How Uber Lost me as a Customer

Perhaps hampered by third party services that are sub-optimal: from payment failures to drivers refusing to show up, my experiences with Uber Bengaluru (Bangalore) have been poor. Getting charged for a canceled trip (reason: driver did not turn up!) was the last straw for me: Uber have lost me as a customer.

First of all, my post isn’t a rant. Well maybe it is, sort of. But I am using my own example to illustrate how a series of broken parts of the ecosystem might actually hurt Uber’s business- atleast in Bengaluru.

Long story short..

Last Friday, I booked an Uber Pool frmo Jaynagar in South Bengaluru, and I had to go back to North Bengaluru, where I live. Cab ride confirmed at 12:48 PM, the Uber app showed a wait time of 4 minutes, all looked fine. But then, the problem started. the status changed to “waiting for passenger to be picked up” or something to that effect. 10 minutes passed, and then 15- but there was no update. (utilized the downtime to make a trip to the nearest ATM, just in case…) Finally, I called the driver at 1:03PM. He informed me that he will be there in a couple of minutes, and four minutes later, he called to inform that his car was not starting, so he wouldn’t be able to come.

Funny reason… but I have heard it before from other Uber (and Ola) drivers, so looks like it is a common problem in Bengaluru. Maybe it is a hangover from the days of the auto rickshaw when they were used to saying “Baridilla” in Kannada language (meaning “Will not go”). Frustrated, I promptly went ahead to cancel the ride. The reason for cancellation was not in the menu so I chose “canceling for some other reason”.

Lo and behold, I was promptly charged Rs. 50 for a trip that I was forced to cancel. I fired up the app for Ola, their cab showed up 2 minutes sooner than notified, and they gave me a free upgrade. Take that, Uber! (Ola is Uber’s competitor in India, interestingly they both have a common investor, but again, that is a conversation for a different post)

Feedback to Uber: If car not starting is a common problem, Uber should add it as one of the reasons for cancellation! And educate the customer that if the driver does not call in 5 minutes, they should call the driver instead!

Your payment is due, please pay before booking

Like many riders who believe in the convenience of credit cards (and the hope to earn more reward points), I prefer to pay by credit card. For the last four or five rides, the payment did not go through int he first attempt. The average was two attempts to make a payment. Once, I paid through cash. The net result: the next time I had to book a ride, I got an alert mentioning that my payment was outstanding. An email to the customer support solved the matter, but the process added 30 minutes to my overall booking experience- of course, peak hour timing had started by then, and I had to select a more expensive car type (sedan) instead of Ubergo (hatchback). Yay! My ride just cost me more money!

Customer Service : need Help!

So I promptly tweeted to their customer service, who replied that I should contact their customer support email address. Here is where the real fun begins. I accidentally sent them of the email from my other email address, which is not registered with Uber’s system. (yes, my mistake) They wrote back saying that I am not a registered user, yada yada…

So I sent them an email with screenshots and the chronology of incident, and a full 72 hours after the incident, the issue remains unresolved. And for the emails sent from my other email address: they sent me a mail asking me to rate their service.

Lessons Learnt

Working in a system that depends on moving parts that are essentially broken can essentially mean that a service or a system that works in one geography or market may not work in others.

Payment processing was an issue for the longest time. I see that they are using a different provider now- MobiKwik- so lets see how that will work. I still had to try two times with them to make the payment.

Drivers refusing to honor the trip: this remains a bigger challenge, not sure what is the recourse for this ailment. There is supposed to be a legal protection mechanism in place in India for the passengers in India if the driver of an auto rickshaw refuses to ferry them. every so often, there are news stories on this in the newspapers. Does that extend to taxi aggregators also? Let us say.. I plan to test the waters.

And as far as Uber Bengaluru’s customer service is concerned: responding to tweets and emails is appreciated, but it is more important to resolve the underlying issue that triggered the tweet and the email in the first place.

Creator- Gaatha Story- Podcast of Children's Stories. Cofounder Kamakshi Media and Author. Husband, dog lover. Country Manager for FSC, India.

Creator- Gaatha Story- Podcast of Children's Stories. Cofounder Kamakshi Media and Author. Husband, dog lover. Country Manager for FSC, India.