Uber says it will deactivate riders if their rating drops below a certain level, which raises the question whether this heralds the end of the notion that ‘the customer is always right’. But was the customer EVER always in the right?
Hotels and restaurants have a way of being fully booked if an obnoxious customer wants to use their services, and so do most other service industries.
Even in retail stores, staff are adept at removing those who are difficult, unruly or rude.
Online, it is even easier. If a customer returns damaged goods, they don’t get a refund. If they yell at call centre staff, the call is cut.
We are now in a world where customer opinion and referral is vital, but for Uber, it is just as crucial to keep drivers content and behaviour under control.
Starting in the US and Canada, riders are now at risk of deactivation if their rating falls significantly below a city’s average. This is thought to be around 4.6, according to leaked documents from 2015 although Uber will not enlarge on any specific City figures.
“Respect is a two-way street, and so is accountability,” Uber head of safety brand and initiatives Kate Parker wrote in a blog post. “Drivers have long been required to meet a minimum rating threshold which can vary city to city. While we expect only a small number of riders to ultimately be impacted by ratings-based deactivations, it’s the right thing to do.”
The big question is how to be a model rider. Uber says it will offer tips to riders around encouraging polite behavior and keeping the car clean.
“Ultimately, we expect this to impact only a very small number of riders,” the spokesperson said.
While Loyalty Magazine is rather chilled about the Uber move, being aware from the very beginning of the ride company’s journey, that civility and punctuality and standard of behaviour were paramount, Robin Collyer, senior director, marketing & decisioning making at Pegasystems, argues that Uber’s move is an extreme example of how the gig economy is shaping the future of customer service. He warns that if this is the direction we are heading in then the implications for customer service as a whole could be disastrous.
“There is a natural tendency here to claim that the “customer is always right” – and that Uber is therefore wrong – but, in reality, we know that our relationship with a brand has to be a balance of what’s good for both parties. Every market needs a code of conduct. Take Ebay as an example – its success would have been massively limited without the self-regulation that their buyer and seller ratings have enabled.
“In March this year, a study by the RMT survey revealed that three quarters of Tube workers have experienced verbal abuse while working. So, it’s understandable why when travelling in major UK cities we are reminded on posters and announcements that transport staff will not tolerate abusive language or unreasonable behaviour (i.e. the customer isn’t always right!). That doesn’t, however, automatically mean that Uber’s action is the correct one. There are two sides to every relationship and success comes from finding the ideal balance of what’s good for both parties.
“AI – in the form of an always-on customer decision hub – can now enable empathy at scale for brands. By arbitrating all the possible actions that could be taken with an individual customer – in the moment (relevant, timely and contextual) – brands like Uber have an opportunity to determine the next best action for each of their riders – and drivers. Nudging each in the right direction would be a more productive route to maximising customer lifetime value (CLV) and encouraging new users. Financial Services brands like RBS have transformed their ability to maximise CLV though the empathy that an “always on AI customer brain” enables – it’s time for other industries to take a leaf out of their book.”