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 Hotels.com 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 Hotels.com 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 Hotels.com; 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.


Author: Lee Aase

Husband of one, father of six, grandfather of 15. Chancellor Emeritus, SMUG. Emeritus staff of Mayo Clinic. Founder of HELPcare and Administrator for HELPcare Clinic.

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