Who IS Uber?
The media is routinely peppered with news about Uber these days, and while I find it unlikely, perhaps you are asking exactly what or who IS Uber? Allow me to take a moment to set up this blog with a brief review of the company many of us in the limousine industry – and most certainly a majority of Chicago limo companies – have a problem with, and why. So without further ado…here goes.
In The Beginning…
In order to keep this from getting too detailed or long winded, suffice to say that, in the beginning, Uber launched a neat piece of technology in the San Francisco area that allowed their clients to summon transportation using a smart device (phone, tablet, etc.). It was innovative because it connected the user to the transportation “provider” via GPS signal, and connected Uber to the cash via online credit card payment. No phone calls, no payment exchanges in-vehicle…all nice and clean. While the idea of this on demand service rankled limousine companies, users flocked to this technology, primarily because it appealed to savvy “always plugged-in” millennials that needed to get around the city. Why stand outside and hail a cab, when you can “tap” the screen on your phone and arrange a ride in minutes from the comfort of your chair? Good question and one that Uber users are quick to point out.
But what about the downside? After all, it can’t all be sunshine and rainbows…can it? There has to be a downside…right? Well, it all depends on what you consider a downside. For example, if you are interested in “quality of service”, Uber may not be your thing. There are plenty of solid providers operating within their model, but the downside here is that Uber is NOT a limo service. They are a tech company that gives their product to “vendors”, thereby connecting buyers to providers. If you have a problem with your driver or car, or the quality of service provided, there is no office to call. Likewise, if your driver doesn’t show up, well…that’s YOUR problem. Good luck here…Uber doesn’t have that option available for stranded customers. Not that they don’t care what you think; you can rate your driver after a trip or send comments and questions via email, but there are no instant answers. Quality customer service is not high on their agenda, and they freely admit it. As a matter of fact, when one of the more publicized (and fatal) events took place in California several months ago, Uber was quick to distance themselves from the provider. I guess loyalty isn’t too high on their list either.
What IS The Difference?
I am frequently asked by people outside of the limo industry about Uber, and at some point they as the question; What is the difference…between your service and theirs? Again, it starts with the fact that THEY are not a service. They are a technology that skillfully presents itself as a limo service. When a potential client is looking for a car service, Uber is a car service. When it comes to paying fees and taxes, or being subject to governmental regulation (like all reputable limo companies), then they become a technology company. However, on the plus side for the limousine industry, the birth and development of Uber was a “wake up” call to action. Not that the industry can begin to contemplate competing with a multi-billion dollar entity with more political clout than Al Capone during his heyday, but it woke up an industry that seems to always move at a snails pace. It won’t be long before most services have some sort of Uber software of their own.
Then, the only question left to ponder will be “What is Google going to do with all that information they’ve been collecting since their $250 million investment?