Earlier this year Uber arrived in Chester, actually it kind of happened twice, as I understand it they got sent away with a flea in their ear the first time for flouting licensing regulations and then came back and actually started adhering to more of them. I’m not a fan of Uber at all, but on some level you have to admire what they have done. Which is to properly disrupt a settled industry. Until they came along there was no global brand in taxi travel, now you have the same name and the same app in most major cities around the world. So ultimate in consumer convenience, but what is the downside?
Well for a start the drivers. While I was driving private hire in this city for one of the large firms, I paid a fixed ‘settle’ to them every week, on average it was 13% of the money I took in the week. Uber works on the basis of charging drivers a fixed 25% on every job. So if you’re really only doing it part time, you might be better off as a driver, but as soon as you want to earn a decent living you are going to need to work longer hours.
What about the local economy?
The private hire firm I worked for was run by some local people, so the bosses live in the city, most of the staff in the office are from the city and the majority of the drivers are local, and all as far as I am aware pay their share of tax. Large corporations are known for not paying their share of tax, and aside from the drivers won’t need to employ anyone from your local city.
Is there a downside for customers?
As it happens yes! Have you heard of surge pricing? Basically the price changes depending on supply and demand. At times of heavy demand, charges of upto 37x the standard fare have been known in some places. As a consumer do you want to risk being charge through the nose, just because its ‘busy’? You won’t find your local private hire firms doing this, certainly not in Chester. And Hackney carriages (black cabs) have their pricing set by the local council so can’t charge extra.
How has this been able to happen?
The finger, as far as I am concerned is pointed directly at the industry itself, the taxi companies and drivers who have become complacent and not improved for years. Its n industry renowned for shoddy service, being rude to customers and lateness. Uber only have to be a bit more convenient and slightly better at customer service than everyone else and BINGO they are in.
What can be done?
Well the hackney drivers in London have fought back, they have an app Called Gett app(Click here for more info) where you can order a black cab in much the same way you do Uber, paying online and tracking its arrival etc. I can’t help but think if they had done this before Uber appeared it would have much more traction, but still its better than nothing.
Next the whole industry needs to change its attitude to customer service. We need to provide the kind of service that makes customers want to come back to us, from being polite on the phone, and taking down all the special instructions, being on time, every time to providing tracking of the vehicle for every customer (I know some firms do, but lots don’t/can’t). And build a base of loyal customers who don’t want to go anywhere else because we look after them so well. Uber is here to stay, but remember, while Tesco and the other supermarkets have decimated the Butchers, Bakers and Greengrocers, many of these still exist and make a good living, because they offer something the large supermarket can’t, really high quality personal service.