GET HIGHER RATINGS (AND MAYBE EVEN A CASH TIP).
KNOW WHO YOUR PAX ARE. BE ENGAGING YET COURTEOUS.
The more engaging the driver is, the more comfortable the PAX will be. And the more inclined they’ll be to award a higher rating or give a cash tip.
There’s much to be said about the broad variety of personalities we see in our cars, sometimes 20 or 30 a day, depending on your number of trips and how many are in your car at any given moment. So it becomes important to know exactly who your PAX are so you can effectively engage them.
First though, it's critical that you're immediately able to identify whether your PAX wants conversation. There's nothing worse than an intrusive driver blabbing away when the PAX just wants to text, email, talk on their phone, sleep or just stare at the passing scenery. Watch for the signals at the start of the ride. Blab at your peril unless you know for sure.
My day job is in advertising and marketing and until that business comes back to where it was for me, I'm Ubering until I can't. So my perspective here is purely from a marketing standpoint.
I drive in northern New Jersey which in many cases means that I am a second class citizen against the NYC UberX with his vaunted TLC credentials and higher rates. He can pick up here, but I can't pick up there. Man's inhumanity to man. But that's another article.
Why is lusting for those high ratings critical? For starters, you need to keep those deactivation buzzards circling above us from pouncing once they smell red meat (low ratings/too many cancellations).
In that day job experience as a marketing professional, identifying demographic groups is an important step in engaging them effectively. Here's the "formula" that I use. But feel free to use your own.
1-Affluent Pax. This affluent demo is well-versed in taking limos, black cars, cabs and even using private chauffeurs. They have a fixed, embedded perception of how their paid car experience should play out. The fact that we're only UBER/Lyft does not compute for them except that they'll notice if rideshare drivers give them short shrift. If, for one example, they want multiple stops with wait time in between, then that's what's clearly expected without hesitation by us--even though we earn 15- cents a minute for wait time. This demo my be an A-type personality and is least likely to converse with drivers, albeit unintentionally, because we may be perceived as an “invisible” service workers, like the take-out food delivery guy. I make absolutely sure I treat this PAX like the nobility that think they are and I MIGHT get a tip. I also run around the car to open the door and/or trunk for them. They know this dance very well and enjoy playing their pampered part. They’re better than we are, so get over it. Haha.
2-The Yuppie or Millennial is seen in large, concentrated numbers in, for example, Hoboken NJ, where I often find myself. These "kids"— I have two their age and I love them —typically come from an enabling background that has allowed them to succeed early on, with little exposure to personal hardships or outright failure (some, not all). They definitely feel "entitled" based on their sterling silver educations and the hard work that they've had to invest to make it to yuppieville. These kids can be, at the same time, wholesome or inclined to debauchery based on their age and sophistication. They may not handle liquor well. They love to talk about themselves, their friends and their work but can be good listeners despite this. Although they have considerable confidence in their career paths, their personal lives tend to be mired in self-doubt. They work hard as hell but are uncomfortable about looking too far ahead. I am sometimes shocked about how easily they, as well as other demos, slip into the Uber-Car-as-a-confessional and talk about their most intimate thoughts. They love their Uber drivers and are curious to know about “what’s in it for us.” Many are visibly shaken when they learn that Uber Corporate views the driver corps as expendable.
3- The moms and dads; seniors who are in-or outbound from seeing their grown, professional kids. These affluent parents are desperate to learn more about their kids' lives and those of their friends. They travel locally or from many overseas destinations for this visit. They are very receptive to conversation, but you need to know that they're typically riding on their kids’ accounts. While many appear affluent and likely have smart phones, they’re not heavy users for booking rides. Rather, they rely on conventional means to get a rides, like calling ahead to a black car company for reservations. The kids introduce them to Uber by pushing the considerable cost savings. As a class, the parents really appreciate any courtesies that can be extended. And as many remain tethered to the old values, they're more inclined to tip generously. After briefing them on the ratings system, I ask them to have their kids rate me favorably when it's convenient.
4. Airport or train station PAX. Common only in the fact that they're coming through one transport mode and immediately going to another. This is a tired PAX who may have little horsepower left to exchange pleasantries with the driver. There's not much more draining today than traveling via numerous modes of transportation to get to your final destination. Here, you need to impart a calming effect on the PAX so that their ride in your car is the better of the other experiences. I let them know that I "feel their pain.” They may be in the car with you for a while. I use light, soft jazz as background music and many have commented at how relaxed they feel.
5. The blue collar PAX group is very broad. Traditional working class PAX, made up of both American and immigrant workers are found at any time of the day or night. Many do not have 9 to 5 jobs. They’re shift workers in food service, health care, retail, factory and industrial. Many don’t speak English and are “put in the car” via an English-speaking relative’s account. They are very appreciative although rarely able to help with directions as you near the final destination. But what stuns me about this group is that they tend to tip more often than others. Go figure.
Space doesn’t allow a more in-depth discussion or to add more groups to this. That may come in a later article.
Meanwhile, I’ll share with you my UPDATE ON TIPPING.
Given the recent rate discounts that Uber has skimmed from the drivers' income and passed along to the PAX, the discussion of tipping in the Uber App has become increasingly urgent. (I’d say that it’s widely agreed by all in the “driver press” that the January rate decrease of 15% hasn’t been more profitable for the drivers. The numbers don’t bear that out. It’s been worse).
So I came up with a sign to help “educate” the PAX about Uber’s (I'm convinced) intentionally foggy non-tipping policy. Every one of my PAX who's questioned the tipping policy with me, were convinced that the tip was included. Normally, I might get 2 or 3 small cash tips in 5 days of driving 4- hour part time shifts. With the below 5” x 4” sign taped onto the back of both front headrests, things have changed dramatically. Last week (the first week I had them up), I got tips in 2 out of every three rides. Of course many ignored them, especially the affluent. But others were generous. For around town rides, I’d get $2 or $3 tips. On one of those ridiculous minimum $3.20 rides, I got a $5 tip! On another ride from a woman who identified herself as a “cleaning woman” who “ cleans up to 4 houses per day…” I got a $10 tip. Now THAT'S UBERING.
Here’s the sign that I wrote and designed, you have my permission to use it. It's JPG, you might be able to just print it out.
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