Now that the end of 2020 is upon us, and as we usher in a New Year, the real question is: What will 2021 bring for the For-Hire Vehicle (FHV) industry in New York City?
After years of turmoil caused by Uber and Lyft disrupting the market, the burst of the yellow medallion market, and the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission piling on new and more burdensome regulations, we were hit with the worst pandemic in modern history.
Travel dropped in dramatic fashion. With little to no travel there is little need for FHV service in NYC. With no one traveling or needing for-hire transportation, what does the industry do?
Surely no one is making out like a bandit. Most base owners and drivers are simply trying to find a way to make ends meet, and when ends cannot be met, there is only hope to find a way to hang on until the tide turns.
So, when will that tide turn? I wish I could be more optimistic that this nightmare will end in short order, but the fact remains that it may get worse before it gets better. What we all have to do is remain optimistic and prepare for the future. This down time can be used for reflection, re-focusing, reinvigorating and reinvention. While 2021 is unlikely to look like any recent year in history, it may be remembered as one in which life slowly began to return to normal after one of the worst pandemics of the modern age.
The coming year will undoubtedly usher in the era of responsible travel. The FHV industry will have to first increase its work to regain the trust of customers, showing that travel can indeed be safe. If you are not already considering placing a plexiglass partitions in your vehicle, you better think about it because your competitors are. This will give passengers and drivers peace of mind, knowing there is additional protection above and beyond wearing a mask.
Next is customer service. While customer service is always important, it is now more important than ever. After safety, the public is looking to see who is going that extra mile to prove they want their business. You have to be dedicated to providing the highest level of service that the public has come to expect. Going the extra mile to show your customers that you care means more than just wearing a mask and wishing someone the best of health. You need to take action to ensure that each customer leaves the car with the feeling that they look forward to you serving them again. Anything less is simply no longer acceptable.
Moreover, the pace of digital change in the FHV industry will sharply increase. When the pandemic struck many bases were still stuck in the early and mid-stages of digital transformation. Right now, you must pivot and speed up that transformation to address the unprecedented disruption, as well as new customer needs. Customers expect to operate within this context, and what would be nicer than coming out of this pandemic with a new set of digital tools and applications to truly bring your business into the 21st century.
Also, the time is now to make alliances and partnerships. None of us can go it alone. Or shall I say, it is easier to work together with others than to continue to work in competition with everyone. We all need someone to help us through this trying time and partnering with other entities may enable you to come out of this dark tunnel with new ideas and new alliances. Working with others gets us all thinking, and not only can give you a new outlook for the future, but also a revised invigoration to start anew.
As a business owner, your job is to keep your feet on the ground and your sights on the big picture while still tending to what is needed right now. Getting breathless and panicky isn’t going to help. You have to find coherence and calm.
If ever there was a time to up your game, this is it. Adversity can breed innovation, but on the other hand, it can breed stagnation. These unprecedented times have brought with them a lot of change and new challenges… and if you’re of our mindset, challenges are opportunities for growth.
Some businesses will weather the storm, but there will always be those that aren’t able to quickly adapt and pivot. And sadly, they’re most likely the businesses we won’t see on the other side of this pandemic. It is in times of great disruption and uncertainty that our ability to stay grounded in our sense of purpose and remain true to our identity is of the utmost importance.
For the past 10 years, we have witnessed incremental but rapid progress toward a new paradigm for transporting people. Powered by quickly evolving technologies, new business models, and shifting societal expectations, the future of transportation will be based on how well we evolve during this period of uncertainty.
You may not know exactly what to do, but inaction is not an option. You can’t sit back and wait to see how it all plays out. This is where the hard work and thinking comes. You must envision the future, clarifying the choices before you, along with their implications. You must take action to plan for the future.
My hope is that business leaders can use this time of uncertainty to really think and lay out the strategic choices facing them, sketch out potential pathways to the future, and highlight the indicators that they should be watching. Doing so now will put the FHV industry on firmer footing as the transportation environment becomes clearer over the next several months. Hopefully, this will help stakeholders from across the transportation spectrum make better-informed choices as they chart a course that accelerates our collective journey to a better future of transportation in NYC. You need to come out of this pandemic ready to roll with a new you.