Taxi drivers hope 'charm school' will improve business

Taxi drivers hope 'charm school' will improve business
TUKWILA, Wash. -- Call it a charm school for cabbies.

One of the region's long-established taxi companies is sending some of its drivers to a hospitality class to improve their customer service skills.

About 130 drivers from Yellow Cab sat in a classroom on Tuesday to listen to instructors from the Hospitality Management program at South Seattle College.

Yellow Cab asked the college to design a special class for taxi drivers. It's in response to increasing competition from app-based ride services companies like Uber and Lyft that are taking business away from the traditional companies.

"We want to earn their business," cab driver Paul Cheema about his customers. "This is showing the people that we're actually taking our time and spending money and trying to make a change in this industry."

The four-hour class costs $60 dollars and comes out of the drivers' pockets.

Dr. Hana Gala is one of the instructors.

"These drivers are essentially business owners, and this shows they care deeply about making sure they are successful," said Gala. "That includes providing excellent customer service."

Drivers will learn techniques for connecting with customers in a positive way, leaving a good impression to ensure repeat business, and learning to deal with complaints in a productive way.

"Ultimately it's about, do we believe there's the determination to improve?" Gala said. "These drivers are showing they are committed to providing the best experience possible."

The classes are being held at the Teamsters Union Headquarters in Tukwila. The Western Washington Taxicab Operators Association partnered with Teamsters Local 117 to create the special hospitality course.

Another will be held Thursday. If reviews are favorable, there will be many more according to organizers.

After completing the class drivers will receive a certificate, signed by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, that drivers can display in their cabs.