I arrived at Sydney airport. I briskly exited the terminal and was immediately greeted by the humid morning air. I strategically positioned myself in the cab rank and waited in line for my ride.
After a few minutes, my cabby pulled up. The driver then leaped out of his seat and charged around to my side of the car. A small Asian man bursting with energy, big teeth and a crooked smile greeted me. He snatched my suitcase, brushed passed me and lobbed it into his boot. We both then jumped in the cab.
In broken English he introduced himself, “I’m Chen! Where are we off to today?” Slightly taken aback by Chen’s lively demeanour, I responded, “I’m presenting at a conference at the Novotel in Manly.” Stunned by this, Chen, burst into a cheer, “Manly, okay, this is my lucky day!”
We headed through Sydney’s Domain tunnel. The traffic was backed-up. Sensing my anxiety about being late for a speaking gig seemed to infuriate Chen – he profusely apologised for the delay and assured me that I would not be late for my 11am start. Though slightly perplexed by Chen’s concern for my professional wellbeing, 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 asked about my business and the nature of my presentation. He then asked if I had kids, and if my travels took me away from my family often. I said it did sometimes. With pursed lips he glared sideways at me, and in ponderous tone, explained that he was genuinely concerned for me and that family was the most important thing in life. I couldn’t help but be intrigued by this man and his strange ways.
Chen put his foot down when he needed to, to my amusement and distress, but despite the trademark nightmare traffic of Sydney, he got me to the venue with plenty of time to spare. Chen hit the skids and the embattled cab’s breaks squealed in pain as we came to an abrupt stop. With one foot on the brake and his head cocked towards me, Chen blurted out 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 I pick you up?”
“Oh, back to the airport? Okay, well not tomorrow, but the following day at 12.30 pm?”
Chen ripped a business card out of his wallet and declared, “I’ll be here at 12 just in case you early, and if you late, I wait. Okay?”
You can guess my response.
Two days later, I finished my speaking engagement. I was then 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 1 pm. I exited the foyer, suitcase in tow and scanned the hotel entrance for a taxi. To my delight, my eyes quickly landed on a small man with a crooked smile and bursting with energy. 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 have all sat in the passenger seat gagging for air as our ears bleed to the sounds of loud music. With Chen, the 45-minute trek seemed to pass in much less time. Despite his cab looking shabby and eaten alive by rust, I didn’t mind taking the journey with him; in fact, that added to the experience, which was far from ordinary.
Chen created an experience for me that was unique and memorable. Amazingly, it cost him nothing but a positive tone, and a genuine interest in me and my best interests. Chen defies the rules and drives change by not buying-in to the poor industry standards set by other taxi drivers.
And you don’t have to be Nostradamus to know who I will be calling when I next need a cab ride in Sydney My man, Chen! Because he’s that good and he makes me feel that special!
Forget the bells and whistles and slick marketing messages: Chen delivered me something much more important, and in return I give him my business and loyalty.
This is an excerpt from Trent’s latest book, OUTLAW: Fight for your Customers and Sell without Fear.