The Cab Ride

Alice hails a taxi.

Bob pulls over.

Alice gets in.

Bob asks, “Where to?”

Alice hands Bob a piece of paper.

Bob glances at it. It’s a list of directions:

“Turn left at the corner, turn right at the second light, stay left at the fork...” and so on.

It doesn’t say the destination.

Just step-by-step instructions.

It’s a long list.

Bob isn’t sure where they lead.

Three Scenarios:

  1. Alice doesn’t know her way around very well. She found the directions on some website. Bob doesn’t bother to ask where she is headed. He just takes the directions and follows them. They get to the end of the instructions, but Alice is not where she expected to be. She gets panicky and starts ordering Bob to do things like, “drive around the block” or “try the next street over”. Bob complies silently. Meanwhile, the meter is tick tick ticking away. Alice is getting more and more agitated. She’s now running late and her fare is ballooning. Bob has done exactly as instructed, but Alice is increasingly dissatisfied. They eventually find her destination. Alice begrudgingly pays $120 for the ride. Alice gets out of the cab and Bob drives away.

  2. Alice doesn’t know her way around very well. She found the directions on some website. When she hands them to Bob, he asks, “Where are these supposed to take us?” Alice says “123 Main Street.” Bob says, “These directions are out of date. There’s construction on this route and terrible traffic this time of day. I know a shortcut that will get us there in half the time.” Alice fears Bob is trying to scam her and she tells him so. Bob asks, “How much were you expecting the ride to be?” Alice says, “About $100.” Bob says, “I’ll get you there my way for $75. Deal?” Alice agrees. Bob gets her to the destination quickly and without incident. Alice pays the $75 fare and gets out of the cab. Bob drives away.

  3. Alice doesn’t know her way around very well. She found the directions on some website. When she hands them to Bob, he asks “Where are these supposed to take us?” Alice says “123 Main Street.” Bob asks, “Why do you want to go there?” Alice says, “It’s a flower shop. I need to pick up a dozen roses.” Bob says, “That shop is closed today.” Alice asks, “How do you know for sure?” Bob says, “Because it’s my shop. I drive a cab on my day off.” Bob continues, “As luck would have it, I’ve got a dozen roses in the trunk. I’ll sell them you for $60. Deal?” They both get out of the cab, having driven nowhere. Alice gladly pays Bob $60 for the roses. Bob gets back in the cab and drives away.

Three Outcomes:

  1. Alice spent 60 minutes in a cab and is now standing in front of a closed flower shop. She has spent $120, is late for her next appointment, and still needs to figure out where she’s going to get a dozen roses. Alice is angry. Bob has driven his car down half the blind alleys in the area, endured an insulting amount of micromanagement, and been brow-beaten by a disgruntled customer for a full hour. For this, he grossed $120 from which he must deduct his time, gas, and wear and tear on both the vehicle and his emotional well being. Bob is dejected. 

  2. Alice spent 45 minutes in a cab and is now standing in front of a closed flower shop. She has spent $75 and but still needs to figure out where she’s going to get a dozen roses. Alice is satisfied by the cab ride specifically, but is distressed overall. Bob minimized his costs (e.g., time, gas, mileage, stress) and is enjoying the small rush of pride that comes from a job well done. Bob grossed $75, which is significantly less revenue than the $120 in scenario 1, but arguably more profitable because his costs were dramatically lower. Bob is energized

  3. Alice hasn’t had to travel anywhere. She has spent $60, is early for her next appointment, and is holding a dozen roses. Alice is delighted. Bob has eliminated his costs completely, sold a dozen roses for triple what he paid for them, and has delighted a customer. Bob is exhilarated.

One Takeaway:

The “Bob” in these three scenarios represents three types of service provider behavioral roles that I have encountered over the years.

I call these roles the Robot (scenario 1), the Technician (scenario 2), and the Fixer (scenario 3).

None of the three is right for every client situation. The right role to play depends on the client’s needs. 

For example, it’s easy to imagine variations on these scenarios where Bob playing the Fixer does not deliver the best outcome for Alice. Let’s say Alice is heading home, knows the area like the back of her hand, prefers a particular route because of the scenery, and she provides flawless directions. In this case, Alice is the routing expert and therefore the appropriate role for Bob to play is the Robot. 

However... 

The Fixer is the most profitable of the three roles.

So...

Seek to attract clients who need a Fixer. Only take on clients who need a Technician when you need the money. Avoid clients who need a Robot.

Yours,

—J


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