What Seattle Cab Drivers Learn in 'Charm School' to Compete With Uber

PHOTO: About 170 drivers from Yellow Cab attended a class on customer service given at the Teamsters Union Headquarters in Tukwila, Wash. on July 15, 2014.
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Meet the new secret weapon to get a leg up in the cutthroat competition among cabbies -- charm school.

Taxi drivers in Washington state are getting lessons that they hope will give them an edge against startups such as Lyft and Uber.

The first four-hour training on customer service took place Tuesday in Tukwila, outside Seattle, after the Western Washington Taxicab Operators Association and Teamsters Local 117 asked the Hospitality Management Program at South Seattle College for a curriculum.

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Yellow Cab, Orange Cab and Farwest Taxi drivers participated.

Here's the course program:

1. Introduction

2. Excellent customer service: What it is and how to provide it.

3. How to handle complaints and difficult customers

4. Personal story: How to present our brand and/or service in a way that is most accessible for customers

5. Developing new business with Institutional Clients

6. Closing exercises and review

About 170 taxicab operators paid $60 out of their pockets, ABC affiliate KOMO reported, to learn about topics including customer satisfaction and developing relationships with institutional clients.

Hana Gala, an instructor at South Seattle College's hospitality management program, told ABC News that about 100 drivers had signed up for the course, but dozens more showed up for the instruction.

"I think cabbies reaching out for help is great," she said. "They are small business owners. This is their business and livelihood."

A second training is offered Thursday and a third date has not yet been confirmed.

"We want to earn their business," cab driver Paul Cheema told KOMO about his customers. "This is showing the people that we're actually taking our time and spending money and trying to make a change in this industry."

"We just need to reminded that opening the door -- it’s always a good idea for the customer," Cheema added.

Gala said she hopes the union for the cab dispatchers will also provide a course for them.

"Our next move is to work with them, which will impact customers greatly," she said.

Here's the program's "Five Steps to Consistently Successful Taxi Business":

1. Establish rapport (starts with attitude)

2. Connect (biography)

3. Deliver excellent service

4. Handle complaints

5. Keep developing your business

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