Uber has reduced all the friction. What was a tedious process before is a seamless, pleasurable interaction. The most important thing Uber provides its users is that frictionless experience. The fact that it’s a black car means it’s generally an aesthetically nicer experience (and with SF Taxis, that can make a big difference), but that’s a small detail compared to the other benefits of using the service.
So it’s clear that what I truly value about Uber isn’t the fancy, it’s the easy. It’s knowing that when I order a car, someone will pick me up. I dont even care about the payment stuff. I really just care about the reliability of the ride.
You don’t get this reliability with cabs in San Francisco, which is why Uber is such a hit here. But that doesn’t mean I want cabs to go away and be replaced with higher priced town cars. I love disruption, but I dont want the existing system replaced. I want it improved.
It’s because of this that I’ve been excited for apps like Cabulous and Hailo to exist. But while these apps have the potential to make a big impact, they haven’t delivered yet. They still haven’t nailed the “guarantees someone will actually pick you up” aspect. And that’s all I really care about.
So, this is why I’m really excited to hear about Uber getting into the taxi business. If they’re app, rating system, and user base can quickly create a community of reliable cabs, then I dont think I’d ever use another taxi app again. I can’t wait for it to come to SF.
Uber is awesome. My wife and I have been happy customers for almost 2 years. It’s been a joy to use.
Last night, however, we experienced our first really negative experience with Uber when we got a ride home from a friend’s house. We could have walked, as it’s only about a mile, but it was late and we were tired. Normally the price would have been $15. Last night, for our 2 minute and 16 second ride, we paid $75. We were shocked.
It was New Years Eve, so Uber had variable pricing in effect (which they unfortunately call “Surge” pricing). Historically on these nights, Ubers cost about 2x more than normal. Last night, however, they tried something new. They used full variable pricing, where throughout the night, prices fluctuated freely. There wasn’t a cap.
When variable pricing is in effect, this screen pops up after you request a car explaining that prices will be higher. (source: Uber)
We weren’t the only ones shocked at the price of our ride. There are tons of people reporting surprise on Twitter. Here are some:
While I’m glad I’m home safely, the $107 charge for my @Uber to drive 1.5 miles last night seems insanely excessive. :(
So what happened? Is Uber really evil? No. Are all these people crazy? No. Is Uber to blame. Partially.
When you read into a lot of the comments, people aren’t actually pissed that Uber is charging more. Most understand the need for variable pricing. They are pissed that it wasn’t clear how much the ride would cost.
This actually is good for Uber. It means that if they improve their messaging, this problem should go away.
In my opinion, the root of the problem is 100% the screen that attempts to explain the pricing. Although technically it does show the rate, it’s not clear enough to the user about what’s really happening. Here are the two biggest issues:
The most crucial piece of information, the rate increase, is buried in a sentence, making screen requires more than a glance to get the important information. It’s hard to expect this from your users when most are probably tired and/or drunk.
The rate isn’t relatable to most users. “6.25x” is kind of arbitrary without some kind of data point about what that might mean in actual pricing.
I decided that instead of bitching about my insanely expensive ride, I’d try to be productive and show an example of how I’d redesign the screen. The main goals are:
Hit the user over the head with the higher rate by making it big and bold.
Relate to them about what the rate really means by putting an actual dollar amount on the screen. Since Uber has a minimum ride price, I used that. This way, the user knows that they’re going to have to pay at least that much.
Make the user click a button that reconfirms the rate.
Here’s the very rough mockup:
Will moving the design this direction completely erase all confusion. No. That’s impossible. But I think this makes things a LOT clearer and I guarantee that Uber would see significantly less complaints.
UPDATE: Someone pointed out that we should have known our $15 ride would cost $75 when we saw the 5x. What happened was, we called an Uber at 2.5x and there was an issue. Minutes later, we called another, but because we had just called one, we didn’t read the paragraph again, assuming it was still 2.5x. But it had jumped to 5x. That was our fault, but if the screen was designed to make the rate stand out, we would have seen the change.
We recently moved to San Francisco’s Mission District and found it’s much harder to find a cab in this city than in Chicago. That led to me spending a lot of time over the past two months testing three products that claim to make getting around town a lot easier.
It’s been really fascinating and while I expected to have a clear favorite by the end, it turns out they are all useful for different things. And the real killer feature goes far beyond their technology.
Taxi Magic I tested Taxi Magic for two things: getting a cab right away and scheduling a cab for later. While the iPhone app made on-demand ordering easy, I found that I never really knew how long the cab would take, where it was, or sometimes if my request had even gone through. So I didn’t really like the app for that. I used their site to schedule a cab ahead of time and that process was seamless. The cabs arrived almost to the minute and the messaging around the cabs was perfect. A huge bonus was the app worked in every city I tried it in.
Cabulous At first, Cabulous didn’t really work for me. Every time I opened it and tried to “hail” a cab, my request was denied. Frustration. However, more recently it’s been phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal. One night this week we stood on a street corner waiting for a cab for 10 minutes with no luck. I opened Cabulous, saw one in the area, hailed it, and it was there within 45 seconds. Yes, 45 seconds. And the on-screen GPS shows where your cab is all the time, which is really really useful (a feature that TaxiMagic doesn’t, and won’t have. In my opinion, it’s crucial and helps me understand when the cab will actually arrive. I’ve used it a few times now and every time it’s been the best experience I’ve ever had to get a cab right away. Biggest problem: it’s only in San Francisco right now.
Ubercab Ubercab is basically Cabulous but kicked up several notches in classiness and luxury. It’s offering is on-demand black car service. You pop open the app, see if there’s a black car close, reserve it, and they’re there within 5-15 minutes. You can also track where it is on your screen. You pre-load your credit card into the app, so when the car arrives, you simply get in, comfortably sit in style and luxury, and when you arrive, step out. The payment is done automatically. It’s really an amazing experience not to have to deal with payment or tip. You feel special, and I’m sure that’ll hit a nerve for most people using it. Plus, you can rate the driver (and they can rate you) so the quality of the community will stay strong. The cost is a bit prohibitive for general use, as it’s about 2-3x the cost of a normal cab. But it’s far less expensive than typical black car service. It’s perfect for special occasions, impressing clients, or wanting to look and feel like a big shot in front of your friends and date.
How I’ll Use Them So, I’ll continue to use TaxiMagic to schedule pickups ahead of time, Cabulous to get a cab right away, and Ubercab on special occasions. Three awesome, awesome apps.
The Killer Feature is not Technical There is one major thing that gets me excited about Cabulous and Ubercab: the sense of community I feel will grow over time. These apps allow you to “favorite” drivers, which means the next time I pull up the app, I’ll be more likely to select someone I know. Whether it’s a black car or a cab, in the near future, we’ll get to know these drivers more and more. I think that’s going to be a major change in how we perceive and appreciate local transportation. Instead of “let’s get a cab/car” it’ll be “let’s call Rico”, who happens to be the driver who took me to the airport this morning (one of the nicest drivers I’ve ever talked to). Honestly, the next time I open Cabulous, if he’s working, I’ll hail him over someone who might be closer.
It’s early days for this whole concept, but I’m REALLY excited about the headway these companies are making. Anything to make the impersonal and unreliable taxi experience more personal and convenient is a good thing for everyone.