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I’m not sure what the future of taxis will be, but I hope it looks a lot like Hailo.
While the taxi-hailing app has been available in New York City for a while now, it wasn’t until this weekend that I finally had a chance to use it. And I came away from the experience far more impressed than I expected to.
My first interaction with Hailo emerged largely out of desperation: Friends and I were stranded (or at least as stranded as one can be in New York City) on Friday evening and needed a taxi to get us from Queens to Manhattan, where friends were waiting for us.
Taxis, however, were predictably hard to come by in the out-of-the-way area where we waited, which, in a last-ditch effort, inspired me to download Hailo and create an account.
The entire sign-up process, as I recall it, didn’t take very long, and after a few minutes I had the medallion number, license number, and phone number of Zahirul, the man who would soon be our taxi driver.
Already the biggest benefit of Hailo became clear: Rather than wait on a corner with my arm hanging limply in the air to hail a taxi, I was using my phone to do the hailing for me.
The benefits of this new, tech-enabled empowerment soon became even more obvious when a taxi slowly pulled up to our corner and honked. A couple, who had also been waiting nearby, immediately scampered over to it — and so did I.
“Hey, sorry — I think this one’s mine,” I told them.
In an English accent, one responded: “Actually, no — we hailed it.”
My retort couldn’t have been written better by even Hailo’s own copywriters, “Well, I Hailoed it,” I quipped, grinning and shaking my phone in their faces. They were dumbfounded.
Inside the taxi Zahirul chirped, “Hey, Ricardo!” and unlocked his doors. My friends and I piled in, and as the taxi pulled away, I turned back to look at the couple we had left behind. They we’re looking in other direction, raising their arms for another taxi that might not ever come.
From a purely experiential vantage, Hailo worked exceptionally well. Less than ten minutes after requesting a cab, I had one.
This first experience is important one, not only for me, but for Hailo’s larger business as well. If the company can’t ensure that its first-time customers have a decent initial experience, then chances are those first-time customers won’t ever try Hailo again.
Obviously, Hailo doing something right. The company has raised $50 million so far, and has taxis running its app in 11 cities — even those that aren’t entirely that happy to have it.
I’m usually skeptical of our obsession with of disruption-for-disruption’s-sake, but there’s something that makes so much sense about Hailo (and, yes, Uber) that makes it tough to imagine ever hailing a taxi the normal way ever again.