May 26, 2018

We’re In It Together: Providing An Excellent Driving Experience

We're in it together

Today we have a guest post from Rick S. of Baltimore, MD. Rick has a great attitude toward driving, and he shares his thoughts on making driving a pleasant experience for everyone, including other drivers.

In the article below, Rick shares why rideshare driving is more than just one driver’s individual experience – it’s the sum of all drivers’ experiences. If you’re wondering why you received a bad rating or no tip from a passenger, Rick reminds us that other drivers also play a part in making ridesharing positive for passengers. Rick explains why multiple positive interactions for riders is important, and how providing the best experience you can makes it better for all drivers.

Have you ever thought about how rideshare driving is more than the sum of its parts (aka drivers)? Have you ever considered how other drivers’ interactions with passengers could affect your interactions with passengers? The driving experience is somewhat like selling life insurance (which I did years ago). Here’s an illustration:

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We (the insurance salespeople) used to break down costs to the potential buyer to make him/her aware of how little the investment was. For instance, “Do you know the ramifications of buying that $5 cheeseburger over 30 years?” It may sound ridiculous, but breaking it down into $5 worked to convince people that, over time, the investment was worth it. It’s an illustration of instant gratification versus investing in the future.

Uber driving is like that $5 cheeseburger with its instant gratification. If I don’t have a clean car, or if I don’t maneuver right on a trip, I get a bad mark (in the form of ratings from passengers). Usually, I might get a little upset, but I keep moving forward.

But what if Larry (another driver) slips up a little bit, or Crystal is rude to a rider, or John is late to picking up someone or Reggie cancels a trip at the Airport because he saw he was making only $10 and not $35 on a trip? Those are four instances either in the same day or to the same rider over 30 days. The rider gets irate and stops using rideshare. That’s not good.

It Only Takes Four Negative Experiences to Make a Customer Irate and Spread the (Negative) Word

Actually, it can take only one instance. People relate bad things a lot more readily than they share good experiences. The gossip spreads. People get disenchanted. And then they walk away.

I drove with Lyft and Uber at one time. One day, my Lyft rating was at 4.88. A week later I was 4.79. That was demoralizing. That affected my confidence when talking to passengers. I had to push myself to get out of that zone and get back to being positive and confident as a driver. But what about good experiences? We don’t hear so much about those. That’s because it’s not controversial or as newsworthy, except if you perform with excellence.

Good experiences are like that $5 cheeseburger I talked about and investing the money over time. You don’t think about the money for awhile, but you find out it accumulated interest. You’re coming to a realization that the work you did in investing (by attending to your passengers, providing a great experience and being confident) is paying off.

So it is with investing in your driving career with Uber. Suppose my engaging personality rubs off well on people? Suppose driver Larry’s Cadillac gives a good impression along with the music he plays on Pandora? Imagine Crystal’s hospitality rubs off well on people. What if John’s continual kindness alters the course of peoples’ days? Suppose Reggie’s professionalism made people feel appreciated? This is figuratively taking that $5 you would have spent on that cheeseburger and investing in your business.

Intangible Investing in Yourself & Your Business Pays Off

Three good experiences made a deep impression on me that I’d like to share:

1) Gambling Night

I picked up a rider at Horseshoe Casino in downtown Baltimore at 10:15 pm on Monday, October 30, 2017. The surge was at 2.4x. I took this guy to Georgetown in Washington, DC (roughly a 53 mile ride!) Our conversation was stellar. We really hit it off. I was just being myself.

I gasped a little when I saw my commission posted. It was $120.26. Minutes later, I saw a tip of $10.00. I knew, then, that this rider really enjoyed our company. I’m sure he spread the word about me, too. I made $310 on 10 trips on a Monday evening. It was my best Monday ever. That trip played an important part in accumulating my earnings.

2) The $500 Tip

I picked up a guy at 12:20 am Christmas morning. The pickup spot was difficult to find, but I had been in his neighborhood three times before.

Related: How to Become a Great Navigator and Why it Matters

I called and got directed through the last two blocks. I found out I had to take him from the middle of Baltimore City to Carroll County, 35 miles away.

It turned out that this guy lost his parents in a car crash around December 1. He spent Christmas Eve at their gravesite, trying to cope with the awful pain. I used to care for families in the Church. I took time to friend him and comfort him, keeping the atmosphere very light. I believe I helped him a lot.

Then he asked me to stop at an ATM just five miles from our destination. He came back with a wad of $20 bills, totalling $500, and he handed it to me. I was overwhelmed. I asked him why he did it. His answer was telling. He told me that his pickup location was difficult to find, and two drivers before me had arrived but, instead of looking for him, parked, collected their cancellation fee and moved on.

The young man appreciated I had taken the time to find him, as he was spending time with his young family that Christmas morning. I made $35 on the trip, $500 on the tip and $664 for the night, all because of a little perseverance. This is a case of one good experience maybe cancelling out two bad experiences.

However, it’ll be hard to forget the two bad experiences if they continue through the poor performance of other drivers. We all have to watch the withdrawals we take from others’ “emotional bank accounts.”

3) Compliments

Not all positive experiences relate to tips. I received 298 written compliments and 357 badges in the time I have been an Uber driver. I have been driving for 2-1/2 years and have taken 9,000 trips. Some of my compliments came because I sang Sinatra in my car! Okay, there’s no guarantee people will want you to sing in the car – don’t forget you have to “read the room”.

Here are three short compliments I received in my car in late February and early March, “Awesome personality”, “Great voice” and “Very nice ride”. Then my income soared from $1,100 per week to $1,200 a week in May. My confidence increased and so did the quality of the compliments I received, “Very intelligent conversation and one of the most entertaining people I met, period. Thanks again!”, “Thank you for the amazing advice,” and “Probably the nicest guy I ever met”.

What would compliments like that do for your confidence? And can you imagine the good head start your trips would have if they had such a good experience in my car or another driver’s car?

Think about all these experiences from the passenger’s point of view. First, the gambling night. If your passenger is up for it, like mine was, what harm is it for you to chat with him and be pleasant? Second, the $500 tip incident. This young man expected to be passed by because he already had been by other drivers. By showing up, being there, and listening to him, I made a terrible time slightly better. Finally, the compliments. Again, being yourself and “reading the car” goes a long way to making it a pleasant experience for your passengers.

It doesn’t take extra time to be smile and be friendly. It doesn’t take extra time to evaluate your passenger and follow his/her lead on if they want to talk or not. By providing them a good, positive experience, you’ve just shown passengers that ridesharing is a good thing. The next time they request a ride, they might get you, and because I gave them great service, they’ll be more inclined to be in a positive, receptive mood. Conversely, if I was combative or ignored them, do you think they’ll climb into your car expecting great service? Not likely.

It Takes 11 Good Experiences to Dispel One Bad Experience

Sales Trainer Tom Hopkins said it takes 11 good experiences to dispel one bad experience. If that’s indeed true, what can we do about it? Recently, I read the book, “Create the Demand” by Joel Freeman. He shared all these ways to build a market for products and services. He was a successful businessman, and he had once worked for the Washington Wizards. It was interesting and made me think of ways to apply it to rideshare driving.

How can we, as drivers, create the demand? If a multitude of us give excellent service, do the basics, follow proper courtesies and ethics, follow a sound plan to make money and carry through with it, we are creating the demand. But wait! We are only creating the demand if we are cognizant of our fellow drivers and how our performance affects them, too.

Uber handles the administration through the app and support. The drivers are the managers and primary contact with the customer. The riders are the most important cog. They generate the revenue.

We create the demand through our excellence. As we master each part of our business, we improve our service. And then we attract more customers.

Suppose every day is better because we were better? Then our work pays dividends. What if you made $25 or $50 more a day because of your excellence? It is possible, but it is even more possible when we think about how together, we achieve more.

Let’s band together and be a team of excellence, having each other’s back and moving forward. It will pay dividends. Who’s in?

Richard Szalecki (the z is silent but he is not!) has 9,000 lifetime trips between Uber and Lyft, and a 4.89 rating with Uber. He trains new drivers to be more successful. Not only does Rick sing Sinatra in the car, he also gets paid $100 an hour to sing Sinatra in nursing homes. You can check out Rick’s singing on YouTube and ‘like’ his Facebook page, The Singing RideShare Driver, here.

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Phil Lancaster

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