Dos and Don’ts of Ride-Hailing Services
Since 2016, Foreign Affairs Auto in West Palm Beach, Florida, has offered courtesy ride-hailing services to its customers. Switching from a shuttle service to ride-hailing helped enhance the customer experience and keep the shop in line with being the “Nordstrom of Auto Repair,” says Jonathan Ortiz, general manager and co-owner.
Although the shop offered ride-hailing services for six years, it continues to re-evaluate and find the best option for both its business model and its customers. Over the years, Ortiz has switched providers to find the features that best suit his operation.
Whether you’re using loaners or a shuttle service, there are many considerations when making the switch to using ride-hailing services. Even if you currently use ride-hailing, there are common pitfalls many shop owners can fall into.
Ortiz shares some of the do’s and don’ts that have helped make the process easier and seamless for both his business and his customers.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Make sure the decision to use ride-hailing services is feasible for your company. In the beginning, Ortiz says it was a lot to manage because he was using the regular Uber platform. Whoever ordered the Uber for the customer also had to monitor the vehicle’s location. This became problematic when the phone would ring or another customer would need help. Ortiz says the normal platform may work fine for a smaller operation, but he needed something that would help take some of the responsibility off of his staff. Ortiz eventually found another service that allowed the customers to get a notification when their vehicle had arrived, freeing his staff to care for others instead of checking on a ride-hailing services vehicle’s status.
Do set clear guidelines.
Make sure everyone on your staff is on the same page when it comes to the rules for ride-hailing services. Is it offered to every customer? Is it complimentary? Is there a distance limit? Put that in place and make sure your staff understands.
“If you’re going to have a rule in place for a customer service perk, be consistent,” Ortiz says.
If you offer it for free up to 10 miles, do that every time. Make sure everyone knows that’s the rule, and not a last-minute situation where a service advisor is telling the customer they can’t have the ride-hailing services for free because they live 15 miles away. Set the expectation from the start.
Ortiz doesn’t have a limit for how far he’ll pay for ride-hailing. He says if a customer is willing to travel 45 minutes to come to see him, he’s more than willing to pay for the ride to get them home.
Don’t forget to cover all your bases.
One of the biggest headaches Ortiz has with ride-hailing services is lost items. This is something he hasn’t found a solution for, but he does everything he can to make sure the customer doesn’t forget anything in the shop. His staff is trained to walk the customer to the vehicle and ask them if they have everything they came with, such as their phone and wallet. Doing this prevents the customer from thinking they left something at the shop, when really it’s in the vehicle of the ride they hailed, which results in more rides back and forth. If a customer has misplaced something in a vehicle and calls the shop, Ortiz says that there’s a section on Uber Central where you can make a claim for the item on behalf of the customer.
Another tip is to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Make sure they know the ride-hailing service is free if it is. Ortiz says his staff lets customers know that the ride is complementary, the bill is sent directly to the shop, and there’s no need for a tip. Now, you may choose to offer something else, but make it clear to the customer what is expected of them when they’re being dropped off so they don’t feel uncomfortable.
Do remember the ride home is an extension of your business.
Even though you're not technically the person driving the customer home, it’s still a part of your customer's experience with you. Make sure it’s a good one, or it will reflect poorly on you. For example, Ortiz says that his staff knows that if a vehicle comes that doesn’t look up to standard, they should cancel the ride and get the customer a new vehicle. That’s another reason that it’s important that the service advisor walks the customer out to the hailed vehicle.
“We ask the advisor to make a decision: Would you get in the car?” Ortiz says.
If a customer has a bad experience during their ride home and calls the shop to complain, Ortiz says the staff is instructed to apologize and let the customer know they’ll pass that feedback to the ride-hailing service.
Don’t forget to re-evaluate.
What worked for Ortiz and his shop in 2016 doesn’t work for his shop in 2022. Businesses always need to be adapting, and the way that customers get home is no exception to that. Be willing to change and research new offerings. When Ortiz started offering ride-hailing services, Lyft wasn’t as popular as it is today. Maybe Lyft is the best choice for your company. Or, maybe a new company has popped up that’s the perfect fit. Once you’ve found the platform you want to go with, stay on top of new offerings that they have. That’s what led Ortiz to try out different services over the years.
In March of 2022, Ortiz says he spent roughly $6,000 on ride-hailing services. He averages between $5,000 and $6,000, which results in 250-275 rides. It’s a large expense, but he says it’s helped elevate the customer experience. Customers no longer have to wait their turn to get dropped off, like they did with the shuttle service.
Since they’ve worked out their kinks with ride-hailing from the beginning, it’s become very easy for the company. Now, he gets billed once per month for the service, and he doesn’t have to worry about storing, maintaining, and tracking a fleet of vehicles.
“For us, I’d rather have that expense and know what it is and wash our hands of it,” Ortiz says of the decision to use ride-hailing services instead of having a shuttle or loaner fleet.