When the message is a positive one, word of mouth is one of the most powerful tools in helping you grow your private hire taxi business. Of course if that message is a negative one… it can have a damaging impact on your reputation.

There are occasions with any small business when you receive negative feedback, be that via word of mouth or, for example, in a local paper. How you deal with any bad press is paramount to smoothing it over effectively and efficiently and limiting the damage caused in what is being said.

1. Establish exactly what has been said, to whom and where

Remain calm while you undertake this fact checking. The very last thing you need now is to create a reaction, giving the negativity something to feed off. Be measured and establish the situation.

2. Calmly attribute accountability

Next, if it’s bad press about one of your drivers, or one of your operators, find out exactly who is alleged to have been involved. If the bad press has come from a mix up in the office, speak calmly to whoever was accountable or on duty at the time. As the firm owner, you will need to deal with the situation, and as such it is you who is ultimately accountable in the public eye.

3. Own up if need be, and apologise

Once you have established what happened and where, you can own up to the situation. Once you admit culpability, you can look forward and design a method of reversing the negative PR and effectively manage the situation. If there are grounds to the accusation or claims, then this will almost always start with an apology. As the manager or owner of the taxi or firm, you’d be best off dealing with this yourself. Your apology needs to be sincere, as customer care should be at the top of your agenda when dealing with a PR crisis.

4. Compensate

After you have owned up and accepted responsibility, you need to strategise how you will compensate for the mistake. Depending on the severity of the situation, you could do this by either providing a free journey for the complainant(s) or undertaking some charity work in the area – for example, providing transport for a day out for a local hospital or hospice. This is a powerful signifier that, while you admit you may have had a problem, you deal with it accordingly and that the firm wants to be active in finding a solution.

5. Communicate effectively

Following a negative PR situation, it’s very important to ensure you put your best word forward. Keep the public posted on the progress of the situation. The same paper or news outlet that covered the bad press, should also be prepared to carry your response.

If, for some reason, the allegations are untrue, then you should deny them, and possibly investigate where the claims are coming from. It’s still a good idea to counteract the negative PR with some positive in order to restore faith in you and your firm’s reputation. A business that admits to its faults and deals with negativity in a positive way is more likely to see repeat customers. One of the huge benefits of running a taxi firm is that your drivers have the opportunity to build rapport with customers each and every day. As such, having open and friendly drivers on your books is a huge asset – they can help pass on the firm’s message or response to any bad press situation now or in the future.

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