The Less Time In The App, The Better: How Uber And Other On-Demand Services Changed Customer Support

The Less Time In The App, The Better

With on-demand services you have an incredibly narrow window in which to service the customer. Think of Uber: ideally, the customer is in the app for a total of 3 minutes– to set the pickup location, track the car until it arrives, and recognize the car once it has. This means that when anything goes wrong, it will go wrong quickly, and the expectation is that it will be resolved just as quickly- otherwise the very promise of the app (convenience) is no longer viable.

The primary way in which these apps are undercutting their competition is through mobile-based communication and incredibly rapid service. As Jack Murrin of Shyp said at the 2016 MORE Summit, “You have to give the customer a reason to come to you, especially when you’re not significantly undercutting your competitors in terms of price.” Why use Shyp over USPS? The answer is mobile convenience.

The Competitive Anti-Uber Landscape

The on-demand landscape is extremely competitive, which is a large part of why service and convenience have become so vital. Following a slew of “The Uber of ___” apps, we’ve entered the “Anti-Uber” era. Make one mistake, and five new burgeoning competitors will crop up, promising customers to be just the same as you, but better. It’s no wonder that Uber introduced in-app chat as part of their new customer service offerings in an effort to stave off the likes of Curb, Juno, Street Stream, Didi Kuaidi, and Grab.

In fact, there is now a laundry list of on-demand apps that have gone under because they failed in terms of customer service and convenience delivery. The Guardian recently reported on this phenomenon: “Lavanda was a hit at first. At its peak, the company had 3,000 customers, but the spin cycle soon began to falter as it hit one problem after another. There was competition from Zipjet, which had big-money backing. Customer service was critical but, while digitally hailing a taxi in seconds remains a thrill, ‘getting shirts back clean can only be so exciting, and customers only responded when something went wrong…If we turned up after 27 minutes instead of 22, they were demanding a refund and holding us hostage on social media.’”

Multi-Level, Multi-Channel Support Wins On-Demand

Jack and Eva both maintain that it is paramount that they give consumers as many channels to communicate with them as possible. Furthermore, they need two levels of customer support: support for their couriers/valets, and support for their customers. “Everything has to be seamless on both sides,” said Eva. “Email and web simply aren’t efficient for users when dealing with live situations.” Because of this, both Eva and Jack use a combination of call centers, in-app messaging, texting, and in-app FAQs.

“The way to gain efficiency is to provide self service,” said Eva. “We do this for both our valets and for our customers. The less volume that is driven up to us, the better in terms of scaling.” And scaling is one of the biggest issues for on-demand companies. The lucky companies will experience what Malcolm Gladwell termed a “tipping point,” where their user base increases by thousands, if not millions. Uber has seen 40% growth in each consecutive quarter, according to leaked documents. Not surprisingly, in tandem with this growth, they have funneled huge resources into customer support: “Uber spent almost as much in operations and support ($159.1 million) in the first half of 2015 as it did in all of 2014 ($159.9 million).”

As the on-demand marketplace continues to undergo massive growth and then market maturation we will see “The Uber of _____” emerge in a variety of new markets. The Uber of laundry, the Uber of dog walking, The Uber of mailing, the Uber of parking, etc will emerge, and in each field the winner will be the one who provides the best of two things: convenience and service. Make those 180 seconds count.

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