Hailing a taxi these days seems so antiquated. Now someone who needs to get from point A to point B is more likely to open a mobile ride-booking app.

Lyft and, in spite of its public relations problems, Uber, have taken root in the collective consciousness.

Introduced as UberCab in 2010, Uber evolved from an app to a verb in just a handful of years. Five-year-old Lyft has grown rapidly by positioning itself as a kinder, more socially responsible alternative to Uber.

Both mobile ride-booking services are crushing traditional taxis.

Ride-Booking Advantages

Everyone complains about taxis and everyone loves ride-booking apps. Why? Ask a regular rider and you’ll get a stream of answers.

“Well, it’s just easier/faster/nicer/better.”

The true answer is this: Ride-booking services have gained cachet because they put the customer in control of the experience.

Let’s break it down.

1. Full Transparency

Customers know how much a ride will cost before they even summon a vehicle. They also have options to control costs by selecting the type of vehicle they desire each time they use the service, from a shared sedan to luxury SUV.

The app clearly indicates how long it will take for a vehicle to arrive and gives the customer the option to cancel if the wait is longer than expected.

The customer is also given the name of the driver, the type of car he or she is driving, and the license plate number of the car.

2. Encourages Customer Feedback

Journalist Amy Vernon found candy and a phone charger in her Lyft.

Journalist Amy Vernon keeps finding extras in her Lyfts. “Yesterday’s Lyft driver had water bottles and offered me a butterscotch,” she said.

Ride-booking apps enable customers to provide detailed feedback on individual drivers and their vehicles. Unlike traditional taxis, this shifts control toward the customer.

Customers can easily report everything from poor driving to unsafe vehicles through mandatory feedback mechanisms. This feedback translates to ratings, which give customers a good understanding of the drivers and the cars they operate.

Based on past feedback, they know the driver they select will be at least competent and that the car will be safe and clean.

Because of the feedback system, many drivers go the extra mile. Some will include little extras, like phone chargers or candies for passenger comfort. How often do you encounter that in a taxi?

3. Complete Digital Experiences

Unlike tiny printed receipts that are easily lost or inadvertently discarded, ride-booking apps offer digital receipts. The expenses are automatically charged to the credit card the customer has on file. This makes tracking business expenses infinitely easier.

Additionally, drivers for ride-booking apps are digitally savvy. They invariably use E-ZPass, an electronic toll collection system that speeds passage through bridges, tunnels and toll roads. This is not always the case in taxis, even in the metropolitan New York-New Jersey area where many inexplicably wait in long cash only lines to pay tolls.

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Ride-Booking Services vs. Taxis

Customers who call for a taxi get only an estimate of how long they will have to wait. In New York City, they actually have to dodge traffic to hail a cab themselves. Either way, it is inconvenient.

The fare is determined at the end of the ride. Surprise! And the driver may or may not accept a credit card, which can lead to awkward and anxious moments for customers.

The vehicle (and the driver) may or may not be clean. He or she may or may not yield to repeated requests to roll up the window, turn down the music, or stop burning incense.

The customer experience is 100 percent over once you exit the cab. The only exceptions are customers who proactively write down the taxi medallion number, and then Google the associated Taxi and Limousine Commission to file a complaint.

But it’s generally an exercise in futility because the complaints typically go unanswered.

What Marketers Can Learn

Whether you’re pioneering a disruptive business or marketing a traditional product or service, take some tips from the success of ride-booking services.

  1. Give your customers control of their experience
  2. Let them know what to expect each step of the way
  3. Be fully transparent about costs, including fees, taxes, and potential extras
  4. Embrace digital technologies to make customer experience as seamless and convenient as possible
  5. Encourage feedback — and then use that feedback to fuel continuous improvement

Title image Brooklyn to Manhattan via Uber by Carl Mikoy

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Margaret Wise leads Arke Systems' initiatives related to their strategic technology partners including Microsoft and Sitecore. Margaret joined the Microsoft CRM ecosystem with the introduction of Microsoft CRM v1 and has been contributing her extensive CRM experience ever since. Margaret holds an MBA with a concentration in Finance from Brenau University. Margaret has also volunteered around Atlanta through Hands On Atlanta, Prevent Child Abuse Georgia, at her church and her children’s school in Dunwoody. She has been a member of TAG (Technology Association of Georgia), CRM Society for 8 years and a board member for 3 years. As a member of WIT (Women in Technology), her favorite volunteer opportunities have been to mentor through Girls Get IT. Margaret is an avid reader and runner but mostly enjoys spending time with her husband, 10 year old son and 7 year old daughter.