TAXI TALK: This cabby serves with a passion
A ride in Mr Yap Eng Meng's cab is no ordinary experience.
Tourists seeking recommendations for Singapore's best attractions often leave with detailed personalised itineraries tailored to their needs, time available and preferences.
Mr Yap, 47, knows where to hunt for the cheapest souvenirs and where the best food haunts are, thanks to the extensive research that he does in his free time.
He also goes out of his way to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable journey for all his passengers.
If he notices that passengers are looking for a quick snooze after a tiring day, he switches to Symphony 92.4 so that they are lulled to sleep by classical tunes.
If passengers make an advance booking the night before, he makes the effort to send them two text messages - one when he receives the booking, and one 30 minutes before he picks them up - so that they are assured that he will arrive as promised.
It is no surprise that Mr Yap, who drives an SMRT taxi, has won multiple awards for good service in his four years as a cabby.
Earlier this month, he was commended at the Singapore Tourism Awards in the Best Customer Service for Transport category, his sixth award to date.
He has also clinched the National Kindness Award Transport Gold award for three consecutive years.Mr Yap told The New Paper: "Think of it this way - I'm like a fully-charged battery. When I strive for service excellence, my battery life slowly decreases. But whenever I'm on the stage getting that award, my battery is recharged. I won't rest on my laurels and want to continue to do my best in what I do."
He switched to become a taxi driver after six years working at Ministry of Defence (Mindef) because he wanted something that allowed him to help others and bring them joy.
For him, his main motivation for being a taxi driver is the smiles of his satisfied passengers.His actions have touched the hearts of many grateful passengers who have written in to SMRT Taxis to compliment his good service.
"I try to put myself in the passengers' shoes as much as possible and try to give them a peace of mind. I just want to help them in whatever way I can," he said.
In his taxi, he keeps bottles of water and snacks which have come in handy for passengers on hot days.
Mosquito patches are also available because he knew many were worried about Zika and dengue.
His seat pockets are filled with brochures and maps that he personally hand-picked after making sure they are full of useful information with few advertisements.
Needless to say, Mr Yap sets high standards for himself as a responsible taxi driver.
He has not chalked up a single demerit point since he obtained his driving licence in 1995.
He also has an AED (automated external defibrillator) and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) certification, and keeps an AED in his cab.
"I volunteered to be certified as I felt it was a good skill to have. To date, I have not had to use it but in case of emergencies or road accidents in the future, I am equipped to be the first responder," he said.
For Mr Yap, he is more than just a cabby.
He strives to be a "cabby extraordinaire" and sees himself as an itinerary planner, a problem solver, an educator and even an entertainer all rolled into one.
"I use the high taxi standards in the UK and Japan as my benchmark. My mission is to showcase to the world that Singapore has what it takes to provide the best taxi service in the world," he said.
"I want to encourage other taxi drivers to do the same. You don't expect passengers to thank you but when they appreciate your small gestures, the feeling is out of this world."