Waterford.FYI recently caught up with Eric O’ Brien, Rapid Cabs, Waterford. Eric has seen business drop dramatically since mid-March but with the reopening of many shops around town this week, he hopes to see business pick up over the next few months as life returns to a new normal in Waterford.
The taxi company has played a vital role in bringing essential workers to their jobs during the pandemic and with new developments to their app, they look forward to supporting local businesses with their new ‘click & collect’ service. Learn more about how one of the largest taxi companies in the South East has survived and adapted over the past few months.
Read the interview
How have things changed for you since the lockdown in March?
The change has been very dramatic. Our business is down about 80% but we have noticed growth in the last few weeks, which is a good sign. When the Taoiseach announced that the schools were closed, within three days our business was down by 70% and 80% within a week. The 15% work that we have been doing is patient services work, transfers, blood samples, that kind of transport.
How has the shutdown of so much impacted the community, your staff, and suppliers?
We have had to change our Call Centre completely, now there’s only one person in the office because of the small space and lack of demand. There are a lot of drivers, some would be elderly or have underlying health conditions or have family at home with health conditions; they’re’ not back in work yet and don’t know when they will be.
Are you still connecting with your customers?
Yes, we are – our social media presence is still there. We do ‘click & collect’ for regulars, elderly customers, and pick up shopping for customers that don’t come out of their houses. We’re looking at new developments at the moment in relation to ‘click & collect’ and delivery services that we hope to have rolled out in the next few weeks. It’s a whole new dimension to our app – Download here
How have customers reacted?
Eh, it’s getting easier. At the start, they were very wary of getting into cars, now a lot of our cars have screens in them between the driver and the customer. Customers are coming round, slowly but surely.
What safety precautions have you taken to make customers feel safe?
There are many things we are doing to help customers feel safe. We send passengers a text message when booking to ask them to sit in the back of the taxi where possible. Also, we ask people to book by our App and pay by card so there are fewer people handling cash. There are some taxis that have card machines in their taxis too. We’ve had safety screens/dividers fitted in our own cars and are also encouraging all taxis affiliated to Rapid Cabs to do the same. Taxi drivers are asked to clean their car in between journeys and regularly throughout their shift too. With regards to gloves and face coverings, at the moment it’s up to the individual driver but a lot are already wearing both. We have sanitising stations and markings also.
How are you using social media to connecting with customers?
It’s mostly through our Facebook page. So, we ran Easter colouring competitions and got various videos done up just trying to let people know that we are still here.
How do you think communities can help local businesses?
The whole ‘shop local’ thing. With the next phase of our app, we are going to try and support local shops, restaurants, takeaways, butchers, garden centres by offering a click & collect service. The platform is being devised for that and we are going to give that to all businesses for free. The customer will pay for the delivery and it will cost the business nothing. So it will help create extra income and generate local businesses in the community. It’s all local businesses helping each other as it will help us, help them, and help the economy.
Rapid Cabs app helps drive local business
The local taxi company will offer Waterford businesses (restaurants, takeaways, garden centres, etc.) the opportunity to use their app as a way to generate business and drive up sales through their new ‘click & collect’ service. Great service all round.
Is there enough information out there for local businesses?
They have a lot done but still a lot to do. The wage subsidy scheme has been a huge help without a doubt. Without that, I couldn’t see our doors being open today. I think it’s something that has to be extended. If you consider pubs, certain trade probably won’t be open until August – I can see those people finding it very hard.
Do you think the government could do anything else to help?
Yes. I think there needs to be more focus on interest-free loans to help businesses reopen. The same with the rates, I think the cancellation of rates until at least December or January and that money has to come from central government to local authorities then.
What’s been the hardest thing for you?
Everything! To have to teach my children in the mornings to coming in here in the afternoon, it’s ever-changing. Tasks that used to take us five minutes (like doing out wages every week) now became a three or four-hour task because of implementing a new scheme and getting used to it. Everything became so time-consuming.
If you had one message for your customers, what would it be?
Well, we can’t wait to see you all again. We have one woman, Mrs. Ryan who used to take a taxi three times a day and we haven’t seen her in seven or eight weeks now. We have lots of customers we bring to and from work every day who are working from home now; I’m sure they wish they could be back in the office. We just can’t wait to see everybody!