One of North Wales’ biggest taxi firms has used funding from Yorkshire Bank to invest in profit-boosting technology – including a major industry innovation by owner Mark Coates.
Mark, director of Wrexham & Prestige Taxis, has invented a patent-protected Taxi Free Call Box for use in supermarkets and other popular pick up points.
The technology enables taxi operators to install a phone at a venue, without having to use BT, or sign up to 24 month contracts that often cost £170 per quarter.
Mark explained: “You just plug in the box and the phone will call the taxi company at the touch of a button. The system can also send a text message back to the box, telling the customer the taxi is outside.
“All this costs as little as £5 per month for the SIM card and the box retails at £650. So far we have sold nearly 100 units. If the location of the Taxi Free Call Box isn't generating enough calls, it can simply be unplugged and transferred to another pick- up point.”
Mark has taken out a European Patent on the box and is currently looking for an agent to sell his product under licence across the UK and Europe.
Mike Scott, relationship manager at Yorkshire Bank in Liverpool, said: “You don’t usually associate taxi firms with creating their own systems. It’s especially rewarding to work with an entrepreneur like Mark, who is clearly focused on bringing in – and even inventing – leading edge systems to raise bottom-line performance.”
Yorkshire Bank has provided the business with a range of loan, overdraft and hire purchase funding to support its recent expansion.
With a turnover of £1.2 million, Wrexham & Prestige Taxis acquired local competitor Club Cars in 2009, using funds provided by Yorkshire Bank. The firm’s fleet now comprises more than 90 vehicles and it employs 15 full-time staff, while working with 95 self-employed taxi drivers.
Investment from Yorkshire Bank has also enabled Mark to acquire an AutoCab Phantom interactive voice response (IVR) phone system enabling their call-handling system to become more efficient.
The system answers calls and automatically reads out three of a customer’s most used pick-up addresses. It responds to voice commands, or to the customer pressing the appropriate keypad button to book the taxi.
Mark continued: “Our office set-up is still the same, but we have reduced costs by 20 per cent because IVR answers the call first. On our old phone system we would lose at least 20 per cent of our calls on a busy shift. Now every call is answered.”
Another innovation Mark has introduced is a Taxi App which will allows customers with smart phones to book a taxi without calling the taxi office, as well as allowing them to see their taxi travelling towards them on a GPS mapping system.
Mark believes Yorkshire Bank’s relationship-based approach has played a key role in the success of Wrexham and Prestige Taxis.
He said: “I was introduced to Mike Scott at Yorkshire Bank’s Liverpool office, and when we sat down to talk about my company I could tell straight away that he totally understood my business.
“Since I've been with Yorkshire Bank, they have helped me to buy vehicles as well as acquire Club Cars. I know that if I ever need to discuss anything, Mike is always available.”