A couple years ago I wrote an article about all the features I wanted to see Uber add, and a lot of them actually came to fruition! Some of these features were out of necessity, some were due to what competitors like Lyft were doing and others just seemed to benefit drivers. While Uber doesn’t have the best reputation among its drivers, over the past year I think they’ve actually added a lot of driver friendly features.
Now typically these new features get tested in a few markets before eventually being rolled out everywhere, but some of my favorites have included Destination Filter, Instant Pay and boost zones on the app. But it’s human nature to want more right?
In the spirit of the New Year, I wanted to take a look today at the features I’d like to see Uber and Lyft add in 2017. There are some features, like an in-app tipping option, on Uber that are a long shot and benefit drivers a whole lot more than Uber, but there are also a lot of features that are mutually beneficial, and those are the bulk of what I’ll present today.
#1 Ok, Tipping Option is the Most Obvious One [Uber]
Uber’s dug themselves a huge hole with drivers (and some passengers) over the whole tipping situation. In case you’re not familiar with the history, Uber initially launched with higher rates (so drivers were making more and didn’t rely on tips) and implied to riders that tip was included in their fare (it never was). Uber even made new passengers select a tip percentage when they first signed up, but this only applied to UberTAXI service (which is in very few markets these days). Many passengers are now under the false impression that tip is included in their fare and/or drivers aren’t allowed to accept tips.
Related Article: I added a tip sign to my Uber, here’s what happened
However, drivers have always been allowed to accept tips, and now Uber explicitly states that drivers can solicit tips. Many drivers are now doing just that with things like tip signs and tip boxes. And believe it or not, more riders are tipping! Obviously, an in-app tip option on Uber would be ideal for drivers since it would make it way easier to tip, but Uber has resisted vehemently until this point (as many readers pointed out in this interview with Uber exec Rachel Holt).
I think the tides may turn on Uber in 2017 though as more drivers use tipping signs/boxes and more passengers start wanting to leave an in-app tip. I’ve heard from many passengers that they exclusively ride with Lyft so they can tip their driver, and it seems like more and more drivers are realizing this fact too.
#2 More Transparency in the Ratings System [Uber & Lyft]
Ratings has always been a huge issue for new drivers, but it really doesn’t have to be. I get e-mails from new drivers all the time who are extremely worried about their rating. Obviously it’s important to stay above a 4.6 with both platforms so you aren’t deactivated, but beyond that, your rating really doesn’t matter that much. And as drivers start to rack up rides, I’ve noticed they care less and less about their rating.
It’s actually in Uber and Lyft’s best interests to have high rated drivers and provide more transparency, yet there are a TON of problems with the current rating system. The biggest complaint I hear from drivers is that they don’t know what they’re doing wrong. Both companies need to do way more in terms of opening the feedback loop and telling drivers how they can improve since, at times, it almost seems like both companies want drivers to be deactivated, which obviously isn’t the case.
Uber and Lyft only share with you some of the 5 star comments you get (and Uber sends out compliments!) but if you’re struggling with your rating, you don’t care about what you’re doing well. You need to know what you’re doing wrong so you can fix it!
The rating system is inherently valuable, but there are some small feedback changes that need to happen, and even simple things like being able to challenge a rating. In college, I remember there was a hack that everyone knew about where you could actually contest your first parking ticket of the year and get it automatically waived. Why can’t Uber and Lyft implement something like this so that when someone pukes in your car and then wakes up to a $200 cleaning fee, then leaves you a 1 star rating, you can challenge that rating?
Because as it stands now, even a puker can leave you a 1 star rating and it could mean the difference between staying active on the platform or not.
#3: Opt Out of UberPOOL [Uber]
I’ve always hated when other people tell me what’s good for me. And Uber has a bad habit of doing this with their most recent messaging telling drivers how great UberPool is and how much more money you can make by doing UberPool, yet it’s a total fantasy. In fact, 58% of drivers in my 2017 survey disagreed with the statement ‘I am satisfied with my experience doing UberPOOL’.
POOL rides are a hassle for drivers and, typically, you actually make less than a normal UberX ride so, as an independent contractor, I feel that I should be given the right to opt out of UberPOOL rides altogether. The onus should be on Uber to make drivers want to do these types of rides. If I made more doing POOL, I’d gladly opt in, but as it stands now I’m forced to do them and take a pay cut.
Note: You can ignore a POOL request completely without penalty since Uber no longer punishes drivers for low acceptance rates (but not if you’re on guarantees).
#4: Working Radius Filter [Uber and Lyft]
Now this is actually an old Sidecar feature that never worked because there were never enough requests, but I love the spirit of it. There are often times when I want to go out and drive for only a couple hours, but I know there’s a good chance I’ll get pulled into the core Los Angeles area and it could take an hour or more in traffic to get home. The destination filter has helped with reducing dead head miles, but I think a working radius filter would be a huge upgrade to the driver experience. Here’s how it would work:
Since drivers don’t know the destination of the passenger until they start the trip, you could literally go as short as one block or as far as 500 miles! I’d like the option to drag a simple circle around my location that limits the destination of the passenger. So if I don’t want any drop-off requests that are more than 15 miles away, I’d drag a simple circle until it was at a distance of 15 miles, and now I will only get requests with destinations inside of that circle. Check out my paint skills to see how it would look.
The radius filter could either be fixed, so you never leave the initial circle you draw or it could move with you so that you’ll never go further than 15 miles. The nice thing about this feature is that it would also benefit Uber and Lyft since it would increase the supply of drivers. There are many times where I’ve decided not to log in because I had something to do or somewhere to be in a couple hours, but if I knew that I could stay local, I would have driven.
In the mean time though, drivers trying to minimize dead miles can sign up with Caviar delivery. In a previous review we found that Caviar had a very high utilization rate. This seems to stem from them having smaller delivery zones when compared to other platforms, preventing situations where you drive a long distance and end up getting stiffed with a minimum fare. Right now, they probably have the highest utilization rate (Dollars Earned / Miles Driven) of any on-demand platform, including Uber.
Related Article: What’s it like to deliver for Caviar?
#5: Favorite Driver Program [Uber & Lyft]
I’ve always been an over achiever, but one of the things I’ve noticed with the rideshare platforms is that there isn’t a real incentive to be a top driver. Since Uber doles out requests based solely on proximity (nearest driver gets the request), if you’re an amazing 4.95 star rated driver, you have the exact same chance of getting a request as a 4.65 rated driver. Now obviously there are some tactics that a more experienced driver can use that will earn them more money, but Uber and Lyft don’t do much to help top drivers earn more money.
A simple solution would be to give priority requests to top drivers or even better, a favorite driver program that rewards top drivers financially. I often get requests from passengers who’d like to get me as their driver again, but there’s no way to facilitate it through the Uber app. Some drivers pass out business cards or use reservation apps like UZURV and build their own private client base, but in order to be fully insured, you still have to do the ride on the Uber platform.
It would be great if Uber and Lyft built in a feature that allowed passengers to favorite a driver and request that driver when they want a ride OR schedule a ride with that driver for a premium rate. If the favorite driver is busy, then it just goes to the next closest driver like a normal request. This feature would benefit everyone because passengers would get a driver they love, drivers would make more money via increased request volume and increased pay and Uber/Lyft would build great brand loyalty by matching riders with their favorite drivers.
Companies like Wingz are already doing this, and it’s a feature that has been well received by both passengers and drivers.
#6: Boost Pay for Far Pick-ups [Uber & Lyft]
If it’s busy out and I see a request come in with an estimated time of arrival (ETA) of 10-12 minutes or more, I’ll usually ignore it since I know that the next request may come from a lot closer. Here’s how I think about it:
If you get a 15 minute ETA request and have a 50% chance or more of getting a request that is 10 minutes ETA or lower within the next 5 minutes, you’re actually better off ignoring the 15 minute ETA request.
Now your strategy as a driver may be slightly different depending on where you live and when you drive, but the principal is the same: ignore far ETA requests if you’re likely to get a shorter one soon after. The reason why you’ll want to do this is that you get paid the exact same amount whether it’s a 5 min ETA request or 15 min ETA request. The only difference is that the latter will put more miles on your car and take more time. And a lot of times, if you have to drive 5 or 10 miles to a passenger and they go a mile to the grocery store, you’re probably losing money on that ride.
What I’d like to see is either a higher minimum fare on longer ETA rides or a simple boost at certain increments: i.e. $2 boost for a 10 min ETA or higher, $4 boost for a 15 min ETA or higher, etc. Long ETA rides are great for Uber since they’re able to have drivers subsidize the true cost of the ride and passengers can get picked up for the same price as if they were down the street, but the driver is really the one that shoulders most of the cost in this situation.
To be fair, Uber has actually started testing this in some markets so it’s clear that they’re aware of this problem, and my hope is that by the end of the year, they will have an actual policy in place to incentivize drivers to do long ETA pick ups.
#7: Phone Line and Live Chat [Uber & Lyft]
The most popular post of all time on my blog is all about the top ways to contact Uber when you need help. Uber and Lyft have struggled with customer service from the beginning, but most people don’t even get to experience an agent since they don’t know how to contact Uber in the first place. Uber is testing a phone line and live chat in some cities, but I think it should be available to ALL drivers as soon as possible.
I know customer service is tough, but I feel like their agents today are just as bad as when I first signed up to be a driver three years ago. So if things aren’t going to improve on that end any time soon, the least drivers can get is quicker response times. I know many drivers who have contacted Juno by phone have been pleasantly surprised, so it may be the competition that forces Uber’s hand here.
#8: Better Prime Time Maps [Lyft]
I’m a big fan of driving for Lyft and supporting the underdog but one thing that Lyft has got to fix is their Prime Time maps! During the most critical times of the night, there is almost no incentive to drive for Lyft (unless you’re going for PDB) since you have no idea what level of Prime Time your requests are. Uber actually shows you the surge level when you get a request and while Lyft shows Prime Time on its driver maps with shades of pink, the amount of Prime Time is not on the screen when the request comes in. So as a Lyft driver, you have literally no idea what the Prime Time level is until after the ride is over.
I think Lyft would be able to get many more drivers flipping on the Lyft app during the busiest times and in general, if they made this one small change.
Related Article: Uber Surge vs Lyft Prime Time – Where do drivers make more money?
#9: Where Are Other Drivers? [Uber & Lyft]
During slow times, it’s imperative that you can see where other drivers are on the map. That way, you can position yourself away from other drivers and ensure you’re the closest driver to areas of high demand. I think it would make a lot of sense for Uber and Lyft to show where other drivers are on the driver app so that drivers can ensure they’re evenly spaced out and thus provide better coverage for riders.
Want more info on this strategy? Check out our video training course!
As it stands now, you have to have a separate phone/Lyft account in order to see where other Lyft drivers are and Uber’s latest passenger app update has made it more difficult to see where other drivers are. (We’ll be posting a video on the Youtube channel though very soon of how you can move your pin on the passenger app and still see more than just the eight closest drivers).
Drivers, what features would you like to see added to the Uber and Lyft apps in 2017?
-Harry @ RSG