7 min read

    7 min read

    Do you think Uber and Lyft would be better companies if they focused on retaining good drivers (drivers with high ratings, in particular) and rewarding the good ‘veteran’ drivers they already have? It looks like Uber might be leaning that way… somewhat. Senior RSG contributor Paula Gibbins talks to a personal account specialist to see how Uber is trying to retain long-term drivers below.

    Sometimes drivers end up logging off and not touching Uber again for a while. The reasons can vary from needing a break to starting a new job to medical issues and more. However, it seems like Uber is getting a little antsy about their drivers dropping off and not coming back online.

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    Is Uber getting desperate for drivers? Do they have any perks to make sure driver retention is better? Will they give bonuses to ensure their drivers will come back? Let’s take a look at the possibilities.

    How Uber is Getting in Touch With Lapsed Drivers?

    In my experience, Uber sent me a text. But first, a little background on my Uber driving. I started with Uber in early 2017 when my contract ran out at a “real” job and driving for Uber was the only job I could start relatively quickly without the arduous process of interviewing and wading through a large pool of applicants to try to stand out to get a job in my field.

    Once I started a “real” job again, I kept driving for Uber on the weekends and along my commute to make an extra few bucks and to maintain my status on the app so I could drive whenever I need to or if I were to land in a similar jobless situation again.

    That was all working out great until the end of July, when I dislocated my kneecap for the third time in three years (fun, not) and needed surgery to reconstruct the ligament. This kept me offline longer than I ever had been in the past.

    On September 4, 2019, I received a text from Uber:

    So, apparently there’s a team of “personal account specialists” out there, reaching out to drivers who haven’t driven in a while. My last trip was on July 8. Riley sent the text a little under two months after my last drive. It was the first time I’d ever seen anything like this and came off as a little…desperate. But at least he asked instead of just having my account deactivated for not driving enough?

    From there, I decided to see if I could get anything out of it. Uber is known for having bad retention rates, so I thought I’d see if they’d do anything to make sure I stick around, aside from sending a random text.

    Guess I don’t get a bonus for wanting to get back in the game. But, good news — sarcasm — I’ll be opted into weekly driver promotions again if I start driving!

    Uber’s Personal Account Specialists – Not Bots?

    From this text exchange, I also learned that Riley is likely a real person (a lot of people on social media assumed “bot”). I sent the message on Saturday and they responded on Monday during regular business hours. 10:36 AM was my time in Minneapolis, so it was likely one of the first things they did when they got into the office Monday morning out in California.

    I also learned that a “personal account specialist” has nothing to do with the different areas of the country. They are just lackeys in California reaching out to drivers that they know nothing about in areas of the country they likely know nothing about.

    Upon further texting with the mysterious Riley, they responded, “I am part of a team that reaches out to partners that haven’t taken a trip in 28 days to see if they need help with there [sic] account to get back on the road.”

    The grammatical error in his response to “what exactly is a personal account specialist?” also partially proves it’s not a bot, as bots tend to use better grammar than most live humans do these days.

    Others have had similar experiences, but not necessarily as personal as what I received. One driver said they received a similar initial text, but they were given multiple choice options to give for a response instead of being able to say their actual reasoning.

    Another driver was asked if there were any questions they had. This seems to indicate that Uber is assuming the reason drivers aren’t logging in and driving is because they are not sure how to proceed. This is similar to what Riley said to me above about if drivers need any help to get back on the road.

    And, of course, there’s the experience that RSG writer, Jay, ran into and highlights in his article Uber Tries to Lure Back Veteran Drivers with New Guarantees. As he points out, this guarantee is not given out to all veteran drivers.

    Some of our readers on social media pointed out they haven’t received a text similar to mine even though they haven’t been driving since February of this year. So, where is the line? How does Uber determine who deserves a quick text or the mysterious extra guarantee?

    The world may never know, because why does Uber do anything it does? It certainly doesn’t seem like they are actually interested in keeping their drivers happy.

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    My Take on What Will Keep Drivers Around

    As studies have shown, including surveys done by The Rideshare Guy, we want to be paid better. The work we do is the bread and butter of what Uber actually is and we deserve to be properly compensated for all we have to put up with. Both Uber and Lyft have issued pay cuts in the disguise of caring about drivers’ time. While adding pennies to our per minute earnings, they’ve slashed our per mile rates, making an even wash of several rides while hurting us on others, especially those that go longer distances.

    Sending out a text asking if I’m still interested in driving felt a bit strange to me since they’ve never reached out individually like this before. Plus, after stating that I have recently had surgery, the next text I received was telling me to get on the road that weekend to earn. How about not? I’m still recuperating and need to focus on healing right now. I don’t need to cram myself into my car and limp out of it to help people with their luggage or make my knee cramp up after sitting for too long keeping it bent further than I’m comfortable doing. But, thanks?

    And why wouldn’t they offer a bonus or guarantee of some sort for me? I am in good standing other than not driving. I have a 4.95-star rating over the lifetime of driving. It would encourage me to continue driving once I’m able, if I were to be offered something more. They offer things like this:

    Caption: Could I get half of that guaranteed earnings to drive again?

    for their new drivers. But what about drivers who are proving some loyalty or are trying to stay loyal? Give us a little something for sticking around. It’s our effort and dedication that keeps their company afloat.

    In the end, companies like Uber and Lyft just focus on the numbers. They want more money and don’t see the value of keeping their current drivers happy. And why should they? There will ALWAYS be people willing to drive for peanuts because it’s their only other option.

    So, with deals like the guarantee for new drivers above and the guarantee they’ll send a handful of veterans, Uber does give off a stench of desperation, but only to a point. They want drivers because they are always in need of drivers, but they’ve proven time and time again that keeping current drivers happy is not on their agenda.

    Drivers, have you ever received a text or call from your ‘personal account specialist’? Why do you think Uber contacts some lapsed drivers but not all?

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    -Paula @ RSG

    Paula Gibbins

    Paula Gibbins

    Paula Gibbins, a graduate of Augustana University, Sioux Falls, is a part-time rideshare driver and a full-time proofreader. She is based in Minneapolis/St. Paul. In her free time, Paula enjoys reading, playing board games and participating in trivia nights.

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