Rooted deep in American culture is the “American Dream” — an inherent desire to elevate status, climb higher, and achieve success. It’s coupled with a constant emphasis on success and status in the media, with more people than ever able to access and attain luxury products and experiences regardless of wealth. Brands have the power to play an enormous role.
For Uber, the play was obvious. Traditional car service was a luxury that few could afford. It left a large socioeconomic class with little option but to rely on mainstream transportation -- taxi cabs, buses, and trains. The comfort, cleanliness, quietness, ease, privacy, image and access of traditional car service was coveted by some if not many. But cost made it inaccessible.
Uber essentially took the traditional car service and coupled it with taxi cab prices. Suddenly, the traditional car service experience was available to everyone. That is what made people originally adopt to Uber.
Consumers are proud of who they are, and they are often proud of their choices. They associate the brands that they buy as a reflection of who they are and their status or place in the world. Often times this happens at a subconscious level.
Suddenly, the traditional car service experience was available to everyone. That is what made people originally adopt to Uber.
The tech industry tends to assume consumer choice is always about the technology itself, the ease of use or access. These can be (and often are) key drivers. But this human element is often far more of a motivator and it can’t be ignored.
As Uber lowered the standards of its service and brand experience, it demoted itself to the level of its main competitor in the consumer’s eyes - the taxi cab.
It also enabled its secondary adversary - the traditional car service - with an opportunity to rise. That’s because the more dirty, beaten down cars and unprofessional driver behavior became part of Uber, the more Uber was no different than a taxi to the consumer, and no similar to a traditional car service.
Now, the company is in a tailspin trying to quickly recover its brand. If its turnaround doesn’t include the human element that made Uber succeed in the first place, Uber may as well not bother. Consumers aren’t just looking for an easier way to access a taxi when they download the Uber app. They’re looking for a more comfortable, stylish way to get around at a price they can afford.
If Uber can keep this in mind in its effort to turn itself around, these 9 improvements will help.
1. Leadership and Executive Revamp.
Reckless and irresponsible behavior seems to be applauded by Uber’s industry. But for the consumer, there is a fine line between renegade and criminal no matter how “cool” or “necessary” the industry feels it might be. Uber’s executive and leadership have repeatedly hovered over questionable -- and it’s hurt the brand. A leadership and executive makeover including putting highly mature, reputable and responsible adults in place will redirect the company’s signal at the top. It’ll set the image that things can improve.
2. Raised Driver Standards.
Even Uber drivers talk about Uber’s lax background checks. Uber needs to remember that consumers must trust that drivers are safe and professional at Uber. A scoring standard or other program for onboarding drivers can send a message to consumers that Uber and its drivers are high quality and most of all, can be trusted.
3. Be Like The Big Boys And Girls.
Uber seems to feel an oversexualized, young party culture makes it cool. It mistakes a driven, fast-paced work environment with reckless immaturity. In reality, this is not how great companies operate. There are processes and structures. Executives and leaders set an example. For the money Uber has obtained from investors, it owes them better. The company should be an example of an awesome place to work -- not a frat house where adults need to be told how to behave and respect people.
4. Create A Real Communications Department.
Uber’s media and public relations seemed relatively non-existent. Where it did have a presence included reports of bullying reporters and bad-mouthing opponents, including consumers complaining about Uber. It’s not a surprise the company’s brand is a mess given this. Uber needs to treat its communication channels carefully and respectfully, and most of all professionally.
5. Improve Driver Relations.
To compete with taxi cabs, Uber had to undercut employee pay. Now that it has traction it shouldn’t continue to need to. If Uber cleaned up its act and operated like a respectable member of the business community, it wouldn’t have to spend so much money fighting lawsuits, claims, and government battles.
6. Really Have Customer Service.
Tech companies often want to have as little customer service as possible. Such things cost money and mean less profit for investors and executives. But consumers feel differently about this and consumers should come first. Uber needs to make a real customer service department, staffed 24-7, with safeguards for issues that are immediate -- and immediately resolved. Given that Uber can’t exist without customers, its customers should be highly protected and guarded -- and feel that way, too.
7. Return To Its Roots.
Before Uber, car service was too expensive for most. Taxi cabs were the only alternative. But travel in a taxi often had a negative connotation for consumers. Uber initially filled this gap. But today, it’s increasingly similar to taking a taxi, with less customer service and safety assurance. It has lost the prestige, the sense of service and its customer experience. Drivers often aren’t fluent in native languages, cars are often dirty and beaten down.
8. Restore Consistency.
Consistent brand experience is critical for any company. Part of what made Uber successful was a consistent customer experience. The company provided a seamless, easy process. In the end, a car was waiting. Cars were clean and nice quality, drivers behaved professionally, amenities were offered. Had it not been this way, consumers would have likely been reluctant to use Uber. Little by little, this consistency has become less of a priority to Uber. Driver and vehicle quality is hit and miss. Ride status updates don’t always make it to the customer and other issues. Uber’s turnaround needs to include a tight reign on its brand experience to restore a sense of quality and service.
9. Be A World-Class Technology Company.
Uber has considered itself a technology company. But great technology companies have technology that performs with minimal issues. That’s not been the case with Uber. Regular Uber users have shared that the app cancels and drops rides, doesn’t update on driver status properly, and a host of other issues. When a technology company doesn’t provide great technology, it can cost users. Uber should make its technology’s performance a priority.
Returning a fallen king to the top is not easy. Uber won’t succeed at restoring its brand position using traditional routes or standard methods. The company needs strong leadership and vendors who understand that Uber’s turnaround will need a very specific, specialized approach and effort. Only then can its efforts succeed.