It has finally happened. Uber made it to Cambridge. Some, like myself, were looking forward to this. Others like Cambridge’s taxi firms, cannot have been, but the arrival of Uber in Cambridge cannot have been a surprise to established taxi firms and that bugs me a little bit. Why? Because existing taxi firms seem to have been sitting on their hands whilst London cabs were up in arms about unfair competition. Sure, drivers in Cambridge do not have to pass ‘The Knowledge’ but you still have market share to protect and potentially lose.
So what should they have done? Watch, Learn and Act! Research why passengers like Uber over other firms and in particular what passenger ‘pain points’ are solved by Uber. My biggest personal one is payment. With Uber there is no need to make sure you have enough cash on you and you know in advance how much it is going to cost. For others (speculating) it might be peer reviews of drivers or the convenience of ordering from a phone without the need to talk to somebody.
Sure I must admit that some changes have been made by my preferred taxi company to improve the experience. The person at the other end now recognises me by my phone number and has immediate access to my recent addresses (not that I ever gave permission!). In general their phone service is much friendlier then it used to be which is good too and, of course, they have an app. From a UX perspective I’d rather not talk about the app. It is a typical example of a me-too app but a taxi app where you cannot select the railway station is beyond words. I’ll stop now, as I said I prefer not to talk about the app.
So, little improvements have been made to make the existing experience nicer and easier but none of the pain points have been addressed. Big leaps rather than small steps are needed to fend off an Uber.
What is the lesson? Innovation is nice but it pays to be a fast-follower. In the case of Uber you do not even have to be so fast. There has been plenty of time to get ready for this but in cases like this you simply cannot afford not to be a ‘fast’ follower. Do the research to become as good as or even better than a formidable competitor whilst you still have all your market share. This means doing research and yes, research to uncover pain points does cost money but the amount is negligible compared to the amount of money that you stand to lose by doing nothing. Too late for Cambridge, but other firms in other places be warned. Too many taxi firms are still sitting there hoping that Uber will simply go away. Trust me, they or other disruptive competitors will not disappear. Time to act!
Dr. Leo Poll is President of Akendi UK. A firm dedicated to creating intentional experiences through end-to-end experience design, to learn more about Akendi or user experience design, visit www.akendi.co.uk
Akendi is a product strategy, user experience design and usability research firm. We are passionate about the creation of intentional experiences – whether those involve digital products, physical products, mobile, service or bricks-and-mortar interactions. We work shoulder-to-shoulder to optimize the experiences you deliver. Akendi Corporate Overview (PDF).
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