> All of Uber's old school power users have gotten used to Uber and simply expect our service as a baseline at this point. What I mean is that as you have gotten used to Uber, your expectations of basic fundamental service have risen.
Yeah ... no. I got fed up with taxi service in SF about 2 years ago and started using Uber. At first I was astounded: very clean cars, very nice drivers who were accommodating and pleasant (all I want is a quiet ride without the radio blaring or the driver shouting into his phone the whole way). Best of all, the drivers were knowledgable about the city and didn't need me to tell them turn-by-turn how to do something basic like get across town. It was what I always wanted, and totally worth the extra cost vs. a regular taxi.
It's hard to put my finger on exactly when it started, but in the last few months the "black car" service has degraded to the point where it feels like the old taxi days. Usually the car is dirty, smells bad, the driver has the radio blasting loud (and doesn't exactly react all that well if I ask to turn it down or off), and the driver's attitude is frequently incredibly grouchy (I've had to listen to them complain about their jobs quite a bit lately), and worst of all, they don't know their way around the city at all.
Just to make sure I wasn't experiencing what Mr. Kalanick is suggesting in terms my expectations being calibrated differently, I have made it a point to take regular taxis a few times lately. Instead of a categorically different experience (which is how I would have described the difference between Uber and a taxi in the past), the only differences now between the taxi and the Uber "black car" service seem to be the price and the color of the outside of the car. Oh, and in some cases the regular taxi drivers actually know the city better than the Uber drivers.
I don't really blame Uber for all this, as I'm sure it's really hard to maintain that level of quality while growing at double-digit rates. But I do think they need to take a good hard look at the "black car" service and make sure the drivers know what kind of experience they are supposed to provide. It really should not feel like a taxi with a different coat of paint on the outside.
This is a great analysis, I've observed some of the same trends. When there was less demand for the black cars, they could still operate like limos. Now it seems like they've just turned into glorified taxis.
A theory of mine is that disruptive startups always evolve to look more like the incumbents as they scale, and I think this might be another case in support of that.
A theory of mine is that disruptive startups always evolve to look more like the incumbents as they scale
Good insight. And that's another reason (not just thinking of Uber here) why startups shouldn't be exempt from the rules and regulations that incumbents need to follow. They're in the same business. Alternatively, if the rules are bad, scrap them for everyone.
> and worst of all, they don't know their way around the city at all.
This is my main concern. I am notoriously bad at directions and hate having a driver that I basically need to direct. Especially because that just means I'll be pulling out my Maps app instead of him using the navigation that I can clearly see sitting on his dashboard (I am SO confused by this behavior). Sometimes they'll just get frustrated with me (because I don't know how to get there!) and then finally type it in themselves as if its some huge inconvenience.
UberX drivers seem increasingly inclined to expect me to pull out the maps app and navigate for them. It is annoying. Aren't you the one being paid to drive?
I have not necessarily been to a particular destination before. Even if I have, I might want to have my attention on something (my phone, my laptop, how much I want to go to bed..) other than the road.
I've experienced this far too often in the past few months, it's starting to become a bit unbearable. Just not sure why Uber continues to onboard drivers who seem incompetent and have no sense of direction.
It'd be nice if I can get in the car and get to my destination without feeling like a got damn TOM TOM by the time I arrive.
My recent experiences have been identical. A few janky cars (especially on UberX), drivers that don't seem to use the GPS, one guy who took a cash tip from guests that I sent with him, etc. It's actually a totally fine level of service for me but it's quite a ways from the awesome experience of 2 years ago. Perhaps it is time for them to implement a distributed force of "mystery shoppers" to provide detailed feedback.
I can imagine, like you said, that the growth is forcing them to hire less qualified drivers as the pool of great drivers has already been tapped. Here in Dallas Uber is still a great experience, for now.
I was a very early user of Uber, and the initial experience started the same as yours; living in Presidio, then upper Noe Valley - I could never get a cab. I was actually banned from several cab companies as I would call two or three to get a cab to my house, as most would never show up.
Recently, a few weeks ago, I used Uber to go from Mtn View to SF, then later from SF to Alameda. While I spent nearly $300 in cab fees that night, the experience was just as fantastic as always (It was my first date night out with my wife after our latest child was born - so her first night out in nearly a year).
The driver from Mtn View to SF was fantastic and accomdated us wanting loud music playing the whole way.
I Love Uber - what I have a tough time with is cost -- but really because I think everything is overpriced.
It's a sign of strength in a company when the CEO can talk candidly about problems like this. Every company has problems, most worse than this, but they rarely talk about them except in the blandest, most evasive way.
It was candid, but before I'd call it conspicuous I'd like to see him explain the driver on-boarding process and the level of knowledge it requires of city routes. This especially applies to UberX. I think it'd help everyone adjust their expectations.
Knowledge of city routes isn't THAT relevant when you can easily depend on Google Maps. Almost every time I use Uber, the drivers have used Google Maps if they didn't readily know where I wanted to go and I didn't mind them using it either. It instill confidence in me that they're following an optimized route provided by Google.
I don't know how it is for SF, but in LA, Google's routes are not necessarily optimal, particularly at rush hour. I like Uber, and many of the drivers I've had have been great, but there's definitely been a handful of trips where I thought drivers relied on Google's routing when they shouldn't have.
I guess I'm speaking as someone who grew up driving in the era of smartphones and readily available GPS so even when I personally drive, I depend HEAVILY on Google maps. Like I'd really be lost without it.
I guess not relying on GPS map routing is something that I cannot fathom. It always impresses me when friends can just rattle off highway routes and directions.
You might be lost for a while. What would probably happen next is that you'd start to build a mental map of the relevant territory, augmenting personal experience with some kind of map, paper or digital. Then you'd start developing the habit of getting directions or studying a map before you went somewhere there was a gap in the knowledge in your head.
At least, that's how it worked for me when I moved from a city so small (and grid-based) that nobody I knew used any kind of nav aid at all... to Los Angeles. I'm a little hesitant to say it would certainly work this way for everyone, given that variety in people's backgrounds and brains. But I suspect navigating is something people are generally more wired for than not. Chances are, you could do it too.
OH GOD YES. Seriously. I'm a tourist here. The guy asks me where I'm going. I say "To X please" - They then ask to get my phone out to show him where it's near. While he's looking at his phone plugged in, with GPS. This has happened, easily, 4-5 times. It's fkkd.
It's got to be nice to be a straight shooter about your company and not "spook the market" when you're honest. You have analysts clinging on to your every word even in niche industries, ready to make some kind of recommendation.
We started using Uber this year to get to the airport. Though we are happy with the price, and very happy with the ease of scheduling, every single ride has made me uncomfortable with the safety and comfort of the service.
Over four rides to the airport this year, these things have happened:
1) Three of the times the drivers claimed the AC wasn't working, and we had to drive on the interstate with the windows down.
2) The driver missed the exit for SFO, and drove through the median to get to it
3) Two drivers did not know how to get to OAK
4) I (a pregnant woman) was traveling alone with my infant son. Driver did not help load stroller and luggage into the trunk. Threw luggage out of the trunk onto the curb when we arrived at the airport.
Transportation always kind of sucks, and maybe this is the best you can buy for $72 from Berkeley to SFO. My Uber experiences have been uniformly worse than my taxi to/from airport experiences. But they are slightly cheaper and easier to schedule.
Most drivers, don't give two shits about the job. And it's hard to blame most of them if you understand the dispatcher-model they generally work under. It's very cut-throat and has high pressures.
While this isn't an excuse on Uber's part, I think it's where Uber can step in and improve things. Originally Uber's goal was too make Taxi's an app. They've succeeded with that. Now they need to improve quality, and not necessary the quality of the app, but the drivers. They have to force a cultural shift through an antiquated market, where education levels are highly variable. They should test a drivers knowledge about Uber and ensure they know what customer expect in terms of service. On the flip side, it should be very clear to the customer what they should expect in terms of service.
They also need to improve there mechanism for feedback. They need this because they must force out bad drivers. It's single handily ruining their reputation.
Uber is great, the drivers are variable.
All that said, I live in a city and almost completely replaced my taxi usage with an eBike, so I hardly use the app anymore, but when I was a regular user (10-20 rides a month). Classical dispatching companies were much more reliable then Uber.
Uber claims  they have a "series of rigorous screening tests, including a background check, an in-person screening, a city knowledge exam, and other ongoing quality controls".
If true, that would seem to address your point about screening driver quality. But a number of people are reporting drivers who don't really know their way around the city, which suggests (if those reports are true) that the city-knowledge exam is either not rigorous enough, or somehow not testing the right thing.
To replicate that, though, Uber would also have to replicate some of the state apparatus around it, which they may or may not be able to do (or even want to do, ideologically). The London exam is effective in part because it's backed by law: it's illegal to drive a taxi if you haven't passed a licensing exam, and it's also illegal for someone who is properly licensed to lend out their credentials to a friend who'll pick up some people on their behalf, while the licensed driver takes the day off. And as you make the exam more rigorous, those counter-pressures increase, so if Uber had an actually rigorous knowledge exam, they would also have huge levels of cheating if there were no attempt at serious enforcement.
Uber could try to institute both a rigorous knowledge exam, and a high level of enforcement of the rule that only people who actually passed it may drive cars under Uber's name. But they would need some credible way of doing that, like roving undercover inspectors.
You could have the app send you a picture of the person who should be picking you up. The user could then report if someone else comes to pick them up. The only problem I'd see is that it might make riders uncomfortable if it is someone different, they might not want to cause a scene or any sort of confrontation, and they want to get to their destination, but they also wouldn't want to ride with someone unlicensed.
So I'm not sure exactly how you'd get around that problem. Maybe you give people who report that they have a different driver say $20 credit, and the ride is free or something. Of course then you'll have people trying to cheat the system.
Thats the thing tho, drivers have always been variable. Even before Uber. A lot of taxi dispatching companies get a lot of flack, but most have always been able to provide good service. All uber did was automate the job that is done by call takers. They havent really done much to improve the real problem in the taxi industry, which is unreliable drivers that constantly drop calls or act rude.
> 2) The driver missed the exit for SFO, and drove through the median to get to it
I have never made that SFO exit & had to drive through the median every single time. Been to SFO about a half dozen times this past year. The signs to that SFO exit aren't really in sync with the actual exit...you sort of have to know where the SFO exit is & ignore the sign. Even when I mentally make a note to do that, sometimes the sign confuses me & I end up missing the exit.
True, but that's only what you'd expect a noob to do. I have never had an actual taxi driver make that mistake, because the airport, of all places, is somewhere a taxi driver can get to in their sleep.
I'm a huge #Uber fan, but the service has been getting really bad lately. Anyone else experiencing these issues?
-App shows a car 2 minutes away, and when I reserve, it then says the car is 8 minutes away
-Drivers who increasingly have no knowledge of the city and/or driving routes
-Drivers who increasingly have trouble communicating in English
-After booking, the car gets further away (significantly) before it gets closer on their way to pick me up.
-Surge pricing becoming the norm--even during traditional "non-peak" hours
Again, I've been and continue to be a huge fan of Uber, but the past couple months have been disappointing. On the plus side, I had an awesome Pakistani driver yesterday who had a great story to tell about how he emigrated to America and is making twice as much driving for Uber than his old taxi. Pretty cool.
The complaint about the time going from 2 minutes to 8 minutes and also the car getting further away before getting closer sounds like the Uber drivers are doubling as Lyft drivers or other taxi-like apps. They have every incentive to always have a passenger in the car. It sounds like they are communicating with Uber that they will pick Noah up while they are almost done delivering a passenger from another service.
What I've seen a lot of is drivers marking my ride as complete when they get within a few blocks of my destination. I originally wrote it off to the driver trying to earn a better rating in light of heavy traffic or navigation difficulties, but it seems to be becoming more routine. In a few cases they've accepted another fare before they even drop me off.
Recently I saw this for the first time on a trip to SFO, which actually makes a lot of sense - since its a fixed price, they're not giving anything up by marking my ride complete as soon as they hit the exit for SFO.
For me, the convenience of Uber was always in the predictability of when the car would arrive. Flywheel (http://www.flywheel.com/) has finally effectively solved that problem for regular cabs, after half a dozen apps tried. Anecdotal conversations with taxi drivers indicate that they are pretty happy with the Flywheel service as well - it is definitely the best received app by drivers.
Using an app that seems to treat driver's more fairly is worth something to me, YMMV.
How does FlyWheel differentiate from other apps such as, HailACab in Austin, that seem to offer the same three primary benefits?
You mention the experience for cab drivers. Do they have some sort of smarter queuing or other benefits?
It seems all these apps address the consumer facing side of things, but to truly address the driver side, wouldn't it make sense to leverage data to try and better predict needs or routes so that there is less time lost waiting or traveling between fares?
Perhaps the reason that the quality numbers have been mostly flat is because drivers have been pushing to get 5 star reviews.
In case you didn't know, as a customer of uber, the driver gives you a star rating just like you give the driver. A lot of people in SF have figured that out, and a lot of time I'll get an offer of "5 for 5." The drivers are letting you know that if you give them a 5 star rating they will give you one.
On top of that, drivers more and more push for a good rating, trying to make you feel bad if you don't give them 5 stars.
I can't recall these pressures in the past, and if they are working, then quality numbers staying flat actually mean they are quite down.
That said, I am still an avid user of Uber, using it almost every day. My biggest concern is the same others have voiced, the drivers have no idea where they are in the city. I'm not talking cross streets, I'm saying a lot of time they don't even know how to get to a whole neighborhood. They also don't appear to be good 'city drivers,' and frequently seem to put bikers at risk due to that.
And which Ebay only "corrected" by making asymetrical. I.e. they didn't really fix the original problem but simply transformed the feedback system into something better reflecting Ebay's shift in the direction of conventional online retail. It got rid of tit-for-tat but it also eliminated a feedback mechanism about buyers that was more relevant when the site more resembled a peer-to-peer buying/selling network.
That seems to be part of the program for vendors like Ford, where the employee asks the customer to call them if there is anything that they can't rate perfectly so they can fix the issue for them. They use the survey as a way of flushing out issues that the customer wouldn't otherwise voice so they can deal with them. It's less about collecting stats, and more about having an extra tool to get the customer to happy.
I'd heard this too, so I didn't leave reviews for my first few UberX drivers who had broken cars and didn't know the way, because they seemed like nice guys having a bad day. Then by the time I had bad drivers who weren't nice guys, I figured that was just the general quality of UberX service and still didn't leave reviews.
If true, this is horrible. I give 4 stars for an average trip that gets me there on time, with little to no grief. I only give 5 stars if the driver was exceptionally nice, funny, helpful or there was something outstanding with the trip. 5 stars shouldn't be the de facto rating for an average trip.
I suspect that some of the people claiming that Uber is going down hill are, well… not the best customers. That is, they might be total assholes. Uber tries to match 5 star cabs with 5 star customers. If you are a 4 star customer you are more likely to get a 4 star driver. The probability of getting a 4 star driver is higher today than it was a year ago, and a 4 star customer is more likely to get those drivers.
I've gotten the 5 for 5 thing a few times. I don't mind it, if it's going to be a 5 anyway.
I use Uber every day. I've had maybe two sub-par experiences with the black car—ever. A few iffy experiences with UberX but nothing bad.
As the original poster to Facebook that Travis is responding to, I'd just like to add a few thoughts here. First, I'm an early adopter of Uber and have been + remain a big fan of the company. Second, I commend Travis for taking the time to write out his thoughts and provide a well-thought out response--even if I don't fully agree with everything he wrote. Third, I think it's a good sign for Uber that a) people care enough to be talking about it...passionately; and b) their CEO is involved in the debate. Fourth, the quality in SF has been declining for those of us with a longitudinal view over time, and even if the top-line metric of overall reviews inflates the NPS score, the fact that this is striking a chord with "power users" should be alarming. Fifth, I think this is correctable, and is not unique for a company scaling this quickly. Thanks everyone for the debate. - Noah Lichtenstein
I remain unconvinced. In Atlanta alone I find myself waiting up to 30 minutes for a UberX because nobody tells them about potential traffic conditions, and nobody knows the city routes. Maybe its different when I price up to just Uber service, but this is pretty inexcusable.
I've used Uber over a dozen times in Atlanta. I've used each of the three tiers of service as well, and in varying traffic conditions. I used Uber, and UberX whenever it was available, morning and night going to Dragon*Con in downtown Atlanta (read: bad traffic) and every time they were punctual and the trip was quick. I typically wait no more than 10 minutes for a driver of any tier.
We're both just a data point, but I'm surprised you've had such a bad experience where I now refuse taxi service in favor of Uber. The quality difference is night and day.
I've yet to try uber X here (in Atl) as there always seems to be an uber black far closer. I don't think I've ever waited more than 15 minutes. I'm seeing a few lyft vehicles around recently also. I do wonder if in ATL, the relatively smaller difference in price for uber x leads more people to just splurge on a black car.
I think some of it might be self-inflicted too rather than purely a scaling issue. Anecdotal evidence here but probably relevant- I got a mail from Uber a while back, where (presumably) some automation noticed that I was taking a bunch of uber rides to the airport when I was in Boston, but never from, so it offered some Uber credit to use from the airport. I was pretty stoked that Uber had such great analytics and this past Saturday, requested an uber when I landed. Once I got picked up however, it was a different story, with the driver claiming I had "tricked him" and that it was illegal for him to pick anyone up from the airport and that Uber had specifically given him guidance not to pick anyone up from the airport. Clearly there was some miscommunication there and although he calmed down once I explained my side of the story, it still creates a bad experience (probably for both the customer and the driver). Uber support was reasonably prompt in getting back to me but it was somewhat of a non-reply and I still don't know if picking people up at Logan Airport is a supported scenario or not. However, my positive experiences with Uber far outweigh the negative ones and I think Uber still has that built-up goodwill going for it which should cushion it through these growing pains.
> and that it was illegal for him to pick anyone up from the airport and that Uber had specifically given him guidance not to pick anyone up from the airport
This potentially has some truth to it. Many times, to operate a passenger service to/from the airport requires the operator to purchase a (costly) license from the airport authority. Depending on bylaws etc, unlicensed operators who provide passenger service to/from the airport will be subject to fines. In other words, providing access to ground-transport operators seems to be a revenue stream for the airport, but also likely serves to protect the air passengers from cowboy/dodgy transport operators outside the terminal.
Anecdotally, I once struck up a conversation with a taxi driver in Sydney, Australia. We'd passed a pedestrian who (for some reason) was standing on airport land, some distance from the terminals, trying to hail the passing taxis. The driver remarked to me that they'd be waiting for a while, as no taxi would ever stop there: Apparently it is stipulated in the contract that the taxi company has with the airport, that they can only collect and drop fares in the designated areas outside of the terminals. If they pick up a fare at any other location on airport land, they are subject to large fines (he said $10k, but perhaps this was hyperbole). I found this an interesting insight into the level of regulation apparently applied to airport ground-transport operators.
I had a bad ride to OAK from Berkeley, wrong freeway, no AC, it was a mess. But the Uber app prompted me for feedback, and I got a personal support message and a credit when I complained.
I will Uber again, as it is easily the most convenient way to get to the airport, and I can tell that the software is rigged to continuously improve the company. After a lifetime of cab nightmares, I'll take Uber with double the warts.
I prefer taking Lyft to Uber because with the former the default mode is friendly conversation. When you take an Uber the assumption is that neither of you will talk to each other, like in a Taxi or Limo. In this sense Lyft is more revolutionary than Uber because it fundamentally changes the social dynamic, not just the economics.
Huh, I've always thought of chatting as the default in taxis (though not limos). Drivers seem to usually engage in small-talk with me, at least in California and southern Europe. I'm so used to it that the first time I took a taxi in Scandinavia, where the default is no chatting, I was sort of weirded out by the awkwardly silent ride.
It sort of depends on the location, but yeah, some places in the U.S. seem to have super chatty drivers; I've heard some great stories that way.
Interestingly, this hasn't been the case any time I've taken a taxi in NYC (where taxis seem even more a fundamental part of everyday life than most places) in the last decade or two. Now the drivers usually just yell into a cellphone nonstop for the entire ride...
That's been the same for me in NYC, but the whole taxi setup in NYC feels very "high-security", with only a small window peering through a bullet-resistant barrier between the front and back seats. That makes it feel more like a limo, since the driver is in a quasi-armored compartment separate from you, and it doesn't really encourage a friendly chat. In most other parts of the world a taxi is just a regular car, without internal barriers.
Actually now I'm a bit unsure: what is the regional etiquette on whether a single passenger should sit in the back or the front? When I lived in LA, I usually just sat in front, which nobody ever complained about, but in retrospect maybe that was weird? It's definitely more conducive to smalltalk if you're in the front passenger seat, sitting next to the driver.
To me it always seems like the driver tries to gage if you want small talk. I'm not a big talker in the cab, so usually the driver says one or two things and then stops talking. But when I'm in the car with some talkers, they have full conversations.
Does the change in social dynamic result in an improvement in service? I don't think most people are looking for a social dynamic this form of transportation. Most people that I know are looking for friendly, clean, and efficient. Were friendly isn't intrusive unwanted discourse.
It's a challenge to be a popular company that everyone would like in their market. Yet, in every single city there are differing rules that govern taxis. I'd LOVE to have Uber in Portland but the local Government is the road block. In cities that Uber is available, they're growing.
I love this company and use them any chance I can. I know that they're doing everything they can to be the best company and the best service for those that want to use them.
I've definitely had mixed experiences with Uber in San Francisco; In LA the drivers were excellent, here it seems to be hit or miss.
This seems to be a particular problem as regards UberX. With the Surge pricing making UberX more expensive, it's not really worth it for me if I have to show the guy where to go and he's not nice or accommodating in any way.
Like several others, I've had the problem where I need to give directions, despite the driver having a GPS enabled phone. Do we know why they do this? It's by no means a big inconvenience for me, but it's somewhat perplexing, at least...
PS: I'm extremely happy with Uber. My experience with calling cabs was forged on the south side of Chicago, where they seldom ever actually came. It was miserable.
I would really like to see an aggregate app that only handles the buy side of the market and let Uber, Sidecar, Lyft, taxis and others handle the sell side of the market. This way, you could have an app that shows you the rating of the companies relative to one another. Every vote for a driver would also be a vote for the company as well. If a company wasn't great, you can opt to stop seeing drivers from them.
They are looking at average quality metrics. I think they should be looking at perc based quality metrics. That would have reflected a drop and the variability far earlier on. In this sense, it's akin to performance metrics — you want to find out what % of your users are experiencing what levels of service.
But is that that really the standard you want to hold yourself to when building a multi-billion dollar company? Being better than waiting for a cab in the rain? Uber is a premium service, and exists because of how bad the incumbent is/was. I commend Travis for holding Uber to a higher standard, and I think it is the role of users/fans to let him know when they fail to meet their standards.