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Taxi Industry Turns to South for Help

Taxi Industry Turns to South for Help
South Seattle College Hospitality Management instructors Hana K. Gala, PhD, and David Krull, JD, spent two days in July teaching hundreds of Seattle taxi drivers how to better interact with their customers to improve their business in the face of increased ride service competition.

July 24, 2014

A fleet of hundreds of Yellow Cab drivers in Seattle knew they needed to improve their customer service to compete with an increasingly crowded ride service industry in the Puget Sound. Out of all the training possibilities available in the region, they turned to South Seattle College's hospitality experts for help.

With smartphone app-based rider services like Uber and Lyft quickly grabbing hold of "you do the driving" market share in Seattle, the Teamsters Local 117 Union – representing thousands of Yellow Cab drivers in our region – contacted South's Puget Sound Industrial Excellence Center (PSIEC) to build a four-hour training session specifically tailored to the ride service industry.

From there, South's Hospitality Management instructors Hana K. Gala, Phd. and David Krull, JD, created the program and met with hundreds of cab drivers over the course of two days.  It was so popular, the Teamsters have already ordered three more training sessions in August so more drivers can take part.

"The attendees are not just taxi drivers, they are small business owners," Gala said.  "To obtain the license is not a small feat and can run up to several hundred thousand dollars, so they take their business seriously. But there seems to be a disconnect between wanting to do well as a taxi driver and what the customers want from the service. We customized the training to bridge this disconnect."

"They wanted us to deliver instruction in key areas such as overall delivery of customer service, handling difficult customers and meeting the needs of 'institutional clients' that use taxi services for their guests," Krull added. 

Two sessions took place over two days at the Teamster's office in Tukwila, and word apparently spread quickly as organizers had to turn away over 100 drivers on the second day once the large conference room met capacity (hence those extra classes).

Manjit Bal has been driving for Yellow Cab for 14 years of his 25-year career in Seattle.  He came to the second day of training because he said he had heard good reviews and, like many others, has noticed a drop-off in business over the last year.

"I hope to learn something new, to give better service," Bal said. 

After the dust settled as legions of yellow taxis pulled away from the training center on July 17, Gala and Krull said the feedback was resoundingly positive as drivers left with new tools to better interact with their customers and a certificate of completion to display in their mobile offices.

That positive feedback echoes the testimonials we often hear from students of Gala and Krull's regular responsibilities, where they can be found teaching South's Hospitality Management Bachelor of Applied Science program

"The Hospitality Management degree at South is for people that want to create more career options for themselves in service-related industries such as tourism, event planning, restaurants, casinos, adult care facilities, cruise lines and hotels," Krull explained.  "A number of our students also plan careers in non-profits were the management and service skills we teach will enable them to move into leadership roles."

"Our students can (also) connect with and learn from members of our Technical Advisory Committee, which is a distinguished group of professionals representing all the important facets of hospitality in our region," Gala added.  "Our program has an impressive track record of high level retention and graduation, but we are perhaps most proud of the (job) placement rate."