Car Service, Cab?
There has been quite a bit of talk about Uber these days. Are they a car service? Are they a dispatch center? Are they a Cab service? There is no question that many people have Uber on their radar.
Uber is a third party smartphone app that works with car service operators to provide Ground Transportation to Users that “e-hail” the closest available driver. Many operators that have worked with Uber, plainly state that Uber is really nothing more than a ‘Glorified cab service’. Others insist that they are also a sedan service. Let’s take a closer look and see if we can demystify what Uber Car really is and what the future holds for this new market.
How does it work?
Uber has existing contracts with operators in multiple cities they are titled as follows: Uber SF, Uber DC, Uber Boston, Uber NY and more recently Uber LA. Essentially Uber is an App-nothing less, nothing more. The End User registers a credit card on file and builds an account with Uber. They use the app to find the closest available driver and are sent a confirmation of the car’s estimated arrival time, the driver’s name and the car type. The concept is relatively simple, but how is the execution.
Pros vs. Cons
We’ll take a Look at the Good, The Bad, and the in-between and back up our findings with real user reviews found on Yelp!
Pros: Fast Service – With quite a few Uber ready cars on the road, estimated wait times become shorter and shorter, albeit this can vary from market to market.
“When you’re in need of a ride, you press the ‘Set pickup location’ button and an Uber driver near you will find you. You don’t even have to know the exact address of where you are!..you can watch the car, via the app, as it makes its way to you”. Yelp!
Cons: Glitchy Service – Although the system touts a “no-hassle” approach to user Interface, many consumers have reported alarming disparities:
“I’ve ridden in an Uber car about 15 times -at least 10 of those rides were late because their GPS was saying I was in a different location and instead of calling me they wait in the wrong place 3 blocks away..that whole time they have their meter running. After I told them the story above they would not credit me back or even admit it was their fault”. Yelp!
Pros: Reasonable Pricing – the price of luxury travel has been lowered. Let’s face it – some clients really don’t want an hourly vehicle to standby while they dine. Uber car fills in this gap as drivers use the app while the clients are dining. According to Uber, even the tip is included in the ride. (Although the drivers report that they can’t understand how they get a tip)
Cons: No Scheduling – As of now the end user is unable to schedule a car far in advance as the app has no calendar. Uber has not added this feature as the techology and design make it another more expensive product altogether.
Cons: Price gouging. Or, what Uber chooses to call ‘surge pricing’. This is a painful, but necessary practice on Uber’s part. But in the end it may alienate many users.
“What really grinds my gears is that on their website, they have a list of flat rate fees. Right? WRONG. It ended up costing $150. I get that it was 2 AM on a Saturday. Prime time for any young adults . Add a few fees on for that. But 1.75 TIMES?? Ridiculous… good but would be better if it was flat rate. That is you enter your destination and get a price, like a real limo services” Yelp!
Cons: Poor follow through and customer service:
“So of course my friends and I emailed Uber, asking for clarification, trying to see why it was nearly double the amount of a flat rate. They pretty much said “Not our problem” and stopped responding to emails. Terrible customer service to just run away from your disappointed customers after ONE email.” Yelp!
Another frequent user goes on to say…
“I’d put Uber’s fail rate at about 80%. The interface is convenient…until something goes wrong. Then life gets really difficult and there’s no number to call to sort things out. And stuff seems to go wrong a lot. More than half the times I’ve gotten an Uber, the driver had no clue where they were going or, worse, seemed to intentionally take the long way. Then last night, my driver picked up somebody else entirely, left me there and I got charged for their (much higher) fare but was unable to cancel without penalty”.Yelp!
Pros: Super Convenient – Easy in, Easy out. No cash gets exchanged as it’s all billed directly to the credit card of the user
CAVEAT: I think there still needs a bit of work and refinement on Uber’s part.
“Uber mischarged my credit card. I think the fact that I did not ask them to change my default card makes me a bit nervous about their web application. They refused to fix the problem. No company that is this unwilling to work with customers to fix errors that they caused deserves your business. Stay away from this company.”Yelp!
Cons: Iffy Cars – I used the app myself a few weeks ago and I got an old, short door town car with 300,000 miles on it and a shabby driver. This has been my only experience but you never know what you are going to get. Some users reflect the same concerns.
With Uber, there is only an email address, no phone number, no guarantee the town car is properly licensed because all you would need is a phone and this app. There is no guarantee the exact car being used is indeed properly licensed or insured, and the driver is licensed or accountable for his or her actions.
Cons: No Multiple Car Options – The drivers often get asked if a second car can be dispatched, of course the driver app is not designed to work that way and there is little else the driver can do except confirm his GPS location. However, Uber’s new roll out of their SUV option can help the user fit up to 6 guests in an SUV. The Downside? Most parties are trying to fit 4 passengers in a town car.
Update – with the addition of an SUV option and the Uber’s Announcement of Luxury Sedans including the BMW 7 series and Mercedes S Class sedans, users will now have a larger fleet option to choose from. Word from Uber is that the ultra-luxury sedan options will come once as they have enough cars registered.
Cons: Unhappy Drivers – I believe this pain point can be a deal breaker for Uber. Scores of drivers are exclusively using the Uber app without any existing internal accounts or any other affiliate relationships. The truth is that they are starving for work and are stoked to have inventory rolling. More established chauffeurs, feel taken advantage of when it comes to Uber’s pricing structure. Uber takes an unusually large percentage of the trip and asks quite a bit of the drivers.
The bottom line is that a happy driver equals a happy client. Can Uber figure out a method to drive incentives to chauffeurs who can make a higher percentage? If the answer is yes then that translates to the clients being treated well and the product may have a chance at succeeding. If the chauffeurs are only earning the bare minimum to scratch along – Uber could be in big trouble.
What the future Holds
Can Whiz bang technology trump good old fashion Customer service? The truth is that everyone from lower end Cab Users to Mid-Range leisure, corporate and executive clients are all buzzing about Uber car. Some regulatory and city/state licensing agencies …well, not so much! There’s very little question that Uber is positioning themselves as major players in the Livery industry. Many veterans have seen companies like Uber, come and go and it will be interesting to see if there is a second product to market that can beat Uber out. Let’s wait and see.
We are certainly excited about any type of quality competition as this always serves to raise the bar in this crazy industry of ours.
The only question remains… Is Uber quality competition? What do you think?