Sunday, August 12, 2012

‘’Follow That Taxi!’’...To Learn How To Build a Mobile Money Agent Network in Indonesia

In Indonesia a number of mobile money players have started stretching on the sidelines, waiting for the referee to call a start to play. The referee in this case is the Bank of Indonesia. The starting whistle is the much anticipated changes to the regulations that allow setting up of Cash-Out Agent Networks- while in theory are allowed today but in practice current rules are too restrictive.

The excitement over Indonesia’s mobile money potential is well founded. It has a population of 250m, 60%-70% of which are unbanked or under-banked. They are also adopters of technology; mobile penetration reported to range from 90-110%, they are the second largest users of Facebook globally, and third largest Twitter users.    
As mobile money players start preparing their business models, I want to highlight a success story of another Indonesia business- Blue Bird Taxis and the local lessons they can teach mobile money businesses looking to build an agent network in Indonesia.

Blue Bird Taxis, it has a fleet of 20,000 taxis and drivers, serving more than 8.5 million customers each month. Their metallic blue cars are instantly recognisable. Ask any Indonesian for help with a taxi and they will invariably refer you to Blue Bird, commenting they are trustworthy and reliable. Blue Bird’s reputation is evidenced at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta Airport where queues at the Blue Bird Taxi rank are twenty deep while other taxis wait idle.

An instantly recognisable brand, considered reliable and trusted to point to that they are referred to strangers, what mobile money business would not want the same for their agent network? So what lessons can we learn from Blue Bird Taxis?

# On-boarding and Ongoing Training: Blue Bird recognises that drivers are the face of their business. They put each of their drivers through a basic orientation course to familiarise them with company policies and procedures. There are also regular follow-up briefings at which drivers are encouraged to share ideas and experiences in dealing with unusual situations or difficult customers

This results in well trained and knowledgeable business representatives. As the saying goes, a chain is only as strong as the weakest link. Ensuring a level of quality in the agent network representing your business will create strength in the overall brand.  

# Consistent Customer Experience: Use a Blue Bird taxi and you will notice all the drivers are in uniform, they are polite and friendly, they don’t talk on the phone or play loud music, seatbelts are fitted in the back seat and there are no overpowering scented de-odorises. While this might seem background to the ultimate service of being driven from Point A to Point B, as a daily user of taxis when I use another taxi company it’s the varied customer experience that I notice.

Similarly mobile money customers want consistency in the service experience with agent networks. Another important thing to note is the relative service expectation from the customer. If the mobile money business uses existing retail merchants, the merchant is not selling a customer a can of Coke, they are the interface for the customer to access their money. Customers view this as a more personal interaction and expect it to be treated differently.      

# Supported by Strong Customer Services Team: Blue Bird’s Call Centre has received Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty awards for the past 6 consecutive years. These have been measured on speed of answer, staff knowledge & manner, consistency and customer satisfaction. While the Call Centre is the focal point for direct customer interaction, Blue Bird also use their call centre to support their drivers- when a driver needs help with directions, a difficult customer or an accident, the trained call centre staff are available 24 hours and at short notice to assist the driver.

A Mobile Money Agent can feel alone. They are nervous about making a mistake, especially when faced with an unusual situation or disgruntled customer. A supporting call centre that can be relied upon to resolve issues quickly, increases the confidence of the agent network and the customers they serve.    

Regulatory change in Indonesia will see a number of mobile money businesses quickly establish in attempt to gain market share in a very attractive market. Indonesians are mass adopters of new technology; however they also value a customer service etiquette favouring politeness and fairness. Potential situations that could result in conflict will be avoided. Blue Bird Taxis have focused on their driver business model- typically a weak area for taxi businesses, and made it core to their success. Once the regulations do change, mobile money businesses will need to have a similar focus on their agent network model if they want customers to trust and use their service.     

-Paul Reynolds

Paul specialises in business start-ups with a focus in the past 5 years in mobile payments. He has worked in Indonesia for the past 12 months for a leading global mobile money business. 


  1. Great post Paul, I would be interested in what is in it for the driver to adhere to the higher quality standards. Do they make more money then the average taxi driver for example, and does Blue Bird charge higher fees to offset this?


    1. Thanks Brad- Yes Blue Bird taxi fares do come at a premium. It's not at a price point that I notice but it would be 10-20% more than other taxis.

      Most taxi drivers pay a daily rental fee and need to earn more that each day to make money. For Blue Bird they give the drivers a share of the metered fares. This takes away the stress and aggressive behaviour. Blue Bird also has driver accommodation and health services. I think Blue Bird management are pretty strict for breaches and customer complaints. I have heard that even a driver who leaves on good terms will not be rehired- a policy to designed to make drivers have a good think about going to other taxi companies and the lesser conditions they would need to accept.

      Blue Bird re-invest into their driver programs. Its not a 2 hour training session, pat on the back and ''off you go''. Its a long term approach and does take commitment. Asian culture is different to African culture. Mobile Money might just need to take the long term approach to be successful.


  2. Great Article Paul. Insightful.


    1. Thanks Aananth. Looks like we'll catch up at the conference in Bali.


  3. Thank you for the interesting post. I experienced the professional and consistent service of Blue Bird taxi, just as you describe it, and it seems a logical fit for this business. Just pondering, logistically, how/when the drivers would make these mobile money transactions (I'm assuming it's for more than just paying your taxi fare) - whilst in the taxi queue and for riding passengers? - hopefully not whilst driving :)

  4. What a fabulously useful post! I think the most important one is having a button on each page and below each post.Movil por dinero

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