Drive Smarter Not Harder: Everything I’ve Learned As A Lyft and Uber Driver

It might seem obvious that one of the best ways to get good as a rideshare driver is to go out there and do it.  But you also need to think about what it is you’re doing.  The days of flipping on an app and making $30-$40/hr are gone.  Drivers need to do a better job than ever at having a plan and adjusting that plan as their environment changes.  Today, RSG contributor Scott Van Maldegiam takes a look at his original rideshare plan and how it’s changed over the past year.  Being a good driver is easy, but if you want to be one of the best, you have to be willing to take an introspective look once in a while and figure out ways to work smarter, not harder!

When you start a new job, there’s always a learning curve.  Sometimes your employer will provide training and sometimes, you are just thrown to the wolves.  I think we can all agree that rideshare driving tends to fall in the latter category.

Figuring It ALL Out On My Own

As with any job, there are repeatable tasks.  Having a process for these repeatable tasks so they become second nature will generally lead to greater success.  Rideshare driving is all about discovering those times where your processes may not apply perfectly and modifying them until they work.  When I originally started driving for UberX back in December, here was my original process for driving on Friday and Saturday nights:

– Drive toward downtown Chicago from the western burbs hoping to get a ride on the way.

– Usually I didn’t so I would head toward Wicker Park.

– When I received a request, I would accept it and then, if I wasn’t stopped, pull over to either determine if I knew where it was and to figure out how I could get there.  If I didn’t know how to get there, I’d punch in the address into my navigation on my Android phone.  I would navigate to the pickup location.  I would always try and make sure I was arriving on the correct side of the road so the passenger didn’t have to cross the street.

– I would wait 3 minutes and if I didn’t see any sign of the passenger, I would call them.  When the passenger came out, I would be sure to greet them with a smile and a “Hi, how are you?”  I would also be sure to ask them “where are WE going tonight?” in order to be inclusive.

– Once I had the address, I would punch it into navigation and start the ride.  I had my list of conversation starters.  In December in Chicago, weather was always a topic people would talk about.

– My goal during the ride was to get people smiling and laughing.  If you ever get the impression that you have offended anyone with your improv, be self deprocating and apologize.  Also, making a comment like “oh, wait… who is the one paying for this ride?” can be helpful, especially when being asked for an opinion due to a disagreement between passengers.

– Always try and drop off on the right side of the street.  If for some reason that isn’t practical or if it might seem like you are just increasing the length of the ride, ask the customer if they mind if you go around the block in order to drop them off on the right side of the street.  When it is 10 below outside, they mostly say “yes, please” while in the summer, they want the less expensive ride.

– When you drop off your passengers, say “Thank you.”

– Once passenger has been dropped off, find a hotspot for your next ride.

So What’s Changed?

So, that is what I started with.  I thought most of that out prior to making my first trip.  Having a plan makes this job so much easier.  So what have I changed since I first started driving?

– I avoid picking up passengers around Michigan and Grand due to the multiple levels of roads.  Navigation doesn’t deal well with roads at different elevations.

– If you have to pick up someone on a busy road, call ahead.  It is dangerous to stop unless your riders are ready.  I also make sure to ask the rider exactly where they want to be picked up.

– Use the passenger side of the app to know where the other drivers are.

– Don’t drive around looking for rides.  Find a good place to sit and be patient.  Much better waiting without using gas than driving around using gas looking for your next ride.

– Don’t drop off or pickup in alleys especially during snowy winters.  The navigation provided by the UberX and Lyft apps can tend to direct you to an alley.  The reason why this happens is that the app uses GPS coordinates to route intead of the address it determines you are at.  So, if the person is in the back of the house next to the alley, the navigation will most likely take you to the alley.  Even when putting an address in, sometimes it wants you to drop off in an alley.  Just be aware of this and use your brain to make the necessary adjustment to the route.

– Riders like a clean car. Keep a clean car, especially inside.  In the winter, just go to a self serve car wash.  Car’s get dirty so riders expect a car not to be as clean on the outside.  I take my Floorliners out and hose them off. I also use quick detail spray to keep the car clean and make sure the back of the seats and inside of the doors stay spotless.

– Lowest gas price – Let’s face it… our largest cost when driving is GAS.  In the Chicago area, the lowest gas prices are in the suburbs.  I use Gas Buddy to find the lowest gas prices.  You can also join programs that will give you a temporary and a permanent reduction in gas prices at certain chains.

Another option is to use credit cards that give you a higher cash back amount for gas prices.  I have the Thorton’s and the Shell customer cards as well as an Amazon credit card.  Every little bit helps.  One thing to keep in mind when seeing your COSTCO with the lowest gas price.  Add in the savings from the cash back you get from your credit card on gas purchases and any reduction you get from your gas station card.

A little example…  my local Shell is 3.08, I get 3 cents off and I get 2% cash back (about another 6 cents off), so my net price is 2.99.  Of course my local COSTCO is 2.93 right now. But… I am in my first month with the Thorton’s program so I get 10 cents off their price of 2.99 so my net price is 2.89.  Lastly, big differences in gas prices make a difference, but small differences don’t when you take into account the lost drive time and gas cost to get to the station with the lowest cost.  This is why I usually go to Thorton’s because I don’t have to go out of my way.

How to handle…

– Navigation – ALWAYS use navigation.  My line for using it if I hear the proverbial “sigh” as I initiate navigation is: “It is my safety blanket.”  I go on to explain the benefits.  It keeps me on track when conversation can divert my attention momentarily.  Also, it will take traffic into account.  And know how to use your navigation well.  Nothing makes a passenger more mad when you are trying to use navigation but you can’t get it to work.  Which leads to my next observation…

– Customer preferred route – ALWAYS take the route that the customer wants.  Let them direct you.  Who cares if it takes a few more minutes to get there using their route?  If you don’t take their route, you can be assured of getting marked down on your rating.  In Chicago, with all the 1 way streets, the riders often will want to get dropped off on a corner so they can take short walk instead of having you go around the block.

– Phone quality – When I started with UberX, I was using a Droid Razr.  This phone would reboot a couple of times a night when I started, sometimes in the middle of a ride.  Right, not the best experience for the rider but thankfully, the riders would take pity on me and be more than happy to direct me.  With that said, I didn’t like it.  I managed to fix my phone so it worked much better and while it didn’t reboot any more, it was slow.

I upgraded my phone about a month ago and I can’t believe I waited this long to make a change.  My suggestion is if you are having problems with your phone either fix them or upgrade.  The phone is the most important tool we use.  It is an investment in what we do.

– Unruly or rowdy riders – There is a fine line here.  At what point do you kick someone out of the car?  The only people I have kicked out of my car are people who exceed the capacity of my car.  Believe me, I have wanted to, but my rule is that I will only kick people out if I feel like the passenger(s) are putting me in danger.

– Wrong pickup points – My rule is if someone’s pickup point is in the wrong place and has me more than 1 or 2 blocks away, during my phone conversation I mention that I will cancel the ride for them and that they will get a ride quicker by requesting another ride with the correct pin point.  Since I started with UberX, this rule made a ton of sense since the ride didn’t start until you picked up the rider.  With Lyft, the time and distance to make the adjustment gets calculated into the ride.  What I have found is that people who can’t set their pickup point correctly are either too drunk or are quick to blame everyone else for their ignorance.  I don’t want either type of passenger in my car.

There are exceptions, of course.  If someone calls me and apologizes before I even get there, I will usually make an exception.  Also, pretty much anyone that apologizes or admits they made a mistake and knows better, I will have no trouble helping.  This goes along with Harry’s article about customer service.  Be nice and people will be more willing to help.  We are human and that is how we are wired.

Related ArticleWhat’s The Best Way To Get Customer Service From Uber and Lyft?

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-Scott @ The Rideshare Guy