Those that know me, know that I have a legendary hatred of cabs and cab drivers. The hassle of getting the attention of one, the confusion of pricing, the wild out-of-the-way routes, the maddening lack of credit card scanners, and the fact that many cab companies work to actively restrict competition and innovation that would reduce costs and make the experience better for riders. It's almost always easier for me to just take MetroRail or MetroBus than to deal with the hassle.
So by the time I heard Uber CEO Travis Kalanick give his keynote speech at Digital Capital Week 2012, I was already sold. I quickly added the Uber app to my new smartphone and Uber has saved me on more than a few occasions. It is one of the coolest and smartest companies around, they deserve all the success they have achieved and more.
The Uber DC team is pretty cool too. One late Saturday night when I took a weekend metro ride from a happy hour in Ballston to Metro Center, I tried out Uber's new UberTaxi, a version that calls a cheaper regular taxi instead of the usual classy black sedans. The system couldn't find one available. No bother, noticing that everyone else around was having no luck getting ANY cabs at all, I just hoped on the X2 bus to my next destination, a party on H-Street NE.
So I was thrilled when (out of the blue) I got an email a few days later from the Uber DC community team apologizing for the lack of taxis and offering a $10 credit to my account.
All this is just to say that Alex Priest, Amy, and the rest of the Uber DC community crew are a top-notch crew.
Which is why I'm so surprised they don't do the "first-ride" offers a little better.
You see, the Uber crew is highly skilled and relentless about getting involved with events around DC. For months, it seems like everything I go to has an Uber offer, yet they all share one similar feature. When I took part in the 2013 Cupid's Undie Run, there was a code for $20 for new Uber users. When I headed to the Social Media Week closing party, another code for $10 for new Uber users. When I headed to American University for the 2013 Social Learning Summit, another code for $20 for new Uber users. I have a bunch of friends that go to Balance Gym, guess what, they too get a $20 code for new Uber users.
So a "tip of the hat" to Uber for really getting the brand out there. They can sometimes seem to be everywhere. But a "wag of the finger" to Uber for forgetting that people that go to a DC event, are usually people that go to A LOT of DC events. And constantly seeing the "first ride" promos can get repetitive.
Everyone I know already uses Uber. I have zero idea what to do with my growing collection of Uber black promo cards (Uber ninja stars?).
For Uber, I'd offer two pieces of advice.
- No one blames Uber for going after new business, but every once in awhile throw out a promo that's good for long-time users. Just to say "We love you guys and we haven't forgotten about you."
- Make the event promo codes good for everyone. Either use some programming magic to make the codes give the full discount to new riders and a reduced discount for current customers. Or, if that's too tough, also announce a second code that will work for current customers.
The trick here, the discount for current customers does not have to be high, it could be $1, it just has to be something. That single dollar could be the difference between someone taking Uber to an event or not, or the single factor to prevent thoughts of "Uber only cares about new business."
I think it's a WIN/WIN, because at the end of the day, the goal for Uber should be not for first-time riders to take Uber to an event, but for EVERYONE to take Uber to an event - with a line of black sedans dropping people off. That's groundswell. That's everyone in a party all talking about their Uber trips, building that word of mouth that made Uber a household DC name in the first place.