Anke van de Woestijne, Business Manager at Crime Control.Photo: Anke van de Woestijne

Taxi drivers are sometimes confronted with aggression. What kinds of aggressions exist and how do taxi drivers best respond to them? We talk about this with Anke Van de Woestijne, Business Manager at Crime Control, a training and consultancy agency from Bertem, Belgium. That company focuses on the prevention of crime and inappropriate behavior.

What types of aggression are there?

“There is frustration and instrumental aggression. We focus on these types of aggression because you can still have an impact on them with your own communication. Frustration aggression involves people who do not personally target the taxi driver, but who are frustrated with themselves or the situation and then express that frustration. Those people are emotional and will continue to express that emotion several times. The tricky thing is that those people often keep saying the same thing for a long time. That may be because they had to wait too long for a taxi. It is therefore about the customer’s situation and not that of the taxi driver. In the long run, the taxi driver may feel that the conversation is all about that. Keep it as short as possible so it doesn’t escalate further. After all, the setback can lead to an explosion.”

How do you respond then?

“If you hear the customer complaining, don’t stop immediately. Then it becomes a battle between the frustration of the taxi driver and that of the customer. That will only escalate the conversation further. Let the customer saw and complain first. Come along first. Listen to the customer and let them vent. This way you can analyze what the problem is. Then acknowledge. Make it as concrete as possible and name something. For example: ‘If you have already had to contact three taxi companies, that is not pleasant.’ By saying that, you prevent the customer from saying it again. This will shorten your conversation. Find a solution first. Then bring your own story.”

Are there any words we shouldn’t use?

“Never use the word ‘but’. That word nullifies the positive you gave earlier. Those words can add fuel to the fire. Try to word something as positively as possible. Don’t say you don’t know or can’t help it. Word it positively, otherwise your customers will spend longer discussing and negotiating.”

Then there is instrumental aggression. This is where the taxi driver comes into view more. Can you give some examples of this?

“Instrumental aggression is indeed about the taxi driver himself. If he is late for the appointment, the customer will fire at him personally and say, for example: “Do you think it’s normal that you’re half an hour late?” The customer will personally attack and belittle you, put pressure on you or make certain demands. That requires a different approach. If you are not going to respond to this, you give the customer permission to respond in this way. That only leads to more aggression. If you don’t respond to it, you’re sending a signal that it doesn’t affect you. The chance that the customer will make further comments then increases. That is why we think it is important to draw boundaries and to address your customers about their behavior.”

But sometimes you really have to push your limits as a taxi driver, right?

“If customers really go too far, it is better not to go into it. A customer can ask a taxi driver if he has passed his driving licence. Just don’t go into it, because then you’re feeding too much. When you get angry, draw your limits. Use an I message because it is more customer-friendly than a you message. Do not address shouting and ranting customers in the you form. An I-message is stronger. Speaking in the ‘I’ form is less offensive than a ‘you’ form.”

Can you give an example?

“Speak in the I-form as much as possible. Don’t say, ‘enough is enough. You will be kicked out of the taxi.’ But: ‘I don’t accept the way you address me. I suggest we continue the conversation in another way. And then I would like to continue the journey.’ If you only make a decision yourself, that is a loss of face for the customer. Then the dominant position of the taxi driver comes up again. That will generate more aggression.

You say that talking in the “or” form also works less aggressively. Can you give an example?

“Do speak with an either/or form. Give him a choice: “Either we continue the ride in a serene manner and I will gladly take you to the final destination, or I have to ask you to get out.” As a taxi driver, try not to make a value judgment either. You can say to the customer: ‘Either we sit quietly in the taxi or we stop. The word ‘calm’ is also a trigger. That’s a value judgement. The customer can also respond to that.”

Taxi drivers who often drive to a hospital can also be confronted with ’emotional aggression.’ What’s up with that?

“For example, your customer may have just received bad news and react emotionally. Be aware of that. Your customer can also be confronted with bad news in other situations, for example if they hear that a family member has been involved in an accident. Such a person can then react emotionally.”

This article previously appeared on sister magazine TaxiPro.be. Read here the full article.

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