Redesigning the NYC taxi experience – without the rider
In a recent NYT article we learn that the taxi-riding experience is being intensely redesigned:
[Taxi commissioner] Yassky and the designer, Francois Farion of Nissan, were in the midst of rethinking every element of New York’s next taxicab, and when a once-in-a-lifetime chance comes along, no detail can be overlooked.
Every single detail, scoured by the agency head and the lead designer. The material of the plastic partition, the color of the meter cover, the sound of the horn. Impressive.
Still, despite the exhaustively detail-oriented process, it feels like something is missing. Or rather someone. Is there anyone else whose input might be important on these decisions? Perhaps a person who might be affected? Can you think of anyone other than the city agency, and the vendor, whose input might be helpful in determining the outcome?
Or perhaps we have all the relevant constituents in the room: which would mean that Nissan is designing a single car for the taxi commissioner to ride, alone, throughout the city.
I feel silly spelling it out, but it’s worth stating: when a decision affects customers, it’s helpful to involve customers in the decision.
We do learn that Nissan conducted a focus group, in which “some New Yorkers said they were unsure about the whole endeavor: ‘It’s a 10-minute cab ride anyway, so why bother?’” In other words, a standard focus group – asking a group of people their general opinions – failed to generate specific insights into what customers wanted. Instead, imagine if Nissan had observed the current customer experience and tried to understand people’s key unmet needs.
Meanwhile, here’s how the team chose a taxi horn:
Three choices were proffered. The first option, more common to Europe, had a screechy, goofy tone; Mr. Yassky grimaced slightly as the honk filled the room. … Finally, a solution was found. Mr. Yassky tensed for the third horn, only to relax as a mournful trumpet blast resonated through the speakers. It was deep but not jarring, loud but not shrill.
I suppose we’ll find out how actual riders react to the new taxi experience once the budget is fully spent and the taxis are fully deployed.
I don’t mean to pick on the taxi commission, as they’re simply using the process the most common innovation process today: making significant decisions in the customer experience without any meaningful inclusion of the customer in the process.
For your next customer experience project, make sure to include customers early, and meaningfully, in the process.