You know you’ve made it in business when your company name is used to replace a noun - in this case ‘taxi’. “Call an Uber…” has become part and parcel of our urban lexicon, yet despite drivers in more than 85 countries around the world, a lot of the success stories we hear originate from the US, or like this one, from the UK.
Adi Tobias, Head of Customer Experience for Uber across seven countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, believes getting the balance right between customisation and repeatability is core to designing customer centric processes and products.
Adi’s passion is creating repeatable customisation and personalisation that hits the mark again...and again...and again. We caught up with her about designing experiences for a ‘5* rating’.
(Spoiler alert – you’ll hear that term repeated a lot in the full interview!)
Design repeatable experiences...
Once customer service basics have been embedded, Adi believes that the next step is to build value in the repeatability of a consistently great experience – and that takes more than just a great frontline team…
“Businesses spend tons of money on marketing and positioning themselves in a way that sets them apart from competitors. Where we often go wrong is not connecting campaigns (telling everyone how good we are) with the service we provide (cold and removed). Sometimes, these two things appear to be two very different parts of the same business.”
“When it all goes right - it’s important to ask, how did we do that? And how do we improve that? Not just once but every single time, so that what you arrive at is repeatability - an ability to deliver to a high standard over and over again.”
> But how?
Adi recommends that a good way to start interrogating your business model and customer-centricity (placing the customer at the centre of everything you do) is Matt Watkinson’s “Grid”. The Grid provides a structured tool that will help you evaluate where your business is at; determine whether your customer approach delivers the service customers expect; and ensures your strategy is tied into profitability decisions.
Adi also recommends familiarising yourself with ‘Design Thinking’ (see here for a simple explanation of this method of problem solving) which will help you place people at the heart of every decision and strategy, because “Building a good customer experience does not happen by accident. It happens by design.” (Clare Muscutt)
And then evolve...
Although Uber’s business was understandably affected by the pandemic, Adi also tells us how important Covid has been in learning lessons around continuous and deliberate improvement. Remaining compassionate towards Uber’s teams and customers and supporting them through tough times was a high priority, but building products and processes that are sustainable and live on past a crisis also had to be a key focus.
“We had to think on our feet, consider the true context for our user base and then look at opportunities to help move the business forward in an unexpected, non-traditional way.”
> But how?
To achieve this, Adi kept the conversation super practical.
“Talking about customer empathy and connection to your senior stakeholders can come across as fluffy or touchy-feely. I always try to take it from very ‘high level’ to practical. I base my approach on understanding the customer perspective; concrete data and of course Design Thinking models!”
She goes on to share how that played out in her region…
“For many of our partners, driving isn’t just a ‘side-hustle’ but quite often a means to support their entire families. Our drivers hadn’t just lost an income source, but their entire income altogether. Armed with this understanding, coupled with deep empathy for our customers who were unable to see their loved ones in person we piloted to launching a brand new parcel delivery service called Uber Connect. It was a fantastic way of ensuring continued business and care for our partners and customers.”
Reinvention shouldn't stop at just service…
Recognition and reward is super important at Uber. The company has regional and sub-regional recognition programs in place, with one of these, related to drivers, aptly called ‘Customer heroes’. Storytelling around these programs is key - with Uber making sure its people understand why a particular customer engagement or opportunity was so impactful.
“But then Covid hit and presented us with an opportunity to rethink our traditional recognition programs and how we recognise the teams tasked with implementing our customer success models. How could we continue to acknowledge a good job when we couldn’t be together and share in that success?.”
To Adi, that meant a new opportunity to zero in on intrinsic self-esteem and personal development to keep teams motivated and engaged even through the most tiring and toughest of times.
> But how?
“We’ve spent lots of effort focussing on personal development and helping (our people) think a little more broadly about their careers – which has created a new understanding of reward. Not just ‘Hey, you've done a great job’, but also ‘here’s an opportunity to hone your skills’. We have provided our people with opportunities to work on short-term assignments they might not normally experience in their everyday job. This made them feel motivated and excited and in turn, will of course result in them doing a better job at dealing with customers, and supporting the business.”
Getting the balance right
Customise but repeat. Define but evolve. Adi acknowledges that getting the balance right isn’t always going to be easy, but that repeatability will help bridge that important ‘space between’.
“Design your experiences starting with the customer at the forefront and support your people to provide that experience for every customer, every time.”
Some top tips from Uber’s Sub-saharan drivers (and riders!)...
Tap into warmth and hospitality!
“Every single time you come into contact with a customer is an opportunity to engage. Ask your customers if they’re ok; find out if they want to listen to music or just sit back and chill. Be that friendly face!”
Maximise everyday opportunities
“Every day is an opportunity to make a difference. Lost belongings followed up and returned quickly; keys left in the back seat driven across town to make getting inside (and safe) a lot easier - it’s the little things that matter.”
Encouragement goes both ways
“Driving, day in and out, is tiring. A driver shares their energy with you - why not pass the positivity right back! When you see your driver has a ‘5 *’ rating, ask them why or simply comment: ‘You must be a really cool person!’ It’ll make their day.”