Imagine yourself back in the early 2010s – You’ve just downloaded an app that can bring a cab right to your door, give you a fair trip estimate, show you every turn taken in your journey and even accept cashless payments. Sounds incredible, doesn’t it?
The ridesharing concept offered tremendous scope for disruption & saw the emergence of many competitive players. A decade later, Uber remains a pioneer in the field.
So how did Uber get so popular? It wasn’t the first ridesharing app in the market. In fact, it started as a taxi service primarily catering to an elite clientele with only luxury cars in its fleet. However, they were quick to recognize the individual benefits that other competing apps (Sidecar, Zimride, Lyft) were offering and swiftly integrated the same within their app. In this article, we’ll look at the diverse customer experience initiatives which demonstrate Uber’s customer focus:
Getting the customer on the move
More than anything, Uber has transformed itself into a company that wants to get people where they need to go – no matter what mode of transport is available (think Uber copter – the helicopter ride from Manhattan to JFK).
Uber has always maintained that it is a technology company, not a taxi services one. While that argument may seem unconvincing at first, it’s not completely without merit – Uber manages to toe a fine line between the physical and digital world like no other company in existence.
This isn’t all talk either- Uber has undertaken multiple initiatives to deliver better customer experience.
This is an excellent example of Uber tailoring its services to fit local demand. In countries like India with a high amount of traffic congestion, and a lower Purchasing Power Parity when compared to more developed countries – Uber began to offer its services on 2 wheelers. 2 wheelers got people to their destination quickly, and at a lower cost too. More than anything, this showed that Uber puts customer experience at the forefront of its strategy, and it’s success in these markets merely reinforces their decision.
Tie-ups with public transportation
Uber has been partnering with transit agencies across the globe for years thereby recognising that going multimode (and not just ride-sharing) is the way to move to smart cities. Two examples would be Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to provide paratransit services in Boston, & their effort in Nice, France to provide late-night connecting service to rail lines.
Uber is eager to find ways to seamlessly connect its services to airports, subway or metro stations, bus stands etc.
Take airports for example: Uber is rolling out a feature where after deboarding your flight, all you need to get a taxi is launch the app, get into any Uber at the designated zone, show the driver a PIN via the app and they will take you where you need to go.
Uber has also tied up with the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) in India,with plans to allow commuters to seamlessly switch between the metro and a cab, reducing the number of payment hops & showing accurate fare prices all the way. Done properly, this will help solve perhaps the biggest problem faced while using public transportation: last-mile connectivity.
Know thy driver. Know thy rider
Uber believes in fostering trust & security by giving fair access to information. Commuters are made aware of their driver’s name, make of the car and the overall rating a driver has accrued from previous users before they step into the car.
It’s not a one-way stream of information though, the users are also rated by drivers, who have the option to cancel on riders with poor ratings.
Lite apps for not so smart phones
Sometimes, the barrier to entry is as simple as the app itself. Featuring High-quality graphics and a reliance on stable and high-speed network connectivity, the Uber app could bring low-end smartphones to its knees, leading to poor customer experience.
Uber quickly rectified this by creating a ‘lite’ variant of the app, with pared-back visuals designed to work on low-end devices smoothly even in areas with poor network connectivity.
Perhaps the most important aspect of any service is the customer service itself.
Uber addressed Customer Service innovatively by adding a support feature within the app itself – ensuring that users did not need to leave the app to address their issues.
Data based driving
Uber collects a lot of user data though it does so in an anonymised manner to allay any privacy concerns, be it via a Customer Survey platform, or by logging user activities from within the app – for both the driver and the passenger.
However, collecting data is one thing while using it effectively is a challenge in itself.
Uber successfully leveraged data to analyze and meet high volume demands – and implemented dynamic pricing to incentivize drivers to meet them.
Uber’s carpooling services draw on data driven insights to offer an excellent solution for combating traffic congestion, with both drivers and passengers incentivized to opt for it.
Incentives work for drivers too
You may be familiar with a certain concept known as ‘Surge Pricing’ – Uber raises prices based on several factors – Demand, traffic, driver availability etc. For customers, steep prices might sting but it also guarantees that a driver will be there when you need it most, even if everyone in your local area is also hailing a cab.
This works because drivers are keen to accept rides in inclement weather because they get adequately compensated courtesy surge pricing. Uber’s algorithm factors in weather, rush hour, battery life and a lot more to get the best rates possible for the driver.
Uber promises to get drivers higher fares on average and by and large, they deliver on that promise. Uber shrewdly understood that should drivers set their own rates, negotiations would occur and that these rates would slowly become the norm over time. Uber accelerated this entire process and successfully reached market-clearing prices at scale. Incentivising drivers has helped them deliver a significantly better experience to riders as well, so it’s not just a one way street.
Clever Advertising – a peek into the future?
Uber, perhaps more than any other company realized the value of a good marketing campaign.
One of their most lauded initiatives, scUber, allowed users to book a submarine ride along the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. As you may have heard, the barrier reef has been badly affected by climate change and Uber’s initiative not only helped bring awareness about it to the masses but helped raise funds for its conservation as well.
Uber’s Elevate campaign, on the other hand, gives us an insight into what the future of ridesharing may be:
Ask daily commuters what their pet peeve is, and their reply is likely to be traffic congestion. Soon, there will be more vehicles than our roads can handle comfortably. That leaves us with air.
Instead of waiting for things to take their own course, Uber has meticulously planned to disrupt the market in a manner the customer would appreciate- VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing).
Militaries the world over have been using VTOLs for a considerable amount of time, and like many forms of military tech, VTOLs, too, may find themselves as a part of the civilian landscape.
Uber, under it’s elevate scheme, plans to leverage VTOLs to solve the commuting issues of tomorrow, displaying a customer focus that needs to be lauded.
What started out as a technology for premium car rental services, has morphed into one of the biggest success stories of the last decade – all because Uber kept the customer at the forefront of its ambitions.
At the root of Uber’s success is the data they have surveyed, analyzed and acted upon – putting them well on their way to mastering the Customer Experience of tomorrow.
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