Last year, Uber promised to do better by its drivers through a program called “180 Days of Change.”
The company had, for the most part, defied the truism that happy employees make for happy customers.
By and large, customers have been pleased with the service, even as controversy swirled around the company. It has come under fire for everything from its adherence to local laws (most recently in the UK), to its “tech bro” culture, to its treatment of female employees.
The most disgruntled group of all got little attention until a dashcam video, taken a year ago, revealed then-CEO Travis Kalanick berated an Uber driver for complaining about the company’s lowering of fares.
Up until then, the company’s relationships with its drivers – who are independent contractors, not employees – were never great. “It was pretty clear that the company lacked empathy” toward its drivers, Harry Campbell said. “I wouldn’t call it disdain.”
But a lot of people would, especially after that dashcam video surfaced. And it is somewhat telling that nearly 45% of drivers quit in the first year.
When the 180 days were up, he decided to take a close look at what had – or had not – been accomplished.
The first change – a tipping option — was one that Campbell didn’t see coming, at least not while Kalanick drew breath. It was a welcome change, long
hoped for by the driver community.
But so far, it has been a disappointment, largely because “Uber basically hides the tipping option, and most passengers have no idea how to tip” Campbell
wrote in his blog.
He gave Uber an A- for the tipping option, but he said he would lower the grade if Uber didn’t do a better job of explaining it.
The second change, 24-hour also was a letdown: It’s nice to have someone to talk with when there’s a problem, but Campbell noted that you also have to
consider what happens after someone answers the call. Uber’s less-than-stellar performance on that score earned it a B.
Uber did an about-face on one of its ideas, ironically due to its popularity. Previously, drivers could set two “destination filters,” designed primarily
to get them closer to home at the end of a shift.
The 180 days effort bumped them up to six per day – and back down to two when, according to Campbell, “apparently we broke the system.” A clunky system
became even clunkier, according to Uber. Campbell gave it a C+.
Other initiatives didn’t seem meaningful to Campbell, earning grades ranging from C+ to B-.
The overall grade was B-, but it should be noted that Campbell tended to cut Uber considerable slack for making an effort.
He also provided six recommendations for improvements. Not surprisingly, “Increase the rates” topped the list.
As for chief rival Lyft, “it does a good job of putting out a driver-friendly feel,” Campbell said.