Why We Keep Using Uber Despite Douchebag Behaviour

Uber, the leading company in the taxi app sector, recently had to defend its company culture, values and ethics due to several reported incidents. These range from customer complaints, poor safety standards, protesting cab drivers and, more recently, reports on how the company handles customer data.

Picture: Getty Images/Pablo Blazquez Dominguez

While Uber has come in for a great deal of criticism and been given an "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau, this doesn't seem to be hurting the number of downloads the app is getting. The app continues to rank in the top ten of downloaded apps, both in Google play and Apple stores. So does this mean to say that Uber's culture and values have no impact on its customer base?

Citizen-consumer duality

There are several factors that must be considered when assessing the continued popularity of the app. But a key concept in understanding customer behaviour is called the "citizen-consumer duality" and refers to the double role that individuals play within society.

Although customers today are considered to be more educated, aware and better informed about issues such as corporate citizenship, ethics and company culture, this does not guarantee that individuals will actually behave accordingly. In many cases this type of information is not the main driver of customers' decisions. This does not necessarily mean though, that the public does not care about the culture and the ethics of the companies whose products or services they use.

In their role as "citizens", people may consider these issues as very important and if asked they may express negative opinions towards businesses whose values and practices don't agree with what they consider as acceptable. But when involved in a real life purchasing situation, people tend to think as "consumers". Consumers are driven by personal preferences and economic incentives and therefore care more about factors such as price, quality, convenience, brand name and popularity.

Uber owes part of its success on concentrating on this consumer role of people by offering an innovative, more convenient and higher quality alternative to a seemingly unchangeable service, and receiving positive word of mouth from satisfied customers. This is what has strengthened their position in the market.

The recent spate of bad press showing the darker side of Uber will connect to the citizen side of individuals. Things like the company's culture and values refers to the long-term benefits the company has for society as a whole and for other people. This could be the cab drivers, other unfortunate customers or the journalists who are criticising Uber and have been threatened. But because it's relatively new and only affecting others, the sense of ethical responsibility it evokes only speaks to people's citizen side, not their consumer side, which makes the decisions about spending.

Making us think like consumers

Reinforcing the consumer side of individuals is of course an approach that can be proven extremely useful in retaining customers, especially in times of ethical crisis, like the one that Uber is currently going through. For example, following an executive's public suggestion that the private lives of journalists that express unfavourable opinions for Uber's business should be investigated, one of their celebrity investors, actor Ashton Kutcher, has posted numerous tweets calling into question the source of some of Uber's criticism:

While Kutcher is not speaking on behalf of Uber, his message is an example of shifting the focus away from the important issue of confidentiality of personal information -- an issue relevant to each and every one of Uber's customers -- and tries to limit it to a very specific group of "shady journalists". For the rest of Uber's customer base this implies that if you are not a shady journalist, this is not relevant to you, there is nothing to be worried about. In other words: This is a problem for the 'citizen' not for the 'consumer'- a problem of 'someone else, at some other place at some other time'.

A maturing market

Such an approach however, cannot be sustainable in the long-term. People are neither passive victims in the market nor slaves of the consumer within them, and this is something that will become clearer as the taxi app market matures. As competition within the sector grows stronger, offering similar services to customers, companies will need more than just good quality services to succeed in a competitive market.

Other aspects such as ethical company culture and corporate citizenship will become increasingly important in determining a company's brand identity and its ability to compete in the market. So far neither Uber's main competitor, Lyft, nor any other company has taken advantage of the current negative publicity, nor have they tried to position themselves as more ethical alternatives. Nevertheless they should be expected to do so, and if Uber wants to keep being the leading brand in the taxi app market, it needs to focus more on improving their brand image and company culture. And soon.The Conversation

Chrysostomos Apostolidis is Graduate Tutor, Newcastle Business School at Northumbria University, Newcastle. He does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Comments

    My biggest problem with Uber is it's lack of usefulness. Something as simple as being able to pre-book cars would make it so much more useful. their official stance (and customer service response) on this is that you should just open uber 15 minutes before you want to travel. That is utterly hopeless, as I found out trying to get a car to the airport one morning, only for the Uber app to tell me "There are no cars in your area". They claim they're better than the incumbents, yet can't offer something as simple (and necessary) as booking something for a specific time.

    I hate to be that guy, but is that your real name?

    I will tell you why I keep using it:
    1. Clean
    2. Reliable
    3. Friendly

    All things that taxi's in Sydney are not. Added bonus that I do not have to direct the driver how to get to my destination. Sydney Taxis are the worst (second to melbournes).

      Personally I've found most taxis to be clean and friendly - although not being terribly talkative myself, your standards in terms of friendliness may differ.

      Reliability is a serious issue, particularly around 2pm-3:30pm when the taxi shift change usually happens. I've had taxis declare reluctance to take a $40 fare at around 2pm because getting back to their depot in time would be difficult.

      The number who want directions, or in the worst case leave the meter running while they sit idle locating your destination on their GPS, is mortifying.

        Well in taxi industry drivers come and go, it's not a easy job to do day in day out and I can bet it's not everyone's cup of tea either, to say uber driver know every nook & cranny of any city is a big lie, legally taxi drivers have to know the suburb and not every street , and if he does pull on the side to look for the street he can leave his meter on, but if he is searching for a suburb he has to stop the meter !!

    An interesting article in the Guardian on this topic:

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/23/uber-dig-dirt-big-tech-digital-capitalists?CMP=ema_632

    "Johana Bhuiyan the initial victim of God View later reported, that two former Uber employees admitted that the app feature God View is accessible to all company staff." This is Sick!!!
    More at: http://www.bestvpnservice.com/blog/uber-is-a-privacy-pooper/

    Last edited 24/11/14 11:31 pm

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