A recent trip to Key West, FL, highlighted an interesting truth about branding. In the big picture, branding is about every single thing your business does. It’s not just your logo or your slogan. It’s how you deliver service, how you treat people, how you manage money, how you maintain systems, etc.
In Key West, there are no good options for taxi service. There are two primary companies – pink and yellow. There are smaller companies, but it might be a long wait for a cab. There are no Uber or Lyft services.
The “pink” cab company has a very abrupt (sometimes rude) dispatcher. When you call, she grumbles one word: “Cab!” No matter what you say, she has a standard second response: “How many?!?” which she delivers as if she’s pissed off that you’re bothering her. Her third and final interaction is always the same. She barks the order “Stay there!”
So a typical interaction for a jovial vacationer goes like this:
“Good afternoon. We’re at ABC store on Duval Street. We would like to get a cab.”
“There are two of us. We’d like to go to . . .”
Then she never hangs up. You can just here her answer the next call: “Cab!”
Note: the actual cab drivers for pink are generally friendly. The cabs are new-ish and in great shape. They tend to be boxy and a big hard to climb into if you have old knees. But it’s a very pleasant ride.
After a few cab rides, we decided to try yellow. Much nicer. The dispatcher is clearly in a good mood. Sometimes they even ask if it’s our first day in Key West. They are engaging.
Unfortunately, the yellow cabs are typical American cabs: Old, no shock absorbers, not particularly clean, and the seat belts don’t always work. Bottom line: It feels unsafe. One driver was particularly crazy. The island is only two miles by four miles, so you don’t really need to speed through the side streets or run lights.
After a few rides with each company, we would ask each other, “Who should we call? Rude or Unsafe?” We had narrowed down our options to one word for each company. And our experiences were quite consistent. In fact, one time we called the yellow company by accident. Thinking we had called the pink company, I commented on how congenial the dispatcher was. Then yellow car rolled up and I checked my phone. Ooops.
Eventually, we just decided that it was easier to put up with abrupt/rude than dangerous/unsafe.
And both companies are good examples of why Uber and Lyft exist!