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Let’s be honest, our expectations for a taxi ride start out pretty low. At best we hope for a relatively safe and clean ride for a fair price. And if you’re in a major city, such as New York, you can usually forget about the safe and clean part – just getting there alive will do.

So what can retailers possibly learn from a taxi driver about delivering an amazing customer experience? Well if you pick up a copy of Scott McKain’s new book, 7 Tenants of Taxi Terry, you’ll realize that not all taxis are created equal.

Taxi Terry takes his trade seriously and has developed important business practices that many retailers could leverage. The first is setting high expectations and following through.

The Power of Positive Expectations

“I think one of the most important things a retailer can do is set high expectations and then fulfill them for your customers,” said McKain. Taxi Terry demonstrated the power of that practice to McKain the very first time they met.

McKain was on his way to speak at a business conference in Jacksonville, Florida. When his plane landed, he picked up his bags and went outside to get a taxi. Of course there was a long line ahead of him, so he had to wait. Waiting in a line with your luggage for a cab is not like waiting in line for ice cream. It’s annoying and the thing you’re waiting for isn’t even going to be good. But when McKain reached the front something very unique happened. The cab pulled up, the driver jumped out, pointed at him with a smile and shouted, “Are you ready for the best cab ride of your life!?”

“Taxi Terry certainly set a high expectation. And the great thing about it was he really did deliver, what so far in my life, has been the greatest cab ride I’ve experienced,” said McKain.

McKain suggests retailers take a close look at the first thing a customer sees and hears when they interact with the company, both online and in-store. Greeting customers with, “Hi, how are you, how can I help you today?” is nice but it doesn’t set a high expectation of what the customer can receive.

Follow Through on Commitments

Retailers that aren’t afraid to set high expectations upfront are showing their customers that they are committed to building a relationship and delivering a great experience from start to finish. Soliciting feedback, having two-way conversations about products and services, and communicating improvements made along the way will prove the expectation set wasn’t just lip service.


“Retailers have more access to customer insights and input than ever before,” says McKain. The ones listening to what customers are saying about them on the street and on social media have a better chance of turning around any negative expectations.

“As retailers today, the engagement is critical, the delivery is critical, but it certainly begins with setting the high expectation so that customers raise the bar and we meet that with our performance,” says McKain.

As a cabbie, Taxi Terry will always be starting from a tough position, but he faces the challenge head on. He squashes negativity from the start and gives his patrons some confidence that they are going to get better service than they are typically used to. I just wish all cabbies would adopt that same attitude.

Join us for more Conversations on the Future of Retail  at futureofbusiness.sap.com and hear more from Scott McKain on the power of positive expectations at The Distinction Institute 

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