TH: Coming into a tightly regulated market like New York is not a smooth process. What was your approach?
Hatfield: The word smooth is a tough one. [laughs] New York, given the size and complexity of it, took a very active approach toward managing an e-hail pilot. Even with that active approach, there's always constituents and other parties and members of the existing infrastructure that are pulling in different directions. The idea of the pilot was to put it out there and start to gather data, start to answer questions...We're now a year in, and it's actually answered a lot of questions. The iconic New York taxi market, as well as all the other viable forms of transportation, including livery and black car, are still very much alive and well in the traditional forms that we know it. E-hail is becoming a more and more important part of that.
How do you incentivize drivers to stick with Hailo? Many drivers use your competitors' apps.
Hatfield: We recognize that there's multiple technologies out there, and I think the difference for us is that drivers typically feel the difference pretty quickly with Hailo. Here in New York we have a drivers' center that's open six days a week til 1 a.m. That's opposed to having office space for drivers in an office tower that's open for two hours a week when you need to see someone or have a problem. If a driver needs immediate assistance, if it's an issue during a ride or a training issue, they can hit a button and get straight to somebody live, they can talk to them at a Hailo office--as opposed to some of our competitors, where you have to send an email through the app and wait to be potentially be responded to. It's a very different process in terms of the care and feeding that we show the driver community.
Uber has been criticized over its surge-pricing policy. Will Hailo ever use surge-pricing?
Hatfield: Because we started with taxi, typically the taxi rate is what governs the ride. As we move into other car types, our rates have changed. As we launched Hailo Plus, which are basically sedans and town cars, we introduced that at a 15 percent premium on top of the taxi meter, which is still pretty minimal compared to others. Over the summer, we've actually matched taxi rates. We have messed with rates, but for the betterment of consumers as we launch those services. In terms of surge, we currently do not have surge pricing, and if we were to do that, we would introduce it in a way that would be a healthy balance between serving the customer and rewarding the driver for that.
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