Decoded: How the Feeling of Control Improves Uber’s Customer Experience

The Behavioral Economics Behind Uber’s Customer Experience

Why does Uber have no equal when it comes to calling a cab? One reason is the superior customer experience they achieve by making their customers feel constantly in control. Learn how you can do the same.

In this article, you’ll discover:

  • Why a sense of control is important for the best possible customer experience;
  • What Uber does to make their customers feel in control from the beginning to the very end of their journey;
  • How you can adopt Uber’s strategy and improve your customer experience; and 
  • The biggest uncertainty your customer can feel and how removing it can boost your sales.
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Have you ever experienced a time in your work life, when it seemed like everything was constantly changing? You were overloaded with a lot of asap tasks, you never knew what tomorrow would bring, and weren’t able to plan your week because of your boss’s unpredictable demands? In one word - chaos. 

If the answer is no - lucky you! According to psychological research, people in jobs like these tend to burn out pretty quickly. They feel anxious, depressed, and tired. One of the main reasons is that the chaotic nature of their jobs makes them feel like they don’t have control over what’s going to happen. 

This sense of control is just as important when it comes to sales and customer experience. How so? Well, evolution works in mysterious ways. When our prehistoric ancestors couldn’t control a situation it meant that they couldn’t predict possible danger lurking in the wild. 

Nowadays that might seem less rational, but don’t try to explain that to your customers. The brain hasn’t changed that much since then. 

Giving customers a sense of control is way easier and can help you to improve the overall customer experience. There are many companies that have already realized this and their CX is absolutely outstanding. One such company is Uber. Let’s go step by step over 4 things Uber does to give its customers a sense of control and how you can implement these same techniques. 

Giving customers a sense of control is way easier and can help you to improve the overall customer experience.

1. Remove all possible uncertainties

We already talked about Uber when we described how well they eliminate all of the uncertainties that customers might feel even before they actually feel them. 

First, when you are about to order an Uber, you know exactly how much it’s going to cost. The fare is set in advance so you can be sure you won’t overpay. After you order, you can see where the driver currently is and when he or she’s going to arrive. When the driver is nearby, you know what car you should look for and even know what the driver looks like.

In other words, there is absolutely nothing that can surprise you. And that should be your goal. 

Try to think about your service and come up with everything you think is not clear enough. Check the most frequent questions your customers ask your customer support and the most common reasons customers dial your call center. What information are they missing? To push it further, browse online forums relevant to your product. 

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2. Give customers options to choose from

When you are about to order your ride, Uber empowers you with a couple of options to make you feel in control of the whole experience right from the beginning. First, they let you schedule the ride for a specific time. Then you have three options to choose from

You have multiple options to choose from in every step of ordering the ride. At the same time, choosing doesn't feel overwhelming
 You have multiple options to choose from in every step of ordering the ride. At the same time, choosing doesn't feel overwhelming. Source: Uber

Not only do they let you choose the cheapest one if you feel like it, but they explain right away why the other options are a bit pricier. This way, customers can opt for a more luxurious ride and can be sure that the whole experience will be a bit fancier and more comfortable. 

When customers aren’t just presented with the product, but can actually choose the option that suits them best, they feel in more control of the experience. 

There’s a nice, simple study illustrating this sense of control that looked at blood donors. The donors in condition A got to choose which arm the blood would be drawn from, while the donors in condition B did not. The results showed that the donors in condition A perceived significantly less discomfort, as they felt more in control.

When customers aren’t just presented with the product, but can actually choose the option that suits them best, they feel in more control of the experience.

If it’s possible, let the customers choose. As a result of having options, they will be more satisfied with their product, as it was their choice. As a bonus, having more than one option will increase the probability of picking at least one of them

There is a big but, though (yes, pun intended). When presenting the options, there are two things you need to look for. 

First, make sure the choice is easy for customers and that they won’t have a hard time deciding which option is right for them. State the pros and cons explicitly, as Netflix does in their brilliant registration process:

Clear the pros and cons of every option that customers can choose when deciding about Netflix's subscription plan
Clear the pros and cons of every option that customers can choose when deciding about Netflix's subscription plan. Source: Netflix

Second, don’t overwhelm customers with too many options. If you do, they’ll need to make too many choices, which is simply exhausting. Decision-making is hard and people like to simplify it as much as possible. In fact, choice overload may result in them avoiding making a decision altogether.

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When Cowry Consulting was asked to increase average spending in a network of UK restaurants by 4 pence per head, cutting the number of options in the menu was one of the first things they did. As a result of making the choice easier, Cowry managed to increase the average spending not by 4 pence, but by 13 pence per head!

3. Give the customer a chance to cancel anytime

This is one of the biggest uncertainties your customers can feel, and one of the things that make them feel like the situation is totally out of their control. If they feel there is no way back and that they might end up paying for something they don’t want anymore, that’s a no-go. 

Removing this concern gives businesses a big advantage. Netflix, for example, knows this and points it out at every step of the customer journey. Uber realizes this as well and gives its customers an option to cancel their ride in no more than a few taps. They just need to tap the bar showing the driver's information, then "Cancel Trip" and confirm it by tapping “yes”. 

The possibility to get rid of a product is a strong reassurance for customers to go with the product in the first place. In fact, it can increase conversions by even hundreds of percent in some cases. So, for the sake of CX and your conversions, let your customers know how they can cancel the service or return the product even before they buy it

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4. Let the customers rate the experience

To ensure that customers will feel in control of the experience from the very beginning to the very end, Uber gives them the option to rate the driver after the ride is done. If the customers are not satisfied, they simply give the driver a bad rating. 

That gives customers literal control, as the drivers know they need to try their very best to please the customers so they get the much-desired five stars. 

However, that's not the only advantage the reviews will give you. Research shows that the possibility of checking online reviews increased customers’ sense of control over the shopping process, strengthened their trust in the vendor, and increased intentions to buy.

Checking what others say about the product is one of the biggest factors when it comes to deciding in uncertain situations when we are not sure about the product. It’s called social proof, one of the most famous behavioral principles.

To believe the reviews in the first place, customers need to also see some less positive reviews as well.

So, when customers come to the product page and see good ratings, it takes the uncertainty off their shoulders. If others are satisfied with the product, so will they be. Suddenly, the decision whether to buy or not to buy is a bit easier. BUT…

Be transparent and don’t overkill with just 5-star ratings. It will seem suspicious and inauthentic as if you have written the reviews yourself. To believe the reviews in the first place, customers need to also see some less positive reviews as well. A few three-star ratings certainly won’t hurt

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Key Takeaways:

  • The first thing to do to make the customer feel in control is to remove all the uncertainties they can feel. Ask your customer support and call center, what the main reasons are that people reach out to them. 
  • More options are always better than just one. Once customers can choose from more options, they will be more satisfied with their choice. As a bonus, having more options increases the probability of picking at least one of them. 
  • The biggest concern your customers can feel is whether they can get rid of the product or return it if they don't like it. Let them know that cancellation is easy, and that they can do it anytime. 
  • Let the customers rate their experience. Checking the reviews will strengthen their sense of control over the purchasing process and as a bonus, reviews will help undecided customers to make up their minds.