I like Uber. A lot.
So naturally, I decided to do what any user experience researcher worth her salt would do and conducted a ride-along study with Uber customers in San Francisco (collecting data via my notepad and video camera, of course) as they took their Uber rides across town.
Although my sample size was small (5 individual men and women), a few patterns of observations presented themselves quite clearly. Here is what I found.
1. Uber customers don’t use Uber only.
Although the participants weren’t recruited based on their current ride services and preferences, all indicated that they also use other ride sharing and transportation services such as Lyft, Sidecar, and of course, regular old taxis. Transportation service customers have many choices, and as a result they select among the various services based on the type of experience they wish to have. Creating and delivering upon a well-defined user experience and brand is a real advantage for Uber.
2. People choose Uber when they want to remain private, professional, or keep to themselves during rides.
Lyft and the more sharing-oriented services can carry an expectation of socializing with the driver and others during the ride. Which can be nice, but not for everyone, all of the time. A couple of participants indicated that they prefer to use Uber over other services when they want to maintain a professional demeanor during a ride, or just keep to themselves and not feel the pressure to be social. This feeling of separation and privacy was especially important to my female participants. One participant articulated this need succinctly:
“I actually don’t want to interact with the drivers. [Uber] is a bit more professional. I can just get in the car get on my phone and no one is bothering me.” T.G., female Uber rider
3. The exact point of pick up is unknown. This can create confusion, and in some cases, missed rides.
4/5 participants experienced some lack of information about the exact point of pick up (which side of the street, for example) or worse, misinformation due to inexact GPS data. And it is difficult and dangerous to try to call or text the driver at the moment of pick up, because well, he is trying to drive (and park)!
4. Directions are frequently discussed and negotiated during the ride.
This seems like an obvious takeaway because the driver wants to give excellent service and please the rider, and naturally the rider wants to get to her specific destination quickly. But let’s consider the unique and overall experience of the service here, especially given insight #2. I can’t think of anyone better set up than Uber to leverage innovative technology and harness the power of ‘The Knowledge' in the form of data, to create a truly differentiated user experience that minimizes the amount of hashing out of directions during the ride.
5. Overall the app is clear and easy to use.
The ride-along participants all rated the app a 5.5 or higher in overall ease of use (out of a possible 7; 1 being the lowest ease of use, and 7 being the highest). Those are great ratings; especially considering that 2 out of the 5 participants had just used the service for the first time during the study. I observed very few errors when users interacted with the app, but did hear some questions and concerns about the lack of information available to them when they needed it – especially around surge pricing and price estimates.
Take us to the customer-centered future, Uber.
There's no question that services like Uber and Lyft are starting to transform how we interact with our cities, each other, and ultimately how we go about our lives. I plan to keep a close and interested eye on how Uber (specifically, as a category leader) integrates feedback from their users and drivers to improve and evolve their customer experience going forward.