RIP support@uber.com

Call me surprised, but Uber, has been doing its support via email for the past 7 years.   In fact, according to Uber, they have answered over 17 million support requests over that period – all via email.   Really…email.

If an Uber customer needed help over that period of time, they needed to leave the Uber app, open email, punch out a note, add a meaningful subject line, and send it away.   No context, no standardization, just a raw email.

So it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that, Uber recently announced it has evolved from this system to an In-App support model.    The company provided the following reasons:

  1. China and India prefer App-based messaging (BTW – so do we!)
  2. The volume of email is choking Uber’s help desk
  3. Uber needs to improve slow email response times

While I applaud Uber for this shift, I believe that the stated reasons are too internally focused and miss the real point of an outstanding customer service experience. Improved internal efficiency and an overall ability to do more work in less time is great, but what is in it for the customer?

Great customer support is about making the customer experience better while using less of THEIR time to do it.  If a company can do this and save money at the same time, it’s a double word score!   Helping a struggling customer is an opportunity for a company to be a hero or a goat!    If the motivation is to simply avoid or close a ticket, then the company is on an express trip to goat-dom.   A company neglects this point at their own peril.

There are many in the app world who act like support is a four letter word.   In fact, it seems that the entire tech industry has decided that customers are a necessary evil whose needs are below their own.  (Tried to find a phone number to talk to a human lately?)   To give Uber some credit, at least they are doing something.  Let’s break down the good and the bad.

On the good side, Uber makes customer Help obvious in their navigation.   After you select that option, you get to choose the area of need from some pretty simple choices.   So far, so good.

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Unfortunately, this is where it starts to get a little clunky.   Uber goes to a lot of trouble to organize and include all of their major FAQs.   On an atomic level, they are well done.   The challenge is that each list can go three or four levels deep and there are too many options to choose from.  A simple search would be a welcomed addition.

Uber claims an initial 10% reduction in tickets based on the new system, which seems low based on the sheer quantity of FAQ items.  Something must be missing.

Sprinkled within the maze of help topics are free-form areas where you can ask a questions, reports bugs, or ask more questions.   I couldn’t discern any real organization to where and why the free form FAQs showed up – but they did.

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Here is where Uber really short arms the process, i.e. the bad.    After a question goes into a queue, it gets chewed on by the machine, and then an answer is spit out via a notification to the person who asks the question.    There is no opportunity for expanding on the question, no back and forth – simple question followed by simple answer.   As a customer, I could see how this would be frustrating.  (I wonder how often the answer is 42).

Uber has taken a positive step moving away from email support, but there is more to be done.    In my next blog, I’ll go into more detail on what Uber needs to do to improve.   Until then, you can follow us at @therevtwo.