6 Lessons a Small Business Can Learn from Uber’s Triumphs—and Failures

Date: January 06, 2015

6 Lessons a Small Business Can Learn from Uber’s Triumphs—and Failures

Uber is speeding along the road of success lately. In fact,
the 5-year-old ride-sharing company posted a $40 billion valuation last month.
The San Francisco-based tech startup, whose smartphone app connects drivers
with passengers, has grown its presence to nearly 50 countries with $2.7
billion in funding.

This success has come with bad press as well, however, with
some customer and regulatory concerns casting a shadow on the company’s
accomplishments. Uber’s tremendous growth—as well as its bumps in the road—can
serve as profitable lessons for small business owners.

1. Stay connected
with customers.

Customer loyalty is Uber’s saving grace during some of its
PR nightmares. The company is dogged about encouraging customer feedback,
promoting social engagement and offering perks to its users. These efforts have
created strong brand loyalty with Uber users—something that comes in handy when
local governments try to tinker with the company, and customers are first in
line to protest. Customer feedback also leads to innovation of your product or
service, as you continue to mold your product into what consumers want.

 2. Use creative
social marketing.

On National Cat Day (yes, there’s such a thing), Uber
partnered with Cheezburger—the folks behind those popular “I Can Has
Cheezburger” cat memes—and local animal shelters. App users could request
that would be delivered to them for 15 minutes of petting at a $30
price tag. The campaign created millions of impressions for Uber, thousands of
mentions on social media and raised $17,000 for animal shelters. Win-win-win. These
marketing campaigns intrigue customers and keep your company buzzworthy.

 3. Address safety

One complaint against Uber has been that the company doesn’t
have thorough background checks for its drivers, which potentially creates safety issues for passengers. As a business owner, you have the
responsibility to provide customers with a reliable, safe product or service. It’s
equally important to provide a safe environment for your employees, like in
Uber’s case, providing its drivers with car insurance.

 4. Don’t try to trick
your customers.

Uber has been under the gun for charging hidden fees. During
peak traffic hours, prices for rides go up, and some customers argue that Uber
is not transparent enough with these surge fees. Lying to your customers is a
surefire way to lose them. Be upfront with them, and they’ll stay on your side.

 5. Consider regular
employee evaluations—and incentives.

The reputation of your business hangs on the quality of
service your staff provides. Uber has a system in place where users rate
drivers after each ride based on their experiences, and drivers with
consistently low ratings are dropped from the company. This system helps Uber
weed out employees who are not providing high-quality service—and provides
employees an incentive to perform well on the job.

6. Consider where
else you can expand your business.

One of the things that set Uber apart from its competitors is
its ability to expand its service to other industries. For example, Uber has
broken into the delivery market with uberFRESH (a food-delivery service in Los
Angeles) and with uberRUSH (where users in Manhattan can ask bike messengers to
deliver and transport items). Uber has found a way to take its fundamental
business—transporting things from point A to point B—and adapt it across a
number of markets. Think about what other industries your business can thrive

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