Sanjeev Kotnala: Uber needs to delight customers on Ground Zero

20 Jun,2018

By Sanjeev Kotnala


My Uber driver has just cancelled the short booking. It is not the first or the last time. Last week the Uber driver at the nth hour decided, he was not interested in a ride to the international airport.

I cribbed, I talked to the bot. I sent emails. All I get is a message.  The customer service is our top priority. The complaint has been registered. We will take action against the errant driver associate. That’s it. More poking and escalating the complaint gets some supervisor on the line. He politely and professionally informs me that as a company Uber does not feel the need to share with the customer the action it takes in the complaint. I am expected to trust them that they will take action. Is that not expecting too much at 6:16 am when your 5:45 am pre-booked Uber has refused fare, and there is no other cab available to help you catch the flight.

Ola and Uber the story is no different.
One brand has a call centre uninvolved ‘I care a damn’ voice and reaction.
The other asks you to interact on screen.
The customer is just another engagement number identified by the booking id.

At this stage, Brand Uber wants me to believe in their campaign ‘Badhte Chalein’ featuring Indian Cricket Captain Virat Kohli. In the advertisement that is splashed across the front page of a large English Delhi in Mumbai – only Virat seems to imbibe the philosophy.  My issue is not whether Virat uses Uber. We all know like many other celebrity endorsement he may not be a regular user of the service. The consumer is amusingly  blind to such questions.

The campaign leaves much to be desired. The print and digital mailers sound more promising and have some appeal to the customers. The TVC fail to evoke any emotion.

The citizen of Mumbai (and most metro towns) welcomed taxi aggregators with a sigh of relief. Till then they were at the mercy of private operators or the Kaali Peeli as in Mumbai. The low rates, the comfort of a taxi at the door, pick up any place, the map assisted driving, paying fair prices and many more pluses pushed for a quick trial and building of loyalty bases.

The security issues, the rash drivers, the last minute ditchers, the cancellation frauds, the now shabby cab interior, failed experiments with entertainment and other such experiences are pushing people to reconsider the service and brands.

Not that there were no good experiences. However, we all are human, and hence we put our expertise in cribbing and complaining to best use. No surprise,   the social media is full of complaints and hardly have anything good to say. The brands are refusing to listen and understand.

It’s not that the drivers associated with the brands are any happy. Other than the quick settling of accounts and in one case assurance that the brands are quick to react and take action, the drivers have no reason to be happy. The constant decreasing per driver share and possible earnings is a big point of concern. The claim of stonewalling request and no-discussion attitude is not appreciated either by the customer or the driver.

In this scenario, the explanation of company philosophy and the campaign by Sanjay Gupta, Head of Marketing, Uber India sounds only poetic: “Uber connects millions of people in India to their destinations each week. That said, each trip represents more than just a physical journey – it’s a step forward in the larger journey of their lives. This is not just a brand idea – it’s happening on the ground, across India, every day. This brand position is as intrinsically human as the millions of people who ride with us each week, and each of their pursuits. … “(Comment from an article published in MxMIndia)

If only the brand can investigate, listen and invest in to take some proactive preventive actions, build in processes for driver compliance, service assurance and a bit more of transparency on its complaint handling- they will be a winner and may not need a campaign.  The campaign at this phase is slightly misplaced and mistimed.

In the absence of ‘Customer Delight,’ such campaigns are merely providing the creator and brand custodians of some brand action.

The brand Uber may want to be beyond transportation from Point A to Point B. It may wish to reinforce itself as an enabler of opportunities for hundreds of thousands of driver partners and riders in India. However, that comes after customer delight and essential service deliverables becoming an assurance not a cause for anxiety.

I do hope that brand realises the challenges it faces. Moreover, the brand no longer can distance itself from the driver’s behaviour and customer experience. They cannot hide behind the lame excuse of drivers not being employees of the company. They have to recruit appropriately, train, monitor and act in their quest for excellence. Currently, it seems they have set themselves a very low benchmark.

If the drivers and the consumers have to see every journey as a big or small step in an inspiring journey, the brand has a lot to do. A campaign is no answer or assurance when the losses are mounting every day.  The battle of ‘Badhte Chalein’ need to be fought on the roads across customer touchpoints.

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