A pair of articles released by BuzzFeed have shaken things up in the Uber world. They're spreading like wildfire. The CSRs who participated were right in the things they said but unfortunately there's been some spinning of the facts and I'd like to address these articles based on my own experiences and knowledge as a former CSR. Just to note, I didn't contribute to either of them.
Is this article an accurate accounting of how Uber CSRs were treated? Abso-freaking-lutely. It's actually 100% spot on. The part that stands out the most to me is the inappropriate way sensitive issues are handled by the overseas agents. This is where Uber needs to shine, show sensitivity and urgency and sadly there are far too many failures in this area. Instead of immediately escalating, responses intended for minor incidents are sent out. I can only imagine how this feels to the rider - a slap in the face. They sometimes have the opposite issue, a non-urgent issue getting escalated because the agent misunderstood the message due to the language barrier. This would take up time with the incident response team who would have to review it and kick it back to the agent. Hey Manila: the phrase "serial killer" showing up in a message doesn't mean it's an urgent issue. It just means the rider was impressed by the driver's knowledge of past serial killers. It was a compliment.
In Uber's response to this article, there are so many lies and a lot of spinning! But the ex-Uber CSRs responded back with truth in their comments to the article. Was there an offer on the table to work in one of the Centers of Excellence? Yes, there was, but $1500 for moving expenses in order to work a temporary, contract job that actually had LOWER pay was just silly. Some who live close to offices made the transition and as far as I know, they're doing well. However, this just wasn't feasible for a majority of the remote CSRs.
Yes, we did start this job with a six month contract. However, we were highly praised by our managers for the excellent work we did, and those who were switched from Uber to ZeroChaos got one year contracts. We were also told that having ZeroChaos handle the HR side of things would make it easy for promotions and raises to take place in the future. Everything pointed towards a more permanent position. Did those promotions or raises happen? No, not even when we were trained on tasks that were much more difficult and added phone calls to our responsibilities.
As for the claims that a remote workforce wasn't best for the drivers and riders? I'm going to call BS on that, big time. Many companies manage with an at home workforce doing everything from simple customer service to managing their own team and quality assurance. Uber is looking for an excuse to justify the knee-jerk decision they made when they saw how much it cost to have an onshore, amazing support team who were being paid well. In the screenshots included in Buzzfeed's article, you can see the quality you get from people who are being paid 25% of what we were. In the end, we were disposed of because we were too expensive.
Is this article an accurate glimpse into Uber sex assault complaints? The short answer is - not really. The screenshots provided are from Uber's ticket system and I don't doubt the number of tickets with the words rape or sexual assault in them are accurate. Unfortunately, they've been taken slightly out of context. I'll never be the first to champion Uber but this just can't slide. I feel the need to speak up and sort things out.
What's most accurate is the information regarding how they handle accusations of drivers operating under the influence. Media image is everything to Uber so if there's a chance of an incident garnering attention, suddenly it's Defcon 5 and there will be no mercy shown. Otherwise, they stick to the procedure of issuing a warning unless there's already been a previous complaint of the same nature. Without the threat of a media circus or law enforcement getting involved, a driver will get one warning then will be permanently deactivated if another similar report is made. In the spotlight they're tough on incidents. Behind closed doors, things are a little more lax.
What about the screenshots showing thousands of tickets with the words rape or sexual assault in them? Well, Uber got the reasons right this time, with the small exception that they've already clarified with the media. Since I no longer have access to the system, this is just an estimate but I'd say at least half of the tickets are responses to reports of Uber sexual assaults in the media. Every single time, we would receive many tickets from concerned persons stating their opinion and questioning their own safety. It's also pretty common for riders to use "rape" as hyperbole, especially when there's surge rates or cleaning fees involved.
If you'll note, a handful of those tickets shown in the screenshots are actually driver complaints against riders. Except for a very few cases, crimes committed against drivers go largely unnoticed in the media. Not only do passengers assault the drivers themselves, they vandalize their vehicles and steal their personal items. Uber's stance on these incidents? They'll ban the rider but no help is given to the driver, not even to charge riders and reimburse the driver for vehicle damage. I find this focus on rider issues while ignoring what happens to drivers a disturbing trend.
So once again we see Uber scrambling to rescue their image, twisting true information and trying to correct things that have been twisted by the media. Either way, it's always a good idea to take what they say with a grain of salt and look for the real story behind the spin.
Most of you are probably aware of cleaning fees and the basics of how to request one. However, it's extremely difficult to get comprehensive information about them in one place. Most find out the nitty gritty details after a cleaning fee has already happened and aren't getting their fee because of something small. I've written this comprehensive guide to help you dot your i's and cross your t's so you can get your cleaning fees.
What can be reimbursed?
Any kind of bodily fluids (vomit, urine, blood, etc) are a no-brainer. We used to automatically give $200 but lately we have some leeway so you may receive less than that if it's a particularly small mess. Where things get a little gray are messes like sand, dirt, water, glitter, trash, food debris, etc. In those cases we use our own discretion and whether you get a cleaning fee and how much depends on our judgment.
Support will almost never give a cleaning fee for water unless it's very extensive; meaning completely soaked and on more than one seat. This isn't something we agree with but management has said that drivers are expected to be prepared to carry wet passengers, like those who are coming from a pool or the beach. Dirt, sand or mud are expected on your floors/floor mats but if the amount requires more than basic cleaning and keeps you offline for an extended amount of time, you'll receive something. Small amounts of dirt or other substances, crumbs, or trash left behind won't be reimbursed.
What do you need to provide?
Well, it's pretty basic. We need to know what happened, we need clear pictures of the mess, and we need to know what trip it is within 48 hours. As long as the information is sent in that time, you will be fine even if we might not respond within that time frame. The pictures need to be clear and well-lit because blurry or dark pictures are hard to guage. They also need to show the entire mess and we like to have 2-3 of them. What you show us is what you get reimbursed for, no exceptions. If you have no pictures, you will not be reimbursed. End of story. No, we will not ask the rider about it. Also if you don't know which trip it took place on (hey, it happens) then we can't reimburse you. We can't just make a guess about who to charge.
How much will you get?
Support has somewhat of a set scale for how much is reimbursed for each type of mess but as always with cleaning fees, we have wiggle room to make judgment calls. However, it basically goes like this:
- $25: This amount is very new. It's for small messes such as food that don't warrant a $50 but it's beyond a normal, every day mess.
- $50: Vomit on the outside of the vehicle, smaller messes or messes on easy to clean surfaces
- $100: Larger messes or those that are on hard to clean surfaces, small bodily fluid messes
- $200: This is mainly reserved for bodily fluid messes on the inside of the vehicle. Vomit is the most common.
Sometimes you'll get an odd amount (like $53) but it's not policy.
What if the cleaning fee is declined?
As I mentioned above, cleaning fees can be declined for a few different reasons. The main one being that there's no picture or the picture wasn't submitted within 48 hours of the trip. If you have no picture, we cannot give you a cleaning fee and a receipt won't help you. We also cannot contact a rider to get their story. Pictures required, period. I can't stress that enough. We'll also decline if it isn't a large enough mess to warrant a fee. This can be debated and sometimes we can be convinced if you can give a good argument but your best bet will usually be to go into the partner support center.
Now For An Unpleasant Subject
I have to bring this up because it does happen. Please don't fake the cleaning fees. Don't use pictures from Google because we can reverse image search and find them. Don't smear some substance on your car and claim it's vomit. You might be able to succeed but after a certain number of disputes from riders, we will stop honoring your cleaning fee requests. Even if they're legitimate, we won't even consider paying out. Don't do it, it's not worth it.
A Word About Damage Fees
Sadly, damage fees are very simple nowadays. We require pictures of the damage, the trip ID, and once we have those we need a written estimate within 5 business days. However, unless the rider agrees to pay we cannot pay you. They can admit they did it and still refuse to pay and we can't charge them. If we reach out to them and they don't respond to us, we can't charge them. Your only recourse if the damage fee is declined is to file a claim and deal with the $1,000 deductible. Why this is different from cleaning fees, we do not know and management isn't giving us any clues other than it's because damage fees generate so much negative social media attention. Sorry.
Feel free to ask questions in the comments below or by sending me a private message. Drive safe!
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Working with Uber support can be frustrating and time consuming at the best of times. It's possible that you're completely cut off from driving or you've lost some money somewhere in the great abyss that is Uber. Going back and forth via email over and over, sometimes for days, doesn't help these situations. I've put together some tips and also tried to clarify some policies so that you can get issues resolved faster.
Writing Your Message
Writing a detailed message is the first thing you can do to help speed up the process. If you realize a problem right away and can use the in-app support once the ride ends, please do. In-app support provides the information that we need, including the trip ID, and in a lot of cases we can fix it right away without any back and forth. If you aren't using in-app support, please try to write in from the email address that's associated with your partner account. The most common reason we can't resolve the issue on the first response is if we can't find the right account. Including your mobile number also helps greatly. Secondly, please include the trip ID or the approximate date and time of the ride, rider's first name (if you remember it), or even the amount of the fare. Giving us the pickup and drop off locations can help pin down which ride you're asking about but only in conjunction with other pieces of information. Looking through every recent trip to find one that matches the pickup and drop off is like finding a needle in a hay stack. To save time, we'll just write back asking for more information.
An Uber CSR appreciates nothing more than a friendly driver who keeps things professional. We know that you're frustrated and you're fighting for your livelihood, we get it. Please try to keep your tone professional, and the CSR will bend over backwards for you. I know that you may be dealing with one of the overseas agents but the principle is the same. A respectful tone will get you far because we are “yelled” at and called names so often. It might be tempting to send in multiple emails if you don't get a response but it will not help your case at all. You may end up receiving three or four different responses, most of which may be completely different and/or incorrect. We CSRs are supposed to respond to one then close the duplicates but even the US agents will occasionally miss that it's a duplicate ticket.
There are some issues that MUST be reported within a certain time frame, usually within 48 hours, and generally these are issues where a rider is going to be charged more on top of the original fare. Mistimed trips are the most common since we do charge the rider if the trip is ended early, even though it may not be their fault. The key to getting the correct fare is keeping track of the time. Sending in only the pickup and drop off locations will get you the estimate amount, not a penny more. If there's traffic or an extra stop that add time, you won't get compensated for this unless you let us know the total time.
Cleaning and damage fees must also be reported within 48 hours. You must submit your report with pictures within that time frame or you won't be compensated, no matter how much you deserve it. Without pictures to prove it, we can't in good conscience charge a rider, and we also send them the pictures if they dispute the charge. Once you report a damage fee, you have five business days to follow up with either an estimate or receipt for the repair. In the meantime, we'll be in contact with the rider to get their side of the story. On a side note, some do try to send in pictures they've gotten from the internet but please don't. Google's reverse image search catches these easily (I've caught a couple myself) and driver ops severely frowns on cleaning fee fraud.
The First Response
Yes, we used canned answers. This helps keep response times shorter since we don't have to hand type every single response, some of which can be very long if we're explaining a process or policy. Sometimes one of these wrong responses has the answer you're looking for but it's buried under some other information that isn't quite relevant so reading the entire message will help. Sadly, you may receive a pre-written response that has absolutely nothing to do with your question. When you respond to this, your best bet is to state your question again rather than saying that's not what you're asking. This is extra work but overseas agents have a tendency to send out the same macro over and over unless you clarify what you need.
What to do if Uber is Calling You
Do you have a voice mail from Uber on your phone? This means there's been a more serious report from a rider or they can't reach you within 24 hours in regards to their lost item. In the case of lost items, we just want to know whether you have the item or not, we won't argue or try to shake you down. We'll call twice and follow up via email after each call but if we don't hear from you after 48 hours, you will be waitlisted until we hear from you. This is the least serious issue we'll call you about.
The other issues that will get you a phone call are accepting cash, wrong vehicle/license plate/driver, guest in your vehicle, and street hails. It doesn't always warrant a phone call but if someone reports that the wrong rider was picked up and it's a high fare, we'll call to find out what may have happened. If we receive a report of you picking up street hails, you'll be waitlisted immediately and the sooner you can get in contact, the better. For the other issues, one of two things will happen if we don't hear back. Either you will be waitlisted or a decision will be made that isn't in your favor, such as cash exchanges. If we don't hear from you, you may well lose that fare.
A common complaint I see about Uber support is not receiving a response for a very long time. In 90% of cases this will be because the issue has been escalated to driver ops. Document issues, not receiving your deposit, and push back are the main reasons your ticket will be escalated. You can use this to your advantage sometimes – if you feel the CSR isn't understanding your issue, reply until they escalate. Oddly enough, the best gauge of a CSR's skill is to look at how much push back they get from the rider or driver.
I know that even if you do follow these tips you may not get the level and quality of support that you're looking for and, quite frankly, deserve. There is no Uber without the drivers. However, I hope this will help your support interactions go more smoothly.
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