This year, Liverpool’s oldest black cab company turns 60. General Manager Karen Long reflects on how the business has changed and why technology is a greater part than ever of the cab trade.
“When the company celebrated its 25th birthday”, says Karen, “they held a dinner dance. The duties of the chairman, it was said in a speech, were to keep the bank manager sweet”.
Times have changed. Now, ComCab Liverpool finds it as important to keep both its customers and its drivers as sweet as the bank manager.
Karen joined the company 25 years ago as an office junior. She’s run it as General Manager since 2010. When she joined in 1991 all key decision makers within the company were men. It was a cooperative company and you could only be on the board if you were a taxi driver owner, with a share in the company. MerseyCabs was built up from nothing and reached 350 drivers on its books 25 years ago. Karen was promoted first to Office Manager and then Company Secretary. In 2007 MerseyCabs were acquired by CityFleet Networks Ltd and a London based General Manger was appointed travelling to Liverpool a couple of times a week. But in 2010 it was evident that Karen with her trade knowledge and an understanding of both the city and what the drivers needed was best placed to be GM.
Karen is supported with operations, fleet, sales, marketing and account management with a predominately female management team which could be considered unusual in the Taxi trade. “There is definitely a sense of being a woman led office we have a mutually supportive atmosphere and work very collaboratively we all take credit when things go right and equally take responsibility when things don’t quite go to plan”
Last year, ComCab Liverpool reached its record turnover winning public sector contracts. There are 370 drivers, but many of the vehicles have a night driver, so in fact it’s closer to 550 drivers.
“You have to create a positive atmosphere and a happy ship, this for me is the most conducive atmosphere to grow the business for our customers and drivers”
There are customers who’ve used ComCab for some 40 years.
“We’ve also been quite determined to keep the service local, we know we provide jobs for local people and we stick together, employing local people, using local suppliers so there is a lot of social value. “Loyalty is a very Liverpool thing”.
While at the helm, Karen has helped to diversify the business so that it not only serves people who need to book a black cab for a night out, but also corporate clients who want a local and safe service. ComCab Liverpool also holds contracts transporting children and vulnerable adults, patients who have routine hospital appointments and last year won the contract to pick up hospital patients from the Isle of Man at Liverpool John Lennon Airport.
“They need a service that meets their needs, so it’s secure for wheelchairs or prams but they also need it to be friendly. Our drivers pick up the same people everyday and that relationship is really important. It’s also about putting people at their ease, on what might be a really stressful day”.
Technology has become an important part of how ComCab Liverpool has evolved. Most ComCab Taxis take contactless payments and the introduction three years ago of a free taxi app, offering tracking services was made available giving another booking platform offering accountability within the Liverpool Black Cab trade that ComCab have offered for 60 years.
“Possibly it is because we’re a female led company, but security and safety has always been paramount in our business decisions. Booking a Black Cab through ComCab either through the App or via our call centre gives real accountability, recourse when things go right or wrong for a passenger; we have an office in the City, the ability to track and trace, we often get people back with their belongings”
As the firm celebrates its 60th birthday, with a record turnover and more drivers on the books than ever before, the future is looking bright.