I left the Sydney Airport terminal and was welcomed by the humid morning air.
I positioned myself at the cab rank and waited in line for my ride. After a few minutes, my taxi pulled up. The driver leaped out of his seat and charged around to my side of the car. A short, quaint man bursting with energy, big teeth and a crooked smile greeted me. He snatched my suitcase, brushed past me and lobbed it into his boot. In the taxi, he ceremoniously introduced himself in broken English, ‘I’m Chen! Where are we off to today?’
I was slightly taken aback by Chen’s lively demeanour. ‘I’m presenting at a conference at the Novotel in Manly,’ I said. Stunned by this, as if it were a stroke of good fortune, Chen burst into a cheer. ‘Manly, okay, this is my luckiest day!’
We headed off through Sydney’s Domain tunnel. The traffic was backed up. Sensing my anxiety about being late for a speaking gig, Chen profusely apologised and assured me that I would not be late for my 11am start. Though slightly perplexed by Chen’s noticeable concern for my professional wellbeing (he seemed almost infuriated), I got the impression he genuinely cared about getting me to my destination on time.
As we cruised through Neutral Bay, we shared a joke and Chen probed me about my business and the nature of my presentation. Asking a plethora of rapid fire questions and seeming legitimately interested in my business. He then asked where I lived, if I had kids and if my travels took me away from my family often. ‘It does sometimes,’ I said.
With pursed lips he glared sideways at me, slowly, and in a ponderous tone explained that he was genuinely concerned for me and that my family was the most important thing in life and the reasons why. Pointing to his forehead, he added, ‘See these wrinkles? I am old, I know these things. You should listen to me.’ I couldn’t help but be intrigued by this tiny little man and his strange ways.
To my amusement and distress, Chen put his foot down when he needed to, but despite the notorious Sydney traffic, he got me to the venue with time to spare. Chen hit the skids and the embattled taxi’s brakes squealed in pain. With one foot flat to the floor and his head cocked towards me, Chen blurted in a proud tone, ‘We are here boss, on time! Are you happy?’
‘Chen, you’re a legend, thank you and I would like to give you a tip.’
‘No, no, boss, not needed. What time should I pick you up?’
‘Oh, back to the airport…well, not tomorrow but the following day, at 12.30pm?’
Chen ripped a business card from his wallet and declared, ‘I’ll be here at twelve just in case you’re early, and if you’re late, I wait, okay?’ You can guess my response.
Two days later, I finished my speaking engagement. Afterwards, I got caught up chatting with some of the participants. Consumed by the conference and still running on adrenaline, I had completely forgotten about my commitment to meet Chen. It was now just after 1pm. I exited the foyer, suitcase in tow and nonchalantly scanned the hotel entrance for a taxi. To my chagrin, my eyes quickly landed on a short, quaint man bursting with energy, big teeth and a crooked smile. I was thirty minutes late, but that mattered little to my new mate Chen.
I don’t know about you, but getting a taxi ride can either be a dreary or downright stinky experience. We’ve all sat there in the passenger seat in brace position, gagging for air as our ears bleed to the sounds of music not of our choosing. In this instance, however, the 45 minute trek to my destination and back passed quickly. Despite Chen’s taxi being eaten alive by rust and needing a once-over from a roadworthy officer, I didn’t mind taking the journey with him, in fact, it added to the experience.
Chen created an experience for me that was unique and memorable. Amazingly, it cost him nothing but a sliver of time, positive tone and a genuine interest in me and my best interests. Chen works in a hyper-competitive space: let’s be honest, cab drivers are a dime a dozen. But you don’t have to be Nostradamus to know who I’m calling when I next need a ride in Sydney – because he’s that good and he makes me feel that special.
Forget the bells and whistles and slick marketing messages, Chen gives me something more important and, in return, I give him my business and loyalty.
Trent Leyshan is the founder and CEO of BOOM Sales! a leading sales training and sales development specialist. He is also the creator of The NAKED Salesman, BOOMOLOGY! RetroService, and the Empathy Selling Process.