A lot of the guys in the charter car business ABSOLUTELY HATE Uber. They think the company is the devil incarnate and that the drivers are the spawn of Satan. I don’t feel that strongly about them, but I do think there’s a hell of a lot broken with this company and they’ve a long way to go to rebuild public trust.
First off, let me say that I’ve a lot of sympathy with the drivers. Most of them are decent guys (and gals!) who are just trying to earn money to put food on their families’ tables. We all want to do that and the Uber guys are no different. They’ve been caught in the middle of a shitty situation through no fault of their own and have been tarnished because of the decisions of senior management.
The fact is that Uber have done themselves a shitload of harm over the past few years. They’ve aggressively gone into cities and markets that don’t want them, fighting legal battle after legal battle. If the first step of your business plan is to send in the lawyers, then maybe you need to rethink how you do business?
Then there’s been the controversies over stuff like surge pricing and the app that deliberately misled regulators and fed them false information. These are decisions taken at the very highest levels of the company, and they all undermine not only the reputation of Uber but the esteem in which the world holds them.
What’s the answer?
I don’t claim to have a magic wand that I can wave with the solution to Uber’s problems. It’s going to be a long, slow haul to win back the trust they’ve betrayed over the years. But they need to start now. If you screw up, you make a sincere apology, then move on and DON’T DO IT AGAIN! Your apology is meaningless if you get caught doing the same thing a few weeks later.
And by the way, the apology should mean “I’m sorry we did the bad thing”, not “I’m sorry we got caught doing the bad thing”.
Next, the company needs to start treating its drivers with respect, paying them a proper wage for the work they’re doing. The overall professionalism will go up if the drivers feel they’re being valued.
The problem, of course, is that Uber view the drivers as a liability: they want to replace them in the future with self-driving cars.
To give credit where it’s due, Uber has absolutely revolutionised the industry, and millions of people use the service (and love it) every day. They’ve a massive lead, but a massive problem too. And it’s one that only they can fix.