The past six months I have ventured into the world of being a driver for both Uber and Lyft. It has been a great experience, especially since it started out as a way to pay for commuter gas but in reality, it has taught me a lot about people, business and the value of networking.
Here are six things I have learned from being a Lyft and Uber driver the past six months.
(Disclaimer: As a driver (independent contractor) for these two brands, let it be known that I am not an employee of either brand nor are my remarks an official representation or position taken by either brand.)
Learn How to Read the Room
A general majority of riders choose the services over public transportation because they love the luxury of arriving from point A to point B in the least amount of time possible. Riders can be productive while someone else handles the difficult task of driving.
Other riders prefer a different experience. They want to have dialogue. They make small talk, they might have no personal interaction during their work day or home life and they see their driver as a potential for a new friend.
In the first 60 seconds, I try to determine which type of rider I have. The more I drive, the better I get at reading a room (or a car in this circumstance).
Think about the last ‘death by PowerPoint’ presentation you went to. First, were you paying attention or looking at something else? Or better yet, if you were the presenter, were all your attendees looking at their phones during your presentation? Lack of engagement is an invitation to test interaction. If someone immediately starts looking at their phone I ask “how was your day?” A one or two word response probably means they either don’t want to talk to you or they are doing something important on their phone.
I’ll leave you alone, note taken.
Avoid the Ten Percenters
Many of my encounters, especially the later the evening goes, involve anywhere from 2-6 passengers in the vehicle, depending on the car I drive. This is a great opportunity to see how different people of different backgrounds interact.
I would say about 90% of the rides are easy-going people who have made the right choice to not drink and drive. They use the service for a ride to or from a particular nightclub or event.
The other 10% are the rude, disrespectful to others and keep you watching the GPS as to how much longer this ride will be. As with any crowd, watch out for the 10%. They make or break you.
I’ve heard racial slurs, profanity and inappropriate comments between riders during a drive that made me cringe. The question often comes up “why would anyone speak to a friend that way?” I’ve come to realize and wish I could scream to the people in the car, “wake up buddy, these aren’t REAL friends. These are mere acquaintances that are wasting your time”.
“You are a product of your environment. So choose the environment that will best develop you towards your objective. Analyze your life in terms of its environment. Are the things around you helping you toward success – or are they holding you back?” Clement Stone
In a business setting, I would say it is the same. The majority of people know where they are going in life, they know what they are good at and they are great at making friends. The 10% crowd is there to clock-in, clock out, collect a paycheck and they couldn’t care less about how their decisions affect others. They tend to be selfish and look out for themselves. These are often called cancerous people in an organization and hopefully both your culture and hiring process weeds these types out.
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Some People Just Need a Friend
I think one of the next services that Uber or Lyft should come out with is a therapy session car ride where your driver is a therapist and you pay for both the ride and the session. At times, I feel like I am a family, financial, marriage, child, divorce or relationship therapist for some people. The best thing I can do for those people is listen and let them talk. (I’ve found it increases my tips when I do this as well.) Some people in the world just need a friend.
I think the business office is no different.
There are people in the office who are experiencing financial, family or life situations that they don’t share with everyone. My mom always taught me that each person is fighting a battle out there. It is important to never assume you know what is going on in someone’s life; even when you listen. Be attentive to others needs and treat them by the Golden Rule. We all want someone to care, sometimes as a driver that tends to fall on me.
Tell the Customer What They Want
Among the various hats a great driver wears while transporting passengers, especially out-of-staters, is an ability to be a tour guide. It is important to know where the top restaurants, bars, and events are located. It is also important to understand your rider’s likes, dislikes and needs to properly give them the experience they need. Be a listener, tell them what they want to hear and they will tip you accordingly.
“People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.” Steve Jobs
This goes along with reading the room but if you have listened carefully to what they like to do, you can determine whether a family restaurant or the club downtown might be what they are looking for. Be attentive and helpful so they can make an educated decision.
During a sales process, when we listen and truly hear the customers concerns, we can better assess what solution will best fit their needs. When we open up talking about our product and don’t assess needs first, we often make blanket statements that make us look foolish and lose a sale from the very first pitch. Assess needs, hear concerns and suggest solutions. Always help the customer feel like the ball is in their court – because it is.
“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”
– Sam Walton
Some Companies are for Millennials. Some are for the Rich and Famous
The stereotypical passengers for a Lyft ride and an Uber ride are extremely different. I enjoy driving for both, but if I had to choose the rider each time, I would more likely choose the Lyft riders over Uber riders.
Well there are a few factors.
Uber riders think they are rich and famous. It is a fair assumption, most riders use Uber for business travel and some are just rich (I’ve yet to meet anyone really famous via Uber). Uber has been in the industry longer and more people know about Uber rather than Lyft because of that. Uber is typically cheaper depending on the ride and amount of riders and they take a higher percentage from their drivers than Lyft does. However, the biggest drawback from Uber riders is they expect an Uber driver to do something magical. There is no real incentive for a driver to do so. Other than music selection, a bottle of water or a piece of gum, what more can a driver do to enhance the experience in 5-20 minutes. I’ve tried a lot of different things but in the end, it’s hard to make a huge impact.
Lyft riders on the other hand typically have heard about the brand through social media. Lyft seems to target a lot of customers through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other mediums that are popular with Millennials. Many use Lyft as a secondary resource when Uber is low in supply of drivers and demand is high, simply because they don’t want to pay a higher premium for a similar experience. Most Lyft drivers have a day job and use the service as a secondary income, which according to Lyft riders I have had, makes a difference in the overall experience. Lyft riders seem to be much more pleasant and rarely do I receive a Lyft rider who rides solo, which makes their experience comfortable for them as well.
(Great example of smart phone push notifications here to increase riders)
Uber drivers, at least speaking for myself, do not receive any amounts of tips and do not keep 100% of tips like Lyft drivers do. By doing that, you are guided that you get your customers from point A to point B and nothing else. There is nothing wrong with that. It is your job. As an Uber driver you are more in the mindset of get the job done rather than provide a valuable experience. The quicker you can get someone to their destination, the quicker you can get another ride. What you do to enhance the experience for your rider will do nothing for your personal bottom line other than a 5-star rating.
I believe Lyft saw that as an opportunity. I believe they saw it as a restaurant views waiters. If an employee works for two restaurants and one offers tips they keep and the other doesn’t, which company is the employee going to be more loyal to?
For me personally, it’s not about the money, the tips are minimal (usually from $1-$10). It’s more about the fact that Lyft cares about their drivers enough to let them keep tips on the service they provide. It shows how much they want riders and drivers to both have a valuable experience. I know that if I provide a valuable experience for Lyft passengers, I have the potential to be rewarded accordingly. That in and of itself is a great motivation to be a successful driver.
On my 100th drive with Lyft, I qualified myself for the coveted “glowstache”. One would ask, what does a mustache have to do with Lyft? Does anyone really care about that aspect, it’s a GLOWING PINK MUSTACHE for crying out loud. It’s a badge of honor, and I believe a trust mechanism for riders as well, that you have some experience. 100 rides took me around 4-5 months to achieve since I do it 10-15 hours a week max.
Now, Uber does have a glowing box that you can get, but either they don’t care to market it to me or it is so far out of my reach that I might never earn the glowing box. It requires way too much effort for a millennial like myself to research and find out how to earn the ‘badge of honor’. To Uber’s credit, they do offer incentives like oil changes or car repairs the more rides you have. You achieve different benefits as you hit milestones like 25, 50 or 100 rides. Again, it’s not well marketed for me so I won’t know what’s available until I get there.
The point is: Gamification matters. People want to advance levels, earn points or recognition dollars from their peers or whatever it might be. At our company, we reward each other through $10 a month in a ‘use it until you lose it’ type format. That seems little but it is a great way for people to receive validation that the extra mile things they are doing don’t go unnoticed by the company.
What has your experience been like with either Lyft or Uber? I always enjoy a great ride story, I’m sure they are out there. Let’s hear them.