User research on UBER
Frequently when I fly, I take a taxi to and from the airport.
Several reasons make this more compelling than driving myself:
- I don’t have to worry about the security of my vehicle parked at the airport
- I’m only 10 miles from the airport so the cost is low
- I have a flat rate so I know exactly how much it will cost me
- I can schedule the taxi to arrive at 5:30am
- The taxi has never been late (so far) in picking me up from my residence
However, there are a few downsides:
- Cleanliness of the vehicle
- Age of the vehicle
- Variability in drivers (safety, hygiene, friendliness)
To that end I’ve decided to look into alternatives, and figured it would be a fun thought experiment to view UBER through the lens of a product manager.
Rider interviews #
First, I asked a few people I knew what they thought of UBER, and to describe their experiences. Then I decided to take the plunge and try it for myself, taking notes about the process.
Young professional #
- Acceptable price
- Nicer than a taxi
- Gets the job done
- Drivers are not created equal, if she had the second driver on the first trip, probably wouldn’t have taken UBER again
Mid-career doctor, mostly using UberX #
- Inconsistent price for the same route
- No option to tip the driver for exceptional service as it’s against policy for drivers to accept cash, and no way to add it to the bill like at a restaurant
- Had a sketchy experience where the driver who arrived wasn’t the person in the photo on the app; made her feel quite uncomfortable
- Didn’t realize at first that she’s rated as a rider, and wasn’t aware how to see her public “profile”
Me, young professional #
- Cleanest, most professional taxi I’ve ever used
- Discovery: is there a way for me to set a min rating for drivers I will accept?
- Pricing was unclear in the app for UberX w/surge enabled. Was the estimated fare before or after the surge pricing? Maybe it was in the fine print, but I didn’t see it, so instead I used UberBlack
- I received an unexpected txt message from the driver prior to pickup, which was from a number I didn’t recognize and it asked “where are you going?”. Felt a bit weird, and lacked any sort of UBER branding. Whenever I get a message from AirBnB, it routes through their system and they prepend “AirBnB: Your host says…” to the beginning of the message.
- My expected wait time changed while driver was en-route, and it looked like he went past my exit, and then turned around and came back. App could include an indicator that he is still dropping off a passenger I think
- Was unsure how to get a fare estimate at first without booking/paying. Seems like wordsmithing the label on the button would help.
Driver interview - 2 years with UBER so far #
- Especially loves UBER because of the flexible hours: he doesn’t have to get a boss’s permission to come in late, he can just turn on the app when he’s ready to start picking up passengers
- Started out part-time, and then left his old job to drive full-time for UBER
- Rents his vehicle from a limo company, and they handle all expenses and maintenance except for fuel
- Rarely loses data connection on his phone, except for in the mountains occasionally, but maps are cached, so not a show-stopper
- The android app seems to work far better due to better integration with google maps. On Apple, there’s a delay between where he is, and where the app thinks he is. This sometimes causes confusion with riders who then txt him to ask “why aren’t you moving towards us?” He also mentioned that intersections with more than four roads confuses the application on Apple much more so than on android
- As a result he carries both an Apple and an Android phone with him at all times
Random Thoughts #
- sUBERu: partnership opportunity? seems like fun
- Ensuring a new customer’s very first ride is a great experience could improve their lifetime value and retention; would be interesting to hear if UBER already optimizes for this, and if not, would it be possible to A/B test
- Maintaining consistency of experience is important yet difficult, definitely interested to know how effective the driver ratings are for that, and if it’s possible as a rider to set a preference for min ratings of drivers
- There is still room for further refinements to discoverability and UX in the app; tricky to balance sleek, minimalist UI with highlighting power features
- Is there a way to predict the wait time for a route at a specific point in time in the future? If I knew my likely wait-time would be <10 minutes with 90% probability, that might suffice to replace needing to schedule a taxi at 5:30am
- Until the pricing becomes more consistent, I’ll likely keep my flat rate taxi as a backup option for getting to and from the airport
Riding UBER and talking to others in the ecosystem was a fun chance to put on my customer-voice-hat and see a ubiquitous product through the eyes of others. I’ll definitely be riding UBER again in the future!