Uber beautiful – is Uber creating value? I tend to believe so

Uber logo squareLast night, my Uber driver, Mohammed (from Somalia), was an absolute delight. As much as one can argue about some of the less salacious tactics of Uber, the underlying principle of Uber creates an environment for truly different experiences. I wrote about the same type of feeling when transacting on Craigslist. Wherever I bought or sold using Craigslist, the community experience was delightful.

Mohammed referred to us (Uber passengers) as beautiful people. While we’ll take the compliment, it was more interesting to hear how Mohammed, who has been an Uber driver for 8 months, described the relationship he has with Uber and his passengers. And he described the gulf between the way he felt treated by other limousine services for which he’d driven for 5 years prior and with Uber.

Since Uber takes care of us, we take care of the passengers. Uber gets that!”

It’s a case in point where employee engagement is critical in terms of customer experience.

Driver – passenger

As for the relationship with the passengers, Mohammed went on:

Perhaps, it’s because of the rating system, but I keep on meeting beautiful people.

uber beautiful two arrowsI suspect that there is also an element an early-adopter community of people who are on and using Uber. Having used Uber in five countries (out of the 58 where Uber now operates) and in over ten cities, I can say that I have had a consistently good experience. In some cities, where the taxi service is rather poor (e.g. Paris), Uber provides a radically superior service. In a city like London, where the Black Cab is exceptionally good, the premium service comes with premium conditions: in the street pickup, inside space (bigger), taxi lanes (faster) and the Knowledge (less reliance on a map).

The driver experience

As Mohammed noted above, he feels Uber treats him well. This is surely not true all around the world for Uber drivers. However, in most cities, Uber drivers talk about short waiting times and a generally good revenue. Another driver I had recently was a convert from being a bus driver. He spoke about his journey from bus driver to Uber driver and, to his great satisfaction, he is earning 3x more and working 1/2 less. Plus he knows London rather well. Another element I hear regularly cited is the benefit for drivers in not having to chase down payment… The automatic payment system avoids those times when a passenger will jump without paying or finagle on price. From a passenger standpoint, we are winners too (unless you’re among those who prefer not to pay!).

Overall, it is my belief that Uber is extending and expanding the market for personal transportation. As such it is, in all likelihood, helping de-emphasize the need for car ownership. In the big scheme of things, this is a bonus for the environment. Thanks to the suave Uber app, the user experience is superb (although the initial pin accuracy could still be improved). The communication fluidity between driver and passenger is easy and effective, doing much to create a favorably charged relationship. On top of the payment facilities, the option of identifying and rewarding great driver experiences (6th Star) reinforces the desire to go beyond the call of duty. If there remain legal questions, some questionable business tactics (against Lyft, etc) and issues with driver selection and insurance, overall, I believe Uber is creating value.

What’s been your experience with Uber (and Lyft etc)? Are you a fan or do you believe Uber is not for you?

Paying taxes in France

After attending a briefing meeting by KPMG on how to pay French taxes (we are getting close to tax day here), I found a few items worthy of note.

Unlike most [modern] countries, there is no salary with-holding (by the employer) for taxes. Just for social security — proof of the importance of the social system. Don’t worry about paying your taxes (which are always paid a year later); but we need the social security!

The location and organization for where you send in your tax return is separate from the tax collector. A very antiquated system — sounds like a hangover of the regal days. For extra headache, the return should not be accompanied by any payment. Just a little more bureaucratic inefficiency and overhead.

You have to love the CSG/CRDS taxes which were originally temporary “surtaxes” to fund social security deficits and public debt. Then they became permanent. First they were deducted on salary only. Now they form an additional income tax on investment income (flat 11%).

Tax credits take up a full page of the 4 pages of the 2042 form. Among the (sometimes rather obscure) credit options, you get a whopping 61E per child in further education at the ‘college’ level (5-8th grade). Just another incentive to have children (pervasive concept in the tax return).

Finally, there is a television tax in France (as in UK). The origin of this tax was to fund public television. Since tv is slowly dying out and tv’s will be mutating to computers, I wonder how long the government will take to figure out that the bigger money lies in computer screens (I.e. as multimedia center).

No taxes are fun or straight forward. But you have to love the history and “meanings” within.

Promoting France – good news/bad news

I read with some amusement, the International Herald Tribune (Jan 26 2007) advertising section promoting doing “business in France.” A front page article–an interview of Philippe Favre, Chairman of Invest in France Agency–caught my attention.

To the question, “What factors make businesses … invest in France, and what factors might deter them from doing so?” the following answer was given: “The two main things that make France attractive are its market and its workforce. On the other hand, we are held back by factors, such as a very bureaucratic administration, a complex tax system and inflexible labour laws.”

Don’t know about the USP. I see the equation along the lines of Good1 + Good2 – Bad1 – Bad2 – (1xGood2).