As it appeared in the Daily Nation on November 8th 2016
In the last 10 days, I have made many trips on Uber. Additionally, I have had conversations with Uber drivers and keenly observed every aspect of the experience. I find the app quite fascinating and I bet other people do. When I first heard about Uber, I thought it was about sharing a ride with a neighbour. I recall signing up to offer the service because after all I was already offering such rides to neighbours. When the app finally launched in Kenya in 2015, I could not imagine being driven by a stranger. I therefore opted not to be an early adopter.
Earlier in the year, I visited New York and thought of using the app hence I downloaded it. Still, I was scared about a stranger being my driver and opted for the city’s very reliable public transport system. I thereafter deleted the app. Uber has become the private driver for many across the world. When a nephew visited mid this year, he needed to move about and I reset the account. Though the company states on its website that it is not a transportation company, using the app results to transportation from point A to B. How is the experience?
As I have reflected on the end-to-end Uber customer experience, I have observed the good and the bad. The ability to order an Uber and within minutes the driver shows up is incredible. The prices too are pocket friendly but that seem to me like the end. The rest is an experience in the hands of the Uber drivers. Every ride is different. One wonders if there are service standards that drivers abide to. Quality of interaction, the driving, the general etiquette all vary. In some cases, it is simply an impersonal pick and drop. While some of the drivers seem focused, others grumble that the rates are too low.
Here are the experiences in summary. Some Uber drivers were indifferent others went an extra mile. One particular driver requested for a Five-Star rating because he said this was important to him. Another one grumbled when asked about taking a longer route; he went on to state that Kenyans never get satisfied. Another one promised to send the change as airtime but never did. One driver got lost, we agreed that I cancel the ride but I was surprised to pay a cancellation fee later. Many of the drivers lack basic phone etiquette; they just call expecting the customer to lead the conversation. We were glad to get the same driver for three rides. I also learnt that drivers rate the customers.
My conclusion was that Uber is more of an App than an experience with the drivers. I have rated all my drivers fairly well giving five stars when ride is good, four star for a fair ride and three stars to the grumblers. I believe that many providers of professional cab services invest time thinking through the end-to-end customer experience. The question is, “how many Uber drivers are thinking through the customer experience in its entirety or are they just thrilled by the app?” Every driver hoping to get a Five-Star rating needs to give a Five-Star experience and not simply ask for five stars.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy