There’s no ignoring the big news of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s resignation, announced last week. And while the media have written various views on whether the decision stemmed from a shareholder revolt or had more to do with his personal life (we were saddened to hear of his mother’s death last month), I’m more interested in taking a look at what Uber’s tumultuous journey since 2009 means not only for “moving Uber forward,” but for the entire industry’s future.
At Zemcar, we recognized that there was a missing element in the existing rideshare economy: a family-friendly and safety-first alternative. As with any new industry, the focus of early movers was on the technology and the business model first. As such, what should have been one of the key features – safety – took a back seat and has continued to haunt some of the industry’s first innovators. Further, these issues alienate target market segments that could really benefit from rideshare but absolutely need safety first: children, women, and seniors.
And although Uber has faced many battles, the rideshare industry is at an exciting precipice, becoming safer and more focused on specific communities that can benefit from such programs. Uber’s recent moves are indicative of the wave of change taking place as they add programs that other rideshare vendors have offered from the beginning. Uber’s journey has opened doors for other players to build a better mousetrap and more trustworthy services, so it’s going to be an interesting few years as both Uber and new players evolve – including Zemcar, of course.
So what does a successful rideshare that families can trust look like?
- First, the business model for any rideshare company absolutely has to include comprehensive safety features and precautions. It’s not enough to be reactive – reporting incidents are important but it’s not a long-term solution and it doesn’t stop the issues. In order to make the industry work for both riders and drivers, rideshare companies have to be proactive and aggressive with safety. It’s why at Zemcar, we not only conduct the standard background tests, but also include terrorist watch list checks, comprehensive face-to-face interviews of every driver, and are the only rideshare company in the world to offer the option of watching your family member’s ride on video. Essentially, if there are any local regulations in the states we serve,
we will abide by them but we intend to always uphold our high standards regardless.
- Choice and community are another big part of what we believe is a winning rideshare formula, especially for one to work outside of urban areas. Parents and families are more comfortable with familiar faces – offering the choice to call a specific driver or schedule the same driver repeatedly, creates a stronger customer relationship. It’s been said that it “takes a village” to raise a family, and so we see ourselves as part of that village – creating a trustworthy pool of drivers who care about and enjoy taking care of their customers. You likely wouldn’t hire a different babysitter or nanny to come into your home and take care of your children each week if you already had one that you knew and trusted. And yet, one person is never enough, because real people get sick and have scheduling issues. Why should a driver be any different? Our app gives you the choice to save and select many trusted drivers for these occasions.
- Driver care is the third crucial piece. It’s no secret that many drivers from other rideshare companies have talked about poor treatment that makes them feel like “just a number,” and not an important or respected part of the company. It’s impossible to create a positive, unified and healthy culture if the care expected isn’t coming down from the very top. In other words, if you’re sending unhappy drivers out into the world, what makes you think they’re going to treat your riders well? Perhaps more than any other company, happy employees – even if they’re classified as “contractors” – who truly believe in the mission of the company, are crucial in a rideshare culture. Minimum base fares, face to face meetings and maintaining an operations center that is available at the push of a button for drivers can all help create a positive culture that includes driver care.
We knew when we started Zemcar that the market was a bit embattled and we’d have a lot of others’ misgivings to overcome, especially as we targeted the sensitive teen and senior riders market segment. We’re dedicated to not just being a rideshare company but becoming a key and trusted entity in the communities we serve. This is reflected in everything from our business model and tagline – your family’s trusted driver – to partnerships with other community-oriented businesses like the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston and J.P. Licks, among others not yet announced.
While Uber paved the way for a great idea, their challenges have also left an opportunity in the market. The key to addressing those challenges will be to focus on what really makes a company work – the people. Happy and safe drivers and riders are what will make the top rideshare company successful well into the future. We can use technology to accomplish a lot, but we can never forget the human element. And that, perhaps, is the biggest lesson of all from Uber.