8 changes Uber riders are demanding now

Customer Experience

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Without a doubt, Uber is a business and social phenomenon. Despite being a magnet for controversy (e.g., cities forcing them out), Uber continues to thrive because it has created a magical experience for a large swath of riders. But, Uber’s path to world domination / IPO requires continued growth, which means winning over more riders and fending off other competitors. And the only way it can do that is to make sure an ever larger fraction of those who try Uber falls in love with the experience.

Constantly improving the experience sounds easier said than done. Fortunately, I’m going to outline a roadmap for that. Skeptical? Don’t be – this roadmap comes directly from Uber’s customers, both fans and critics.

Disclaimer: I do not work for Uber. However, I feel confident editorializing about what the most valuable startup in the world should be doing because my team here at Idiomatic has more expertise structuring customer feedback than anyone else. Furthermore, I am channeling the voice of Uber’s own customers and not injecting my own opinions.

Quick note about methodology: Our analysis is based on a random sample of publicly available app reviews from both the Google Play and Apple App Store starting in May 2016, after filtering out all the spam.

Let’s start by understanding the customer experience for happy Uber customers (5 stars) versus unhappy customers (1 stars).


Top issues in 5 star app reviews

41% of Uber app reviews are 5 stars. Unsurprisingly, this cohort’s feedback is overwhelmingly positive – 90% of the comments rave about the service Uber provides, the ride experience, or the mobile app.

Next, let’s look at the breakdown of the 1 star reviews, which make up 30% of Uber app reviews.


Top issues in 1 star app reviews

The reasons why people dislike Uber are more varied than the praise, but five issues still represent 77% of customer unhappiness. While it would be easy to think “the app store is full of crazy people” and “haters gonna hate”, ignoring this critical feedback (which too many companies do) is a huge mistake. To illustrate how useful this feedback is, let’s take a deeper look at the most common category of complaints: pricing.


Complaint breakdown and trends over time

What we’re looking at here is a drill down view of customer unhappiness about pricing. A few observations. First of all, from the Trends over Time data on the bottom, we see that pricing complaints consistently represent between 15 and 20% of customer unhappiness for Uber, so these pain points are persistent. But more interestingly, the top Manifestations of customer unhappiness under the pricing category are that “Cancellation fees are unfair,” “Dislike surge pricing,” and “Charged incorrectly,” which are all things that would reasonable make you unhappy if they happened to you. The reality is that while there certainly are customers that write in with unreasonable demands and comic levels of vitriol, in aggregate customers are quite sensible when communicating their unhappiness.

So, without further ado, I’d like to present the top eight granular causes of customer unhappiness for Uber. The complaints are ranked by Unhappiness Score, which measures both the frequency and intensity of each complaint.

uber app reviews

Let’s discuss how to put this data to work. Shortly before the publication of this analysis, Uber announced that they are rolling out “Upfront fares”, which makes the total ride cost transparent at the point of booking, even when surge pricing is active. Notably, the practice of dynamic pricing has not changed, but the rider will now know exactly what the price is before starting the ride.

On the surface, this seems like a logical change. After all, surge pricing is the fourth largest source of unhappiness, and upfront fares addresses the criticism that Uber fares are not transparent without compromising the underlying economics. However, once we read the underlying feedback, it becomes clear that fewer than 10% of the riders complaining about surge pricing are doing so because they did not know surge pricing was in effect. Most riders who complain about surge pricing do so because while they understand how it works and in many cases the underlying theory of supply and demand, having prices ratchet up so much in a short period of time leaves a bitter taste in their mouths.

Given this insight, our expectation is that the introduction of Upfront fares will have a minor (<10%) impact on the amount of unhappiness caused by dynamic pricing, because it doesn’t address the underlying problem.

When companies build products without a precise understanding of why customers are unhappy, it can be easy to waste a lot of time and product resources solving problems that sound similar to the real customer pain points but are ultimately off the mark. As illustrated in this Uber upfront fares example, a product initiative that directly addressed one of the top customer pain points would have had a 10x impact on customer happiness.

All the data and charts above were generated using Idiomatic’s customer feedback analysis platform. If you are interested in diving deeper into Uber’s data or seeing your customers’ pain points, drop us a line and request a demo.