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What Uber Teaches Us About Social Business

Posted by EddiePrentice on September 15, 2014


I live in London, a large busy metropolitan area with hundreds of thousands of people constantly on the go, many of them unfamiliar with the city. Like red buses, black cabs are a familiar and popular site on our streets. London’s black cab drivers have done “The Knowledge” and can get you to your destination without the aid of Sat Nav. It’s as good a cab service as any city can offer anywhere in the world and I have complete confidence in recommending it to visitors. It’s not cheap but its reliable, safe and regulated. So when Uber came along I was initially supportive of black cab drivers claiming unfair competition. Then, out of necessity, I signed up and booked an Uber taxi and I’ve never looked back.

Uber offers a truly great service built on broad principles which underpin the success of Social Business, namely, any time, any place, any device. It is simply a very convenient and efficient means of getting around and every positive customer experience grows the Uber customer base. The tactics they employ aren’t new but technology has enabled a hugely successful execution of their plan. It has completely changed the way people think and act. Uber is now not just a brand name, it is a noun and a verb. “I will book an Uber and see you later” and “I am going to Uber there now” are phrases I have heard people use many times.

Let’s have a look at Uber’s tactics and see how they have made use of the technology. These are signals for successful Social Business adoption.


Once you decide to search for a cab the Uber mapping software shows you exactly where all your pick up options are, how many minutes away they are and who your driver is. You can then make your choice. You enter your pick up and destination locations, a fare is offered and once you accept that the price is agreed. On completion of the journey you will get an email confirmation. Everything is up-front and cashless and there is a record of each transaction.


If you are happy with your driver you reward him by giving him a good rating. This is pretty critical for a driver’s reputation. Similarly, a driver can rate you too, almost a take on 360 degree feedback in the workplace. But it also has another purpose, alerting the driver network to a potentially troublesome customer.


Uber use their customers to drive new business. The most common is a promotional code for an existing user to recommend a new user. For example, when a new user activates their account by taking their first ride they may get £10 off their fare and the person referring gets a £10 credit to their account. Not a new tactic by any means but the technology facilitates a very fast and effective means of execution.

The success of these tactics depends on the sustainability of the model. Does the service work on an ongoing basis. If it doesn’t then Uber will eventually fail. Technology is the enabler not the raison d’etre. That’s the whole point. Ultimately, as it always is, it’s about the people.

Uber were pushing an open door with their customers who wanted certainty (exactly when would  their cab arrive?), transparency (a guaranteed fare), convenience and efficiency (always on, mobile service)  and a reward for supporting the service. These same Uber customers are your employees. This is just one small example of how they live their lives outside your office. For many, they feel they are stepping back in time when they go to work and they don't think that's good for their career. Those employers who don’t see that and don’t deliver an environment which facilitates better, more social ways of working will fail to attract and retain the best talent.

The lesson from London’s black cabs is "object if you wish" but ultimately the customer (or your staff) will decide who’s right. Adapt or die. It's another lesson on why you should become a social business.