Saturday, October 01, 2016

Uber Customer Service: Don't call us, we'll call you.

Maybe I'm just old fashioned, but if I'm a customer who bumps into a problem, I expect the company who screwed up to at least listen. Of course Google doesn't do that, nor Microsoft, nor Apple. They are big, brash arrogant companies who I do business with only because I have to, and if I don't have to, I don't. That's why I no longer buy Apple products, and I tolerate Google because they pay me. If I could find a database program better than Access, I wouldn't use any Microsoft products either. Which brings me to the arrogance of Uber. I don't like to be stonewalled, especially when my personal safety is at stake.
I have been trying to speak to someone at Uber in South Africa for some time. In the case of their General Manager, it has been 4 weeks that he has been ignoring my tweets, and his company has refused to forward messages to him. During this time I have paid for 15 trips with their taxi service. I'm still concerned about my safety, and that of my wife. I call her during her ride to make sure that everything is OK.
On Friday I finally got a response (and an apology) from Alon Lits. It seems that the "speculative" ride receipts are a bit of a touchy issue.
So I DM'd my email address to Alon, and got the following:
Hi Donn
Thanks for getting back to me. Firstly, let me apologize for the delay in getting back to you.
Please let me know when it would be convenient for me to give you a call.
Alon Lits
General Manager | Sub-Saharan Africa |

So I replied as follows:
Dear Alon
I’d prefer not to have a phone call right now, because I will just end up yelling. As a regular Uber customer I am dismayed and outraged at the way I have been treated by Uber. Do you think I would post this if I was a happy Uber customer?
Yours sincerely

Later he sent the following:
Dear Donn
Thanks for sharing the various correspondence as well as the link to your blog. I do understand that you are an unhappy customer, hence my request to contact you to discuss your concerns.
I have tried to highlight some of the points raised in the email below but please know that the offer for a call still stands (at your convenience).
  • Drivers in Joburg have had access to an emergency number for well over a year. This emergency number is communicated to driver partners during training, via sms and email. If you have examples of drivers who are not aware of this number; please let me know so that I can arrange for the team to follow-up with the driver/s in question.
  • Furthermore, emails have been sent to drivers outlining safety tips - this includes the suggestion of opening the boot before commencing the trip. As above, if you have met with drivers who are unaware of this fact, please let me know so that we can follow-up directly.
  • As you are aware, we are currently testing an SOS button for drivers in Joburg (as a pilot). This SOS button is linked to a control room which will dispatch either security or medical assistance in the event of the emergency. If this pilot proves to be successful, it is our attention to make this functionality available across both the driver and rider base across SA.
  • As you mention, an SOS button is available in India. [For the past 18 months!] This button is linked to the local authorities. We don't believe that the same SOS button is a viable option for SA. Hence we are trialling the SOS button in the hope of delivering a more effective solution.
  • We have recently appointed Deon as the head of our Physical Security team. We are excited to appoint Deon after months of searching for a suitable candidate. Deon joins our head of Trust and Safety (David) who has been based in Joburg for over a year. We also have an incident response team which is based in the UK and support the entire EMEA region.
My heart breaks for the victims and their families and I cannot begin to imagine what they have been going through. I know that you have watched the ENCA interview. As you are aware we are limited in what we can say with regards to the investigation at the request of the authorities. I know this is frustrating to hear but anything that we say could compromise the investigation.
I appreciate your feedback and hope that I have addressed some of your concerns. Please let me know if this is not the case and I will gladly make the time for a call.
Have a good weekend.

So the "incident response team" isn't based in California, but in the United Kingdom. I feel much better now. Instead of on the opposite end of the planet, it's only an 11 hour flight away, and two time zones. Thanks for that! I'm sure the rape victims will appreciate an international long distance call to say "I'm sorry, but it wasn't us".
My initial response was as follows:
Hi Alon
Thanks for taking the time to write. My main question remains unanswered: *why is there no phone number* that customers can call to get in contact with Uber? You want to contact me by phone, and have requested three times to do so. Well, now you know what it’s like. Don’t call me, I’ll call you.
I point to the case of Sally Polack, who has never been an Uber customer, and whose phone is an old Nokia that can only do SMS messages and calls, yet started getting Uber deductions from her credit card. Uber refused to be of any assistance in any way, either through my Twitter enquiries, or her email enquiries. She had the charges reversed by the bank, but the fraudster continues to be an Uber customer for all we know.
I point to the case where I was charged R3,100 for a ride than should have taken less than half an hour. If I had been unsuccessful in getting a reply via Twitter (it took you from 5th September to reply to my Twitter enquiries) I would have been stranded at the gym for several hours, or had to walk home.
Deon and David are “ghost” employees as far as I’m concerned, because they are uncontactable. As far as I know I have *never* been in touch with anyone in South Africa via email until now. I notice you haven’t denied that the “rapid response team” is currently based in California and would not have been able to help the rape victims. [I missed the UK reference]
I still think you really don’t “get” how frustrating it is to deal with a nameless, faceless drone that spouts corporate claptrap (if not downright lies) and *doesn’t listen* to its customers. Try reading the Cluetrain Manifesto. Get a clue.
Best wishes
Donn Edwards

Even Discovery Health is more willing to listen than these guys. And that's saying something, since they have an official "give the customer a big runaround" policy to save themselves money by denying patient benefits that they are obliged to pay. But that's another story.

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