Meru Cabs constructs an IT solution that simultaneously lowers the cost of business, and enhances its reliability, a brand trait services like Meru Cabs live and die by.
The entire cab booking process takes a minute.Automation has made the process of cab selection more transparent to drivers
How Meru Cabs’ bookings on the Web shot up to 700 percentBecoming the world’s third-largest radio taxi service
When Meru Cabs was launched in 2007, all it had on offer was 45 cabs. But the company was in a tearing hurry to grow and within three years, it had scaled its operations to include a fleet of 5,500-plus cabs. Today, it is the world’s third-largest radio taxi service.
The Business Challenge: Growth on that scale comes with problems on many fronts, but the one that really interested Nilesh Sangoi, CTO, Meru Cabs, was how Meru’s growth was affecting its customers. From the get-go, Meru wanted its brand to stand for one thing: Reliability. Reliability differentiated it from the unorganized taxi crowd, reliability would spawn customer trust, and reliability would ensure that customers were willing to pay a premium for Meru’s services. But that reliability was under fire. With over 20,000 trips a day and counting, Meru’s call centers weren’t able to keep up with cab requests. In 2010, for instance, Sangoi remembers that Meru’s call-drop rate (when customers were asked to hold) was about 18 percent. If Meru wanted to ensure it wasn’t turning business away—and risk being seen as a service people couldn’t rely on—it would have to do better than the sweet music of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony it ran on its IVR. “We realized that we needed a solution which could help the company redirect some booking requests to less resource-intensive mediums like the Web,” says Sangoi.
The Solution: Truth be told, Meru already had an online booking facility but few consumers took to it. That’s partially because the website required customers to fill out a form and wait while Meru’s system triggered an e-mail to its back-end, and someone manually punched that request into Meru’s dispatch system. “This business is about reliability and timeliness—if customers don’t get an immediate confirmation they won’t trust the medium,” says Sangoi. So Sangoi decided to give the website an express makeover. The new website, says Sangoi, was built around Web APIs and was based on feedback Meru had collected from its customers. In addition, he sought one crucial change: “We wanted the entire booking process to be in real-time. So the integration of the website with our CRM and dispatch systems were done in-house,” says Sangoi. Today, when a booking is made on Meru’s site, booking details are funneled into Meru’s CRM and back-end dispatch system. The dispatch system figures out if there’s a cab in the locality and either confirms or declines the booking. “The entire process takes a minute. It is automated and the absence of human intervention has made the process of cab selection more transparent to drivers,” says Sangoi.
The Benefits: “Within the first three months, bookings on the Web shot up seven-fold, that’s 700 percent,” says Sangoi. It’s also telling that within 10 months of the launch, Meru clocked in its 1 millionth booking. The upshot? The Rs 15-lakh project achieved ROI within one month. But Sangoi didn’t stop there. “In mid-2011, we included a feature that would allow customers to track the location of their booked cabs on Google maps while they are waiting,” says Sangoi. That’s how you build customer trust.
We found a solution for the 18 percent of his customers who didn’t want to be put on hold.
This business is about reliability and timeliness—if customers don’t get an immediate confirmation they won’t trust the medium