It may go down as one of the most brilliant business moves of the early 21st century, or it might end up being one of those “seemed like a good idea at the time” moments. Whatever the future holds for Uber, the service, right now they have a major PR crisis on their hands.
Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick (at left), responded to criticisms by digging in, and banking on the foundational reason Uber exists. He told Wired, “We gave people more options to get around, and that is the whole frickin’ goal.” However, consumers have many others concerns on their minds. Concerns Uber must address. And, they must do so without seeming so defensive about it.
First, are the wildly fluctuating prices that come from Uber’s trip maximizing algorithms. Consumers are complaining loudly about sticker shock, particularly in inclement weather. Nothing will send users back to an old and trusted brand faster than surprising their pocketbook. Second, Uber is seeing doubts about its hiring processes. Despite purporting to doing extensive background checks, Uber is currently being accused of hiring drivers with sketchy backgrounds. And, in at least one recent case in San Francisco, an Uber customer is pressing charges on a driver who, allegedly, assaulted him.
Defensiveness and angry retorts won’t cut it. Consumers want solutions, and they deserve respect. Until now, Uber’s brand was largely being spread by word of mouth, users sharing the convenience and cost savings with their family and friends. But mass media has a longer and faster reach than even the best marketing, particularly when the news smells a juicy crisis in the making.
The media will see an opportunity to warn its consumers about a potential issue. Uber needs to develop a campaign that answers those questions, before they are asked, while at the same time, putting as many positive stories out there as possible. Happy narratives that major on the best benefits of the Uber brand.