A customer centric story

Uber spotted a gap in customer experience

In June 2009 a company was created that would forever alter a market that had been mostly unchanged and unchallenged for nearly a century. The environment was perfect for this company to come into effect. On one side of the equation it provided a means for people to earn a living, or a few more dollars, on their own terms and in their own time. On the other side it directly addressed an entrenched customer dissatisfaction and provided a service that the market desperately wanted.

That company is Uber and seven years on it has grown to the point where it has operations across the world and is valued at over $60 billion USD.

Putting the all of the technology, venture capital and media stories to one side what is obvious about Uber’s rise to global dominance is that it is an extremely customer centric organisation. Across the globe the taxi industry is renowned for delivering a poor quality service. Uber stepped in to fulfil a need in the market. Safe travel at a fair price from a person you can trust. Everything Uber does revolves around this. It is a company that will live or die on the back of customer trust.

Uber has taken on a powerful adversary in the taxi industry. It is an industry has been protected for a long time and unexpected and unregulated competition has driven debate all over the world. Lobbying from bodies representing the taxi industry has seen Uber’s legality being called into question. But it seems the new for of transport is here to stay.

It is easy to assume that it is technology that caused the disruption that the taxi industry is now having to deal with. The truth is technology has only been what it always is; and enabler. The real disruption comes from the market, the customer. If an industry exists where a customer is routinely dissatisfied then the environment is right to make significant change.

My personal experience comparing the service from taxis and Uber is a great example of why a company like Uber needed to happen. When I first moved to Australia in 2001 I caught a taxi from the airport to the apartment I was renting in Melbourne’s CBD. Once we arrived, I exited that taxi, paid the fare and started to think about my new life in a new country. Just then I realised that I left a bag full of camera gear in the cab. I started to chase the cab up the street who had just left. The cab pulled over and I saw the drier look at the bag in the back of the cab. Realising what the bag was, the cabbie then sped away as fast as he could. I was later told that kind of event was a regular occurrence.

In contrast to that I recently caught an Uber home from an event and accidentally left a footy ball in the car (I had won the ball at the event). Later that day the Uber driver called me to say he was driving over to my home to drop the ball off. He had no reason to do so other than protecting he reputation and the reputation of Uber. Of course when he did drop the ball off I went out of my way to give he a very positive review. It’s events like this that people remember. Reputation is built on trust and a focus on the relationship.

Technology has given people more choice than there has ever been before. This choice has created an environment where excelling at delivering an outstanding and integrated customer experience is now the new battleground for differentiation. The market now demands that businesses create an integrated and personalised approach to customer experience.

So think very hard about the industry you work in. Is there any part of it that uses control to maximise profitability at the consumers expense. If so, then there’s a very good chance someone is already working on replacing that control with technology, transparency and benefit to the consumer.

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