Life-saving Benefits of Uber

Uber_Logobit_Digital_blackIn Why Uber Doesn’t have a Loyalty Program, I wrote last year about my experience with Uber and why it doesn’t need a frequent-rider program as the airlines do.

I cited seven things I appreciate about Uber, and concluded that it doesn’t need a loyalty program because its service IS a loyalty program.

This morning I read an interesting article that described why – despite the consumer-protection arguments made by opponents of Uber and Lyft – these services actually contribute significantly to public safety.

The widespread benefits of ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft make it difficult for policymakers to claim that the industry’s growth needs to be curtailed in order to, for example, lower traffic congestion or protect the profits of taxi moguls. However, if ride-sharing put the public in danger, that could be a legitimate reason to impose further regulations.

But when it comes to ride-sharing’s effect on drunk driving, the technology’s contribution to public safety is clear — it reduces the rates of DUIs and fatal alcohol-related accidents. These are some of the findings of a new paper by economists Angela Dills of Providence College and Sean Mulholland of Stonehill College.

The paper looked at 150 cities and countries from 2010 through 2013 and found that “for each additional year of operation, Uber’s continued presence is associated with a 16.6 percent decline in vehicular fatalities.” This is in addition to the 18 percent decline in fatal nighttime crashes after Uber entered a new market. For DUIs, Uber’s introduction led to a one-time 33 percent decline that was followed by an annual average decline of 51 percent in the following years.

These findings echo those from a January 2015 report issued by Uber and Mothers against Drunk Driving (MADD), which found that ride-sharing saves lives because people use the service as a designated driver instead of trying to drive themselves home after they have had too much to drink. As the report states, in an obvious conclusion, “When people have more options, they make better, safer choices.”

The survey results are also supported by other data. Uber’s entry into Seattle was associated with a 10 percent decrease in drunk-driving arrests. Controlling for outside factors, after UberX launched in cities across California, monthly alcohol-related crashes decreased by 6.5 percent among drivers under 30 (amounting to 59 fewer crashes per month). This decline was not observed in California markets without UberX. When drunk driving decreases, it benefits all motorists, not just ride-sharing passengers.

I just thought Uber was economical, hassle-free, safe and pleasant.

I had no idea it was a life-saver.

Read the whole story to learn why it helps to prevent crime, too.

Why Uber Doesn’t Have a Loyalty Program

During my presentation in Wichita last Thursday night to the Kansas Society of Clinical Oncology, I showed excerpts from a video of Al Errato, the husband of one of our Mayo Clinic patients, which I had discussed in the post just before this one. (It’s also linked from Slide 27 below.)

One reason for showing the video was to emphasize how the advance of technology makes it much more cost-effective to capture moments and testimonials like these.

But during my conclusion (see Slide 66), I also tied Mr. Errato’s example back to one of the Five Tweetable Truths (which is something of a healthcare-specific distillation of my 35 Theses) I shared as a summary:

Creating a great patient experience is the best way to have positive social media buzz

In other words, the success of a social media “program” depends on the underlying reality of the patient or customer experience. If you’re providing good service, the offline word-of-mouth will be good, and you’ll likely be able to amplify it online. If you have quality and service issues, no “program” to encourage online buzz will be successful.

Back in my hotel room that night, I went online to to get a couple of rooms for Friday night, as my parents, Lisa and I were headed to Milwaukee for my grandson Graham’s second birthday. The site informed me that this rental would put me two nights closer to the 10 I needed for a free night’s stay.

As I headed to the hotel lobby the next morning, opening my iPhone app to get a ride to the airport via Uber, a question struck me:

Why doesn’t Uber have a loyalty program?

I had started using Uber late last spring based on a friend’s recommendation – or rather his use of the service for a ride on which I was a passenger. So then the next day I downloaded the app and used Uber myself for my ride back to the airport. I do recall getting some prompts to share my experience with friends, with some discount or credit involved for making the referral.

Since then I’ve used Uber at least a dozen times. I appreciate that:

  • The prices are lower
  • I don’t have to decide whether to give a 15 or 20 percent tip – it’s built in to the price
  • I don’t have to wonder whether the driver will take my credit card or demand cash after the ride’s conclusion
  • I can have the ride billed automatically to a stored credit card
  • I get the receipt via email almost immediately after the ride, and don’t have to worry about misplacing a paper receipt
  • I always get a clean ride with a courteous driver who has averaged at least 4.5 stars on a 5-point scale from those who’ve ridden previously, and
  • I don’t have risk bodily injury stepping into a busy street to hail a cab

On a recent trip I also experienced being able to split the fare with another passenger. No need for one of us to give the other cash and then mess with reimbursement headaches due to nonstandard documentation. We each got our half-price receipt via email.

I’ve become a regular customer, and yet I’ve never gotten an email that says, “Hey Lee, you’ve used Uber 7 times! With just 3 more you’ll qualify for a free ride!”

Why not? Because that would be a waste of money. I’m already committed. Why would Uber give me for free what I already think is a great value?

Uber doesn’t need a loyalty program because its service IS its loyalty program.

I’m glad Delta airlines has its Medallion loyalty program so I can get a few extra inches of legroom in Comfort+ seats at no extra cost, and that I can use accumulated miles for free trips.

And the free bonus night after buying 10 does give incentive to use that site regularly instead of splitting among Orbitz, Priceline, Kayak and the like. I’m not endorsing; I’m just saying that in a crowded marketplace with lots of similar options, a loyalty program can be a differentiator.

But now much better to provide service which is so clearly superior that a loyalty program would be wasteful?

Well done, Uber.


“Allison, Can you explain what Internet is?”

That’s the punch line of a video that I’ve used frequently in my presentations over the last couple of years.

It’s also the set-up for what I think will be the best Super Bowl ad today.

Until now, most people had not seen it before I showed it to them in my presentation. I typically introduce it by saying we’re going to take the WABAC Machine to 1994, to the set of the TODAY show, and hear Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric discussing the Internet.

After Katie queries Allison, and the crowd laughs knowingly, I generally say something like…

That was just 20 years ago. Bryant and Katie weren’t dummies. They were just encountering something that was unfamiliar. Twitter and other social media platforms use that funny sign, the ‘a with the ring around it’ too. Today you can’t even imagine life without email. And if you’re not already using platforms like Twitter, it won’t be long before they’re just as familiar to you as email is today.

Thanks to the commercial BMW is running in the Super Bowl today, if I continue to use the original video snippet I’ll no longer have the element of surprise. As I write this, the YouTube video already has 9.5 million views. And if last year’s audience is a guide, another 110 million or so will see it this evening.

So I’m going to need to adapt my approach, but hats off to BMW for a creative take-off on some classic footage from the NBC video vault: