My First Uber

New-Logo-Vertical-DarkI like to think I am up on tech, however I remain skeptical of many social networks. I’ve spent most of my adult life in Vermont, so I will never be confused for a city slicker. Case in point, I routinely use the term “town” rather than “city” when speaking with others of New York City. I recently found myself in that town and needing a ride. So we Ubered.

Leaving from the 26th floor of the building where we were meeting, the ride was waiting for us when we reached the street. Well, waiting for us a few streets over. Traffic, always being an issue in the Big Town, and attempting to pinpoint two moving targets in New York Town is never easy. You can text or call the driver right through the app. We discovered we needed to walk two blocks over, circumvent the intersection and finally found our awaiting car and driver. Awkward, but a clean new Toyota Sienna awaited. With bottled water and free snacks. Can’t beat free snacks, right?

Riding with my colleague and being naturally curious as many business school professionals tend to be, we peppered our driver with questions. This was a full time job for Edwin, having left a sales job eight months ago to Uber full time. He was self-employed, could determine his own hours and even choose which riders he picked up (you get rated as a rider as well as a driver in Uber, so mind your manners). We could track our route in real-time via the app, and arrived at our next venue in good time and in good hands.

My colleague forwarded me his promo code which allowed me a first ride free as well (the first ride was his). So, I Ubered again after dinner. The meet-up was again awkward but eventually worked out, pulling up in a sleek black Chrysler 3000; clean, new and again with bottled water and free snacks. Free snacks. A minor touch, but I cannot remember any such hospitality in a recent taxi rides. Our driver, Gaery, was accommodating and able to take a slightly extended route to drop off another colleague staying at a different hotel. Gaery was semi-retired, lived in Philadelphia and came up to NYC to Uber in his free time.

Here is what impressed me most. My first ride being free (up to $30), I was not too concerned about the route or the extra distance we needed to travel. After more informative conversation with another cordial driver who also praised working with Uber and the better pay it afforded him, I arrived at my room. The receipt was emailed immediately, another frictionless transaction. However, I soon noticed I was charged $31.15 and did not receive my first ride discount. Right from the app, I was able to locate customer support, pick the area of concern (DISPUTE A FARE) and sub category (DISCOUNT CODE), and sent off my request.

I could digress greatly here, but think for yourself the last time you needed to contact customer support at your airline, cell phone company or internet provider. How many forms did you complete that were never acknowledged, phone calls to some strange foreign call centers mysteriously dropped after countless minutes waiting or customer service dead ends resulting in lost fees or even more precious time evaporated? You’ve been there.

I awoke six hours later, a personal email from Kaylee who was “…happy to help.” Instantly the problem was acknowledged, a refund was issued and an updated and accurate charge re-applied to my account. I’d Uber again.

Uber gets plenty of bad press, but any disruptive technology, innovator or business routinely does (see Apple, Air BnB, Thomas Edison, et. al.). It is creating a new class of entrepreneurs which should be encouraging. It is helping to solve many glaring deficiencies with public transportation. It provides another option for people looking to get from point A to point B as expeditiously as possible.

Where is the lesson in this? Business is about connecting a willing buyer with a willing seller. Technology can be an effective tool in that process. Make the transaction frictionless. The primary function of any business is to provide value to their customer.

Now, how do we develop a process that sources entrepreneurial next generation leaders for legacy family businesses in need? Gotta be an app for that.

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