Some drivers just seem to have the whole ridesharing thing down: great ratings, solid tips, and a pragmatic outlook on life. What makes these drivers different? Senior RSG contributor John Ince covers the 7 habits of highly effective rideshare drivers – do you agree?
As I approach my fourth year as a rideshare driver and my 70th birthday, it occurs to me that many of the habits that make you a good driver are the same habits that make you successful in life. So I decided to make a list, and I came up with seven habits of highly effective rideshare drivers. What would you add to this list?
I put resourcefulness at the top of the list because you never know what you’re going to get when you get behind the wheel. Once you turn on the rideshare app, you’re entering the vast unknown. The experience can either be intimidating or exciting depending upon your attitude.
If you have a sense of adventure, then the entire experience will be enhanced. If you have a sense of foreboding about the unknown, then the experience will be fraught with anxiety.
You don’t know where the ride will take you. You don’t know what kind of flake or oddball will sitting in the back seat (or front seat) for the next 5, 10 or 60 minutes. You don’t know what kind of special skills will be required to defuse a situation. You don’t even know which route will get you there fastest until Waze, Uber or Google Maps lay things out for you. You can’t let yourself get stuck in any mindset. You have to be resourceful and ready to go with the flow.
2. Curiosity and Respect for All People
The word curiosity is derived from the same Latin roots as the word cure. If you’re curious about people, what they do, and what makes them tick, you will endure and even thrive in this gig. If each ride is another widget – another means to the end of maximizing earnings – then the passenger will feel it and your ratings will reflect your attitude.
Remember all passengers are people, and as people they need to be treated with respect. Sometimes you show respect by engaging in conversation. Sometimes you show respect by just leaving people alone to their own thoughts.
3. Ability to Focus on the Goal – Safe Delivery
The goal in ridesharing is very simple–to get your passengers safely from point A to point B as quickly as possible. All the other stuff is secondary to that. When the passenger first gets in the car, there are many things happening at once and you need to be able to prioritize them quickly. Is the conversation secondary to the navigation? What’s the best route? Maybe you kill two birds with one question: “Do you have a preference on what route we take?”
Don’t be afraid to give navigation your complete attention at the outset of the ride. If the passenger peppers you with questions, don’t hesitate to politely say to the passenger something like,”my primary responsibility is to get you safely to where you want to go, so please permit me to focus for a moment on navigation and I will return to my charming self in a moment.” All kinds of distractions will be coming your way, so focus on your goal – safe delivery.
4. Flexibility / Tolerance
Everybody has quirks and preferences, things that can either make them happy or angry. This past week a story broke about a driver who insisted on having the radio tuned to the baseball game even after the passenger objected. The discussion became so heated that the passenger, an 18-year-old woman, pulled out a knife and slashed the driver.
A little flexibility would have defused that situation. How much of an inconvenience is it to switch the station to please a passenger for a 10 or 15 minute ride? Many passengers are combustible – so a little tolerance goes a long way.
Recently, an Uber/Lyft driver made headlines for refusing to transport a lesbian couple that kissed in the backseat. Uber quickly reacted to the PR firestorm by suspending the driver. We live in a diverse and complex world, and you’re going to encounter all kinds of people in this game. You have to be open-minded and you have to be tolerant of differences.
Driving in San Francisco I’ve just come to expect the unexpected. One night I picked up a drag queen over in the Mission District and she looked nothing like her picture, because her picture was of a man. She coyly approached me as I waiting outside a bar and said, “I don’t look anything like my picture, do I?” I simply smiled and said, “No worries, hop in.”
It turned out to be one of the most interesting rides I’ve had it as a driver. I learned much about what it is to live a closet life where you have one identity at night and another identity during the day. Tolerance is the gateway to understanding. Being a rideshare driver can broaden your perspective and make you more whole as a human being.
5. A Good Sense of Humor
There is no better way to diffuse tension than with a well-timed quip or joke, but you have to be careful. What may seem funny to you may not be funny to someone else – especially if they are anxious about something.
I’ve sometimes tried a joke and it’s fallen completely flat. For example, I drive a Volvo wagon that has room in the back for my folding bicycle, which I hide under blanket. The handlebars stick up like arms. Passengers sometime ask what’s under the blanket. If I have a good rapport with the passenger, I might try out my dark humor and deadpan, “Oh that’s where I store the bodies.”
Most of the time, people laugh but some become visibly uncomfortable. So far nobody has reported me, but it’s a risk. I’d suggest Jay Cradeur’s excellent piece on three subjects not to talk about: sex politics and religion. Definitely steer clear those three subjects if you’re attempting a joke.
6. Attention to Detail
Being a good rideshare is a lot more involved than you might think when you first set out on this course. You need the right equipment. You need the phone holder / dashboard mount to legally use your phone in states that require your hands to be free. The car has to be clean.
When passengers get out of the car, always do a quick scan to make sure that they haven’t left something in the backseat. If they left their phone behind, it’s going to fall upon you to get it back to them, and generally the $15 reimbursement won’t adequately cover your time and effort.
You should keep a good record of your expenses using something like QuickBooks Self-Employed so you know how much you are earning. Be alert to possible scams from passengers who cancel in the middle of a ride in hopes of saving a few bucks for a toll. There are a lot of details to this gig – and you’ve got to keep all of them in mind if you’re going to be effective.
7. Trust in Fate
There going to be a lot of times in this gig when you feel lost. Your app may go down while you out in the boonies. You may lose Waze connectivity just as you’re approaching the next exit on the freeway in unfamiliar terrain. You may have a passenger who doesn’t speak a word of English and you can’t get vital information.
Whatever the immediate challenge, you just need to trust that it’s all going to work out. Remember each ride is of finite length. The most unruly and rude passengers will eventually get out of your car. Soon you will be able to breathe a sigh of relief and wonder why you were so concerned or so upset. Faith in the outcome is as vital for a rideshare driver as it is to a wayfarer in life.
Readers, do you agree with this list of traits of highly effective drivers? What would you add to it?
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-John @ RSG
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