FeatureHighlightsTelford Business

Behind the scenes at Veezu

It’s the taxi company that lives rent free in the heads of many of you. The company you love to hate. I took a trip to Veezu Midland’s hub in Shrewsbury to meet with the management team and find out a bit more about the business.

Firstly, terminology. Taxis are those vehicles that you wave down in the street. Private Hire is where you book a car. They are governed by different laws and Veezu is a Private Hire provider, although to the general public the terms are interchangeable.

I don’t drink, I do drive, so I rarely have the need for a taxi business, but where I have ordered a pick up for others, I couldn’t really fault Veezu. The app showed who was picking up, the registration number and type of vehicle, and a moving map so you could see how far away they were. Your mileage may vary, and some of you don’t hold back with your experiences on social media.

Veezu is the new name for Go Carz which used to be Central, and if you are as old as I am, you have the familiar Telford 50 10 50 ingrained in your brain from 20 years of advertising. It still works. Veezu have been mopping up private hire firms around the UK. They bought Go Carz in 2020, and also Diamond Cars in Telford in 2021, making them by far the biggest private hire firm covering our town. And it’s the scale that surprised me the most.

Dead Miles are bad news for everyone
Director of Veezu, Robin Gibson explains the size of the operation and the benefits that brings to passengers: “Across the Veezu group, more than 16,000 self-employed driver-partners deliver one ride every 1.5 seconds.” I had to check that I heard right.

He continued “Having all these driver-partners, and all these rides means that there are fewer dead miles.”

Dead miles are the gaps between drop offs and pick-ups. Driver-partners don’t earn anything, time and fuel gets used up, it’s inefficient and also not good for the environment.

Having fewer dead miles improved the earnings for the driver-partners, helping them deliver more rides, and also helps the passengers by having more cars available, nearer the pickup points. Less waiting around for passengers.

Of course it also benefits Veezu. The raw economics of scaling a business for a technology company like Veezu are clear. The costs of running the promotional activity along with the platform that connects passengers and drivers, deliver huge economies of scale and make it difficult for start-up firms to compete in the same space.

We’ll come onto competition shortly, but firstly I wanted to explore the scale and complaints. A glance at any social media post about Veezu will reveal a tirade of ‘yeah, me too’ comments about a missed pick-up, a wrong turn or confusion over price.

Of course they happen. If you do anything millions of times a year, you are going to make some mistakes. I asked Alex Williams, Senior Shift Manager about how complaints are handled. “We take them seriously. Every single complaint is logged, gets an investigation and a response.”

I challenged Robin about what type of outcomes are available, given that the driver-partners are self employed, their own bosses, essentially. “In the most serious of cases, the ultimate sanction is to end the partnership with the driver-partner.” He said. Ending the partnership will result in the driver-partner no longer having access to Veezu’s booking system.

“Not only that, in cases where there is a breach of licensing requirements, we can, and do, report the driver to the relevant licensing authority and the driver can end up losing their livelihood.”

It’s clear that while some passengers do have bad experiences from time to time, it is a beyond tiny proportion of the millions of annual trips made across the group.

One of the complaints that we see regularly in comments, is that there is no competition for Veezu in Telford. I put this to Robin who set out the position “I would challenge that. Bus, trains, walking, cycling, designated drivers are all valid competition to the service we provide.”

“When we set prices, we have to keep in mind that passengers want vehicles available and fair pricing.”

If prices were too high, there would be fewer bookings, more dead miles. If prices were too low, there would be fewer driver-partners, longer waits and more dead miles.

If prices were exploitative then of course that would make a bigger gap for other companies or encourage passengers to find another way of getting to work or home from the pub.

“Occasionally where there is snow or other major traffic issues which extends journey times, then yes, pricing will increase dynamically, but that just reflects the increased cost to the driver-partner. If we didn’t, the driver-partners would just log out and go home.

“In any case, the price displayed on the app is the price you pay.” he said.

Rides can be booked via the app, telephone or web; and in Telford, you are rarely more than 5 or 10mins away from a pick-up.

The call centre is a quiet, understated affair. Screens showing all the stats, measuring current waiting times, booking completion stats as the staff take bookings over phones that only ring through the headsets. A far cry from the cab offices in the old crane factory at Horsehay where the business started.

As the Veezu brand is adopted across the UK in place of the individual town taxi brands they have been mopping up, it’s good for the brand and also good for the town.

People from Bradford to Bristol and Wolverhampton to Wigan visiting Telford in need of a cab, all likely to already have the app on their phone, and recognise the branding on the vehicles.

Back in the Day
I was reminded by Robin what getting home from Cascades was like in the 80s. Calling all the local firms I had cards for from the payphone, in a queue with all the other drunk people. Blue Peter, Penguin, Diamond, and if you were lucky, one would have a driver available. You wouldn’t know exactly when they would come, it was always 10 minutes, and never 10 minutes. Sometimes, never.

We’ve moved on from those days, and it’s definitely for the better.

Pic: Veezu
(This is NOT a paid post or advert)

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