The Hippocratic oath of a taxi‑hailing app

Words by

Founder and CEO, Micab

It’s easy for tech founders to get overwhelmed by the technological aspects of their business: including (and not limited to) the user interface of an app, fully optimized landing pages, relevant content on social media, and highly targeted digital marketing campaigns. But in fact, it’s not always what’s done in front of a computer that can make the most impact.

While waiting in the examination room for a routine check‑up, I noticed that the doctor had a framed copy of the modern Hippocratic Oath: the proverbial professional oath that graduating doctors make, pledging their fidelity to several creeds including respecting the privacy of patients and remaining humble enough to call on fellow medical experts for counsel. As I read its lines, it reminded me of a question I was wrestling with in my taxi‑hailing startup, Micab.

The taxi industry in the Philippines is very traditional and adheres to the status quo more often than not. To invent what we at Micab like to call “Taxi 2.0,” which places a huge emphasis on customer service, we built the standard quality assurance features in our app such as the ability to rate drivers upon the completion of a trip. As with review systems on other platforms and marketplace, ours has created a virtuous cycle: Drivers strive to improve their customer service because they know they will be getting reviewed, and then modify their behavior based on what people say. Yet our review system, while effective, can only do so much.

Getting rated on a spectrum of one to five stars, along with a few choice words for qualitative feedback, is an external, or extrinsic motivation. It can only accomplish so much in terms of motivating our drivers to become better customer service professionals. For them to make the next leap in customer service, they also need internal, or intrinsic motivation. This challenge, as you can guess, is no longer an issue of technology: how can you inspire a generation of drivers, many of whom have been entrenched in their ways for years, to see themselves as customer service professionals and act accordingly every minute they are driving on our platform?

Since my functional expertise is in web development and not in customer service or human development, I wrestled with this question for some time. Every idea you can think of crossed my mind: quarterly summits, motivational speakers, skill‑building exercises, performance coaches, and even inspirational SMS‑blasts (I imagined sending our drivers famous quotes on customer service translated into Tagalog). Yet none of these solutions seemed right.

But at the doctor’s office that day, I thought, why not create a similar oath for our drivers? While some people might dismiss the idea of taxi drivers—or blue‑collar workers in general—taking a similar oath to medical doctors, for me the stakes were just as high: taxi drivers are responsible for getting you safely to your destination, can improve your mood as you criss‑cross the city depending on how courteous they are, and can even serve as a kind of confidante when it’s just him, you, and the city ahead.

Together with my team at Micab, we thus forged ahead with the idea of a professional oath for our drivers, going through what must have been ten to fifteen drafts of the short 150‑word statement. The Micab oath is taken by all drivers who graduate from our comprehensive program for new drivers, and in it, they pledge to take passengers to their destinations promptly, efficiently, and safely; greet them with warmth and care; and stop at nothing to ensure they have a comfortable ride, including helping load and unload their baggage.

Below is an excerpt of the said oath:


I, (name), vow to uphold the driver’s code.

I will always accept every booking, no matter the distance.

I will always drive from point A to B and even C and D if the passenger requires me to do so.

I will be respectful to all my passengers regardless of age, status, or gender.

I will always project happiness and optimism.

I will ensure that the passengers have an extraordinary riding experience.

I will never forget, or allow my fellow drivers to forget, that we are Micab drivers.

The Micab oath is still relatively new, but the results are already promising. Compared to our drivers who never took the oath, the drivers who start out on our platform are getting much higher reviews from the outset, while our older drivers improved their ratings after taking the oath. It appears, in other words, that it’s easier to perform as customer service professionals when you are guided by the kind of principles you would find in an oath, rather than the hard‑and‑fast do’s and don’ts most Filipino businesses try to instil.

The Micab oath is a living document, just like the Hippocratic oath that inspired it. We fully intend to make further corrections, improvements and tweaks as time goes by, based on what we feel will best inspire our drivers. This is a simple message that I would like to share with other founders in the Philippines and Southeast Asia because it’s one we often forget in our focus on bits and bytes: it’s not just our technology that should be iterative. Every day, we should strive to make ourselves and everyone around us better than the day before.

Eddie Ybanez founded taxi‑hailing app called MiCab, which aims to transform the negative taxi‑riding experience in the Philippines.