News this week came that Uber – the company disrupting the urban taxi world – is facing a ban in Seoul, South Korea. And I think that is potentially Seoul’s loss.
For those of you who live in places without Uber – a quick explanation might be required. Uber is a web-based minicab service which you access via your mobile. It’s a bit like hailing a cab – just virtually. Once you’ve downloaded the app, if you want a cab, just look on the app which pinpoints your position via GPS. It then tells you how long the closest driver will take to get to you. Once you’ve confirmed the booking, you can see a photo of your driver, their name and a contact telephone number. The service – which originated in San Francisco is now available in major European cities and has just started a push into Asia (meeting resistance in the afore-mentioned Seoul).
So – I lost my Uber virginity a few weeks ago and reader, I liked it! It was quick and easy and I love the fact that no money actually exchanged hands. My credit card information is taken upfront. Before the ride, I am given an estimate of how much the ride is likely to be and after the ride, I am sent an email confirmation and receipt.
When I arrive at my destination, I am also invited to ‘rate’ my driver on a 1 to 5 scale and this rating forms part of their aggregate score. I was informed by the 3 different Uber drivers I experienced that if their average rating goes below 4, they are in danger of losing their licence.
In short, the drivers are polite, the cars are spotless (and in most cases hybrids) and they tend to be cheaper than a black cab. What’s not to love?
But my Uber driver told me something the other day that made me think not about the future shape of cabs (or indeed service) but rather, the future shape of customers.
You see, whilst we customers rate the Uber driver, the Uber driver also rates us. Bearing in mind no one is expected to tip an Uber driver, ratings are not based on financial incentives. Instead, the driver told me that they rate customers on their behaviour and demeanour. My driver told me that his bug-bear was people who didn’t respect him as a person; or worst of all – borderline racists. Where this makes a difference to customers is that ultimately the Uber driver can choose which customer they respond to first. So if they see two potential customers who are both requesting rides, they will always prioritise those with the higher customer ratings. In some extreme cases, Uber have given passengers a" temporary cooling off period” or even “barred” passengers for inappropriate or unsafe behaviour. Uber is trying to build a genuine virtuous circle – good drivers means good passengers which means good drivers which obviously ultimately results in not only more profit but also more loyalty from customers and drivers.
I wonder if we might evolve to a situation where customers might have their own net promoter score. Would you recommend this customer to another business owner? And this affects the service you receive? Or the speed with which we get the service? Possibly wishful thinking when too many of us still need to chase the dollar – whatever customer they come from. But maybe, just maybe, we are on the verge of seeing a CustomerAdvisor site – where businesses post reviews of customers (and vice versa.)
Who knows…. One day our customer ‘sins’ might just come back to haunt us. Remember – what goes around, comes around – even as a customer!
P.S. I was told by my final Uber ride that I scored a 5 out of 5! (But then I have always been a goody-two-shoes!)
By Gillian James, Managing Director of TMI