19/06/2015 - 10:34

Swan’s Yeo sees opportunity in adversity

19/06/2015 - 10:34

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A change of leadership at Swan Taxis is part of a strategy to shake up the company’s image, but there will be a tough fight ahead.

DRIVING CHANGE: See Peng Yeo says Swan Taxis will focus on customer service and technology. Photo: Attila Csaszar

A change of leadership at Swan Taxis is part of a strategy to shake up the company’s image, but there will be a tough fight ahead.

Swan Taxis is launching a series of initiatives to fight the onslaught of competition in the Perth metropolitan market, including a reward system for its top drivers.

The move follows the introduction of a new mobile app in late April.

Swan Taxis chief executive officer See Peng Yeo said the company would use the customer ratings system in the new dispatch app to give all 5,000 drivers a quarterly score.

The top drivers would be given priority for contract jobs, which he said provided more consistent income streams.

The door would be open for monetary payments or rewards such as holidays.

Mr Yeo, who took over at Swan Taxis less than six months ago, said quality ratings had been good since the introduction of the company’s app.

“Currently it’s running at 81 per cent of drivers getting either a four-star or five-star (rating out of five),” Mr Yeo told Business News.

The improvements will be timely for Swan, which has a 90 per cent market share in taxi dispatch although it owns no plates, meaning it has limited control over drivers.

That share will come under increasing pressure, not just from international giant Uber, but now local player WA Cabs, and Sydney-based Go Catch and Ingogo.

Mr Yeo said Swan, which is owned by Singapore-listed transport giant ComfortDelGro, had been working with the state government on an upcoming industry green paper.

“There is definitely a need for reform,” he said.

However, Mr Yeo warned that complete deregulation would be too simplistic. “Some parts you have to tighten, some parts you have to loosen,” he said.

“There has been quite a lot of market talk that the $13,000 per year (taxi plate) lease could go further down, given the coming market conditions.”

By contrast, the lease on a London-style cab, which is on a four-year trial, was a nominal $1 annually.

Furthermore, Mr Yeo said the more expensive insurance and training programs taxi drivers were required to complete reduced their competitiveness compared with UberX drivers.

Mr Yeo has substantial experience in the taxi industry, after serving in a senior role at ComfortDelGro’s Singapore operations.

Previously, he achieved the rank of brigadier general in the Singapore Armed Forces and studied a masters degree at Oxford University.

He said he was positive about the business’s future in WA.

“There is a saying that the taxi industry is one of the oldest industries, professions, in the world,” Mr Yeo said. “Every taxi company in the world today, in every country, is fighting Uber and UberX, because it’s such a global phenomenon.”

But he said he felt Swan would always have loyal customers who would prefer to speak on the phone than use an app.

“Its something Uber or Ingogo can’t do,” Mr Yeo said.

“When there is a downturn, there is opportunity.”


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