Uber Has a Major Customer Relationship Problem

A few years ago, I was taking an early morning flight home from Atlanta. Since it was 5 in the morning, I didn’t feel like standing outside to wait for a taxi, so I decided to use Uber.

As with most of my Uber experiences, the car arrived promptly, the driver was courteous and personable and the ride lasted no longer than expected.

That’s as much as I need as a passenger.

At the end of the ride, the driver thanked me and asked if I’d be willing to provide him with 5 stars for the ride?

Hold up, I thought.

If you’ve never taken an Uber before, after your ride has concluded, you’re prompted within the Uber app to provide the company with a driver/ride/experience rating on a 5-star scale (1 star being bad, 5 stars being great).

Not only are you prompted to rate the driver, but the driver is also prompted to rate you (the passenger).

According to Uber’s description of the star rating system, it’s intended for the protection of both the drivers and the passengers.

To ensure the quality of both the driver-partners and riders in the community, our rating system is a two-way street. Driver-partners must rate every completed trip, while riders have the opportunity to submit a rating along with comments.

Ratings, which are given on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, should be honest and reflective of the overall trip experience.

So, why my hesitation when being asked by my driver to provide him with 5 stars?

Well, up to that point, I didn’t realize it was a game.

Within that single question, I realized that their entire star rating system was nothing more than a mutual admiration society. An I’ll scratch your back, if you scratch mine transaction. The equivalent of a circa 1990’s link exchange.

Up until he asked me that question, I actually took those ratings seriously.

Frankly, at this point I don’t even remember the rating I ultimately gave him, but I’m sure it was 5 stars. And, in all honesty, after I left his car that morning I hadn’t really given it any further thought.

That was, until just recently.

Unless you’ve been sitting under a rock for the past few months, you’ve probably caught at least one or two of the controversies to hit Uber this year. To say it kindly, it hasn’t been a good 2017 for Uber so far.

From claims of sexual harassment, to a lawsuit for theft of intellectual property from Google (their investor) to a video of its figurehead, Travis Kalanick, screaming at one of its drivers, the company has been under constant fire.

Since the bad news began, it has seemed like a never-ending barrage of negative revelations that continue to pile up upon each other.

As a result, their detractors have started a hashtag campaign #DeleteUber, which according to reports, has resulted in between 200,000 to 500,000 app deletions. Or, in other words, lost customers.

I’ll be honest and say that, among the lost customers, I’m not one of them.

I still have my Uber app and I’m likely to use their service again in the near future.

That doesn’t mean that I support the things they did, nor does it mean that I’m a promoter (i.e. advocate) for their company.

In fact, given the stories that have come out, I wouldn’t dare endorse them. And, I’m guessing that they don’t have many promoters left willing to do so either.

BUT …  they wouldn’t know that.


Because transactionally (A.K.A. their 5 star rating system), customers don’t have a problem with their product or service.

And even if they did have a problem, we already know that the drivers and riders are gaming the feedback system to support each other, so the data is inaccurate at best.

If this were a CSAT (Customer Satisfaction Survey), Uber would be winning in the minds of customers. If this were an NPS (Net Promoter Score) survey, they’d be DOA.

Uber has a problem. And, it’s not just the bad headlines.

Uber has a relationship problem.

Overall, customer relationships are so much greater than the transaction that occurs between the customer and the company.

A customer can have a bad transaction and still have a great relationship with a company. Much like a married couple could have an argument but still be in love.

[bctt tweet=”A customer can have a bad transaction and still have a great relationship with a company” username=”promoter_io”]

However, if the core relationship is poor, if there is no love between a couple, there is nothing that binds them together.

Uber may still have a lot of customers, but their future prospects are not looking bright, because relationally, people are not happy.

In the 5+ years that I’ve been using Uber for transportation, I haven’t once received an NPS survey from the company.

Never have I been asked to rate the company on a scale, only its drivers.

As far as Uber knows, based on the ride ratings I’ve provided, I’m a happy customer.

And, from a transactional perspective that’s fairly accurate, but it’s only a very small part of my story as a customer.

They know nothing about my intentions to ride with them in the future, or whether I might be willing to defend them in the comment section of a scathing story. Maybe I’m one step away from jumping on the #DeleteUber bandwagon or maybe I have some insights that could save their company.

But, Uber will never know this until they start caring less about the transaction and more about the relationship with their customers.

If Uber wants to get ahead of the problems they’re currently facing, they’re going to need to get serious about communicating with their customers.

This means engaging with each customer individually and in a meaningful manner. Listening to their needs and providing solutions.

Unfortunately their superficial 5-point rating game between driver and passenger isn’t going to cut it.

Like any couple facing challenges in their relationship, this may require therapy. In Uber’s case, that therapist is NPS.

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