September 13, 2018

Mitigating system/CX failures (ex. Uber)

Brian Kelly aka The Points Guy:

I’ve been a loyal Uber user for seven years now. So loyal, in fact, that I have spent $81,600 on my business Uber account over the past three years. In 2018 alone, I forked over $33,812 to Uber through my business account. That’s some serious cash, and it’s clear I’ve been a devoted customer.

And the way Uber’s thanked me for my loyal business is by scamming me.

Brian detailed his personal story as well as many reader stories about Uber drivers gaming the system to earn money from cancellation fees by accepting rides and refusing to pick up passengers. You may even have heard about drivers making false claims about riders vomiting in their cars in order to get a substantial cleaning fee payout. Your first instinct may be to blame the drivers, but that's generally misdirected. This is a fundamental customer experience problem for Uber, on both the driver and rider side.

On the driver side, Uber has designed a system that often rewards poor and deceptive behavior while punishing good behavior. If you continuously create situations that incentivize drivers to cheat the system in order to really make a living (the promise that Uber uses to recruit new drivers), that's on Uber.

On the rider side, it's very clear that Uber does not invest in its customer support organization. I can go on and on about the infuriating and irrelevant form responses I get from their team, but again - I can't blame the support agents because they're working within the system and experiences that Uber created and is ultimately OK with. In any company, the customer support organization is always the last line of defense against systemic issues in the product experience, with both the power to make things right and the power to twist the knife even more by failing to act.

By doing nothing, Uber is accepting the failures of the system, and that's really disappointing to see for a company that has ample resources. If you really want to refresh your brand image in a meaningful way, start investing in customer support and empower your team to do the right thing. And then fix the CX problems at their source.

(It's important to note that these problems are not unique to Uber - you'll hear the same stories from Lyft drivers and riders as well, but Lyft tends to fly under the radar.)