‘The Knowledge’

“The Knowledge” is the formal name given to all that needs to be known by the venerable profession of a London cabbie. They are, after all, a pretty unique lot. We believe it true to say, as far as taxi driving is concerned, they are the elite.

Getting and passing The Knowledge is no easy task. It involves study, practice and days and days of traveling the city of London on a bicycle. The final tests are stringent and tough. No driver is allowed on the streets or given a license until they have passed The Knowledge.

The result is one of, if not the, most professional taxi services in the world. London cabbies are known for professionalism, dedication, politeness, a sense of humor and, above all, knowing where they are going.

This is no new initiative. It has been around for years and will no doubt be around forever, even if it is rightly modified to take into account technological advances. London cabbies’ high standards are part of the marketing of the United Kingdom.

Consequently, it amazes us that so many other important services and institutions seem to think product knowledge is not a necessity in providing customer services. The European consumer magazine, Which, recently featured an article revealing that many British institutions offering I.S.A.S., a U.K. saving product, knew little about it and could not assist customers making inquiries. This was made worse by the fact that it was time-sensitive due to the income-tax calendar. Our own inquiries validated this proposition, and we were amazed at the lack of knowledge about the product and how to purchase it.

Sadly, the same can be translated into the hospitality sector. Lack of menu knowledge, statements made on websites, room types, forthcoming events, special offers and special daily items are all too often accompanied with a lack of knowledge by line staff. Whilst good solid process and practice can — and in many cases does — alleviate the tendency, there is more that can be done. As a profession we should hold fast to standards, as a legal system we should protect the health, safety and life support areas affected, and as customers we can vote with our feet!

This is, in our view, primarily a management issue, and efficient management and leadership handle it well. How confident are you regarding your people’s knowledge of your product? Do you have good processes and systems in position? When was the subject last on your team meeting agenda? When did you last check the position for yourself? Your customers are doing so every minute of every day and will make judgments accordingly!