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 kittens 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 issues.

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 in. 

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