社群對內與對外的影響力,進而凝聚於企業理念之中,對車隊管理而言,是最艱鉅的挑戰。

李瓊淑說,要和司機打交道,得先學習運將的溝通語言,運將普遍教育程度不高,說理時得「阿莎力」、簡潔明快,但他們也有柔情感性的一面,相互「搏感情」,彼此尊重、取得信任才能一起合作。走進位於濱江街的台灣大車隊總部,包括董事長在內的全體員工,只要看到運將,必先恭敬稱呼大哥、大姊,建立良好互動。

其次,台灣大車隊一年舉辦500場以上的教育訓練,宣導企業理念、願景,從客戶端出發的思考模式,以及觀光英日語等加值技能,對於常遭客訴的隊員,則另外設有應答技巧、服務態度等特訓。

最後再仿效英國的「紳士車隊」模式,即將每1,000名隊員劃分為一分隊,推選分隊長、中隊長、小隊長,以分層管理的社團模式,相互關懷交流。

林村田也導入通路管理經驗,將每台車視為一家「行動商店」,車內刷卡機與車外車體廣告應運而生,待今年起車上加裝電視後,透過播放廣告、購物資訊,乘客即可直接刷卡購物,建立金流平台。

不過,當初新政策推出,司機反彈強烈,因為擔心車體廣告會損壞車子烤漆,而乘客若刷卡付車資,3.5%手續費也得由司機自行吸收,更讓隊員揚言不惜退隊抗議。

李瓊淑說,為平息紛爭,只能持續與隊員溝通,希望他們將車輛視為「生財工具」,至於運將大哥擔心的更換車體廣告時會損傷掉漆,公司則承諾免費重新烤漆,並推出加入行動廣告的車輛,每月可折抵500元月租費的優惠,才逐漸取得司機信任。

科技+服務=創新

不光開源,還得節流。林村田看準1萬名隊員即代表1萬戶家庭,「司機社群」所需也是一股商機,於是從維修保養、汽車百貨、家庭用品,甚至換車貸款等供應鏈,都由公司直接向廠商議定團購價,總部可從中抽成賺取利潤,也為司機省荷包。

在使用新科技方面,台灣大車隊也是先驅。除了首推手機直撥的叫車服務之外,也從無線電邁入衛星派遣時代,改善了以往無線電受訊範圍、車隊規模的侷限,改依距離遠近自動選擇派遣車輛的電腦系統後,也杜絕以往無線電台依個人喜好隨意指派司機等徇私舞弊的機會。

與台灣目前平均65%的高空車率相比,台灣大車隊在衛星科技與品牌形象的加乘效果下,空車率可降至40%,相差懸殊。

長期深入研究台灣大車隊社群的侯勝宗,從運將擁抱科技的不同姿態,將台灣大車隊的司機分為理性、知性、感性三類,他們運用不同的知識迸發出不同的創意火花。

他分析,理性司機多於定點排班、規律上下班,繞行於大街小巷的地域性知識特別豐富。

而與科技共枕的知性司機,不僅活用科技,更擅長思索如何探勘黃金點、解讀系統,如同破解密碼的情報員。

擁抱科技的馬路情報員

以52歲、加入台灣大車隊10年的元老隊員林萬竹為例,他自高中鑽研電腦科技,19歲時就曾經為大學聯招設計分發卡,後因開設軟體設計公司創業失敗,背負龐大經濟壓力而轉以計程車為業。

他觀察到衛星系統在指揮派遣時,會提供乘車地點及乘客性別、外型等資訊,憑著對資料數據的敏銳嗅覺,便在空檔時間集結隊員分區紀錄,累積成一本記滿熱門派遣點的「黃金秘笈」。

頗具生意頭腦的林萬竹,更將秘笈分為日夜兩種版本,以一本500元的價格出售,除以深色紙張印製防止影印外,還在每本秘笈中藏有專屬暗碼,一經解碼即可得知是誰洩密。

最後一類的感性司機則強調尊榮體驗、溫馨接送,費心經營客戶關係。

例如在車隊裡有「魔法運將」之稱、57歲的康世能,過去曾是紡織、電子零組件工廠老闆,卻在美國911事件之後,股票慘賠、負債兩百多萬,中年求職到處碰壁的情形下,只好轉職當起計程車司機。

運將的「僕人哲學」

從老闆到運將,內心自有一番掙扎,但他轉念一想,以「僕人哲學」為信仰,積極改造自己對工作的想像。

他廣泛閱讀,了解時事,以和客人應答,甚或分享報章雜誌的軼聞趣事;此外,他細心觀察乘客需求,把乘客當家人,常有貼心的小舉動。例如為大清早趕飛機的乘客,準備熱騰騰的早餐,或是在乘客生日時,發送祝福簡訊,康世能的筆記本裡,密密麻麻地記滿三百多筆乘客的電話、職業與愛好等資訊。

「只有Basic,沒有Magic,」康世能說,只要將基本功夫做好,自然財源滾滾,客人不斷。

與全台現役司機平均51.3歲相比,加入台灣大車隊的司機,也有逐漸年輕化的趨勢。

以40歲的孫弘仁為例,兩年前才改行開起計程車的他,原本是南科園區的機械工程師,因不願與妻小分隔兩地,甚至婉拒升官至大陸廠房當主管的邀請而離職。

舉家北上後,他另覓工作機會,一連應徵了三家機械公司,對方都希望他能外派大陸,條件談不攏之下,他乾脆徹底轉行當起運將,時間彈性,又能專心陪伴兩個唸小學的孩子,雖然薪水比過去少了2成,他說,「錢可以再賺,但家只有一個。」

計程車司機百千種,競爭激烈,但把「紅海」變「藍海」,並非不可能的任務。

據交通部統計,目前全台加入衛星派遣或無線電車隊的比例約有31.7%,比2006年增加13%,而車隊駕駛的平均收入,更比未加入者高出近4成。

計程車多元服務時代

「個人化轉至集體化,已是計程車產業的未來趨勢,」逢甲大學科管所副教授侯勝宗指出,尤其在都會區資訊不對稱的情形下,派遣車隊的團體戰,遠比個人單打獨鬥、獨行城市來得有效率。

他指出,目前大台北地區每天約有122萬人次搭乘計程車,一年產值超過440億元,看似景氣低迷的運將一行,其實藏有諸多待開發的可能性。

除了現有的為小客車駕駛送油、接電等臨時救援以外,多家車隊也陸續推出酒後代駕、為獨居老人送餐等服務。

看準精緻旅遊風潮及未來陸客自由行商機,台灣大車隊除了成立旅遊網,提供量身客製與主題行程,近日也與易遊網合作,推出「台灣觀光計程車」,由台鐵或高鐵站出發,走訪全台8個城市、36條路線,有個人專屬運將兼導遊沿途介紹景點,既擺脫旅行團式的走馬看花,也省下自己開車耗費的精力。

未來運將可以是外國遊客的在地導遊、國家城市的外交大使、銀髮族的貼心護士、家長的兒童接送保鏢、樣品試用的銷售通路,甚或結合網路科技與GPS定位,每台車都是一個雲端……。

在台灣大車隊執行副總李瓊淑的願景中,她為計程車司機的未來設定三階段目標,求得溫飽、經濟無虞;在團隊裡找到回家般的歸屬感;最終則是走入自我內心認知,找回職業的認同喜悅,也得到社會尊重。從運輸業到服務業,「運將」的價值將被重新定義。

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近期文章

EN

Reinventing the Taxi Driver

Wang Wan-chia /photos courtesy of Chuang Kung-ju /tr. by Phil Newell

One of the biggest changes in any industry in Taiwan in recent years has been the introduction of high standards of service in the taxi business. The cars are kept neat and clean, the drivers are polite and refrain from smoking or chewing betelnut, and short trips are not refused. Not only have the changes transformed the traditional image people have of taxi drivers, they indicate how the taxi industry has been shifting from part of the "transport" sector to part of the "service" sector.


The image makeover of the Taiwan taxi was sparked by the firm that is now the largest cab company in all of the island, the aptly named "Taiwan Taxi."

It started back in 2002, with Ting-hua Technology, a subsidiary of THI Consultants, the leading firm in transportation planning in Taiwan, together with a management team led by Hong -Junze (who holds a PhD in civil engineering from National Taiwan University). Accurately observing that consumers were raising their standards for safety and service in the taxi industry, they imported a satellite dispatch system from Singapore and began to offer cab services that were completely recorded by computer. Their claim to fame was: "You just sit and relax, the 'heavens' are watching over you."

They simultaneously began to assemble a system to manage the drivers. Each new driver was required to observe an employee contract with nearly 100 rules governing attire and appearance, mandating how to speak to customers politely, prohibiting the discussion of sensitive subjects like politics or religion, and much more. Intent on building a highly professional brand image, in the beginning the company interviewed each and every driver individually, eventually hiring 300 people as their initial core.

At that time there was considerable skepticism among insiders in the industry that the firm would succeed. Given the large number of cabs in Taipei, you could always see empty ones plying the streets, so why should customers go to all the trouble of phoning for a cab when they could just reach out and flag one down? But the strategy worked and results were spectacular. By the end of 2004, the dispatch center was receiving more than 10,000 calls a day, leading the industry. This inspired more cab companies to import similar satellite tracking systems and copy Taiwan Taxi's service model.

Then Taiwan Taxi was hit by a series of crises: infighting among shareholders, overly rapid expansion, cashflow problems. After two reorganizations of management, finally in 2005 former Arcoa chairman Lin Tsun-tien took over the helm, and-despite the overall economic downturn-the new team turned the company around. The number of company cabs rose from 1200 in 2005 to 10,000 today, drivers now net an average of at least NT$40,000 per month, and more than 500 drivers have entered the "million-dollar club" for earnings in a single year.

Taming Taipei's mavericks

What is Taiwan Taxi's secret? How have they been able to corral Taiwan's "urban maverick" drivers, notorious for their unwillingness to be reined in, and get them to conform to the corporate culture seemingly overnight?

Taiwan Taxi executive vice president Joanna Lee recalls that when she first -started working there, Lin Tsun-tien said to her in all seriousness: "Drivers are like the outlaws and outcasts in the novel The Water Margin. Each has his or her own story, and they will each try to stake out their own territory and will even form cliques." The main challenge for management was how to take this group, coming from all different backgrounds and ways of thinking, get cooperation from the heads of the cliques, and from there get every-one to coalesce around the corporate idea.

Lee says that in order to communicate with drivers, you have to learn their language. In general, drivers do not have much formal education, so when you explain things you have to keep it clear and simple. But they also have their soft side-they want people to be attentive to their feelings, not just treat them as cogs in the machine. So to work with them you have to build up mutual respect and trust. At the Taiwan Taxi headquarters on Bin-jiang Street, whenever a driver shows up, every-one there, right up to the chairman, has to call out a respectful welcome to "elder brother" or "elder sister" in order to build up a positive relationship.

Secondly, Taiwan Taxi holds more than 500 training seminars and classes a year to instruct drivers in the corporation's ideals and goals or teach them how to see things from the customer's point of view, as well as "value-added skill" courses like English and Japanese for dealing with tourists. And for those employees who are subject to repeated customer complaints, there is special training in the proper mindset and language to use in dealing with passengers.

Lin Tsun-tien brought with him his prior experience in management of distribution channels, and sees every cab as a "mobile store." Based on this idea, the company proposed installing a credit card machine inside each vehicle, and selling advertising space on the outside. And starting this year each taxi is having- a TV installed that will broadcast commercials and infomercials, and customers will be able to make immediate purchases with their credit cards.

However, when the new policies were initiated, drivers were strongly opposed. They worried that exterior ads would damage the paint on the cars, and that if customers used credit cards to pay it would be the driver who would have to absorb the 3.5% processing fee. There were protests and even threats of mass resignations.

Joanna Lee says that in order to resolve the dispute, they had to continually communicate with drivers and get them to begin to see their cabs as "geese that lay golden eggs." As for the advertising issue, the company promised to pay for completely new paint jobs if ads damaged the paint, and also gave drivers willing to join in the advertising program a reduction of NT$500 per month in fees the company charges to be part of their dispatch service. Only then did they gain the drivers' trust.

Technology + service = innovation

In business generating revenues is only half the game: cutting costs is the other. Lin Tien-tsun recognized that 10,000 drivers actually represented 10,000 families, and economic demand from this "community of drivers" offered the company leverage in dealing with suppliers. The company has therefore directly negotiated group rates for everything from maintenance, car products, and home-use products to loans for new vehicles; these deals enable the drivers to save money, and the headquarters takes a cut of the savings as their fee.

Embracing technology

Hou Sheng-tsung, an associate professor in the Graduate Institute of Management of Technology at Feng Chia Uni-vers-ity, who has been doing long-term research on Taiwan Taxi drivers, says that they can be divided into three types, depending upon how they cope with technology: rational, intellectual, and emotional. These groups also use their different knowledge to come up with different creative inspirations.

As he analyzes the situation, "rational" drivers mainly have fixed shifts and working hours, and havAbout Taiwane especially rich know-ledge that comes from constantly winding in and out of the city's streets and small alleys.

As for the "intellectual" drivers, who get along quite comfortably with technology, they not only are able to apply the technology effectively, they are the most skilled at figuring out how the computer dispatch system works, like intelligence officers breaking a code, and from there finding the most profitable locations.

One example is Lin Wanzhu, now 52, who is a senior Taiwan Taxi team member with 10 years in the firm. He began educating himself in computer technology in high school, and at age 19 even designed a computer card for students to list their university and departmental preferences when taking the national university entrance exams. However, after the failure of his software design company, saddled with debt, he turned to driving a cab.

He observed that when cabs are dispatched, the satellite system provides the pickup location as well as the gender and general appearance of the client. With his sensitive nose for numbers, he used free time and got together some co-workers. They took different assigned areas, and accumulated a book of the hottest dispatch locations.

Lin, with a real knack for business, divided this book of secrets into two volumes, one for day and one for night, and sold them for NT$500 per copy. Besides printing the books on dark-colored paper to prevent photocopying, he also included a special code number in each copy, making it possible to know who had leaked his secrets by decoding the number.

Finally, we come to the "emotional" drivers. They emphasize giving passengers a dignified and friendly experience, and invest a lot of effort in customer -relations.

Take for instance 57-year-old Kang Shi-neng, who is known in the company as the "driver with the magic touch." He was previously the boss of a textile factory and later an electronics-parts factory, but after the 911 attacks in the US, he lost a lot of money in the stock market, and ended up more than NT$2 million in debt. Being middle aged, he found himself running up against brick walls trying to find a new job, and finally turned his hand to driving a taxi.

"Servant leadership"

He went through quite an internal struggle going from boss to cabby, but then he had a change of heart, put his faith in the philosophy of "servant leadership," and pro-actively altered the idea he had of this job.

He reads widely on current events, and is able to chat with passengers and discuss the latest scandals or amusing tidbits from the news. He also has an eye for detail when it comes to passenger needs, and he often does thoughtful little things for his customers. For instance, he has a hot take-away breakfast waiting for passengers catching an early flight and he sends congratulatory text messages on birthdays. His notebook is filled with dense handwriting, recording the names, telephone numbers, occupations, and hobbies of over 300 clients.

"This is just doing the basics, there's no 'magic touch' about it," he explains. So long as he takes care of all the essential basic tasks, he says, then customers will keep coming back to him, and the money will roll in.

Compared to the average age of 51.3 for taxi drivers in Taiwan, there is a trend toward hiring younger drivers at Taiwan Taxi.

One case in point is 40-year-old Sun Hong-ren. He was previously a mechanical engineer in the Southern Taiwan Science Park, but two years ago, not wanting to be separated from his wife and children, he refused an offer of a promotion to become a factory manager in mainland China and left his company. It was after moving north with his family that he became a cabby.

At first, he looked for jobs as an engineer, and got interviews with three machinery firms. But in each case the company wanted to send him to mainland China, and, unable to find anybody offering him the package he wanted, he decided to become a taxi driver instead. The hours are flexible and he can focus on being there as his two primary-school-aged children grow up. Although his current income is 20% less than it was before, he says: "You can always make more money, but you only get one family."

There are thousands of different types of people behind the wheel of a taxi, but it is not impossible to find new profit opportunities even in an already highly competitive field.

According to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, for all of Taiwan about 31.7% of taxis have joined satellite dispatch systems or wireless radio systems, an increase of 13% over 2006. Drivers who work for such companies make, on average, almost 40% more than independent drivers.

The era of diversified services

"The trend from individual drivers to corporatization is the future of the taxi industry," says Hou Sheng-tsung. In particular, under conditions of unequal access to information, collective action through an organization is much more efficient than lone rangers competing on their own.

Hou notes that at present there are 1.22 million taxi rides taken each day in the Taipei metropolitan area, creating economic value of over NT$44 billion per year. Although the taxi industry may look like it is in a slump, in fact there are many opportunities for profitable entrepreneurship.

These days most taxi companies are not only offering emergency roadside assistance to drivers, like delivering fuel or charging car batteries, but are coming up with consumer services like driving cars home for people who are too drunk to drive themselves, or delivering meals to elderly people living alone.

Setting their sights on the trend toward "refined tourism" among local people and also the commercial opportunities presented by the influx of tourists from mainland China, Taiwan Taxi has not only set up a travel website to offer tailor-made and theme itineraries to consumers, the company has also recently gotten together with ez-travel (an online tour agency) to come up with a program called "Taiwan Tourist Taxi." Starting at railroad or high-speed rail stations, visitors can go to one of eight cities in Taiwan and have a choice of 36 routes to follow. Each ride has a designated driver who also serves as tour guide, allowing passengers to travel at their leisure and save the money and energy required to drive themselves.

In the future, drivers will be able to act as local tour guides to foreign visitors, ambassadors of the nation and their cities, helpmates to senior citizens, bodyguards taking kids home from school, and distribution channels for samples of consumer products. In fact, by linking up the Internet and GPS, the vehicles could even form a computing cloud!

In the vision of the future offered by Joanna Lee, she sets three stages of goals for her drivers. The first is to give them a sense of security and eliminate their financial worries. The second is to help drivers find a sense of belonging in the company and among colleagues. And the last is to help them find their identity and dignity within themselves, so they take pleasure in their profession and earn respect from society. From simple transportation worker- to deliverer of services, the taxi driver is going to be completely redefined.

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