You know what is worse than being in a sword-fight with someone really capable of slicing one’s skin? Having to fight in a hall of mirrors where you have no clue of how many opponents are out there.
Users of taxi services are going through something similarly annoying right now, specially after the app avalanche has surrounded them from all fronts. Those complaints were not any drier in the website era, but the sheer ease, speed and convenience that apps were pitched upon to start with; have turned into horror alleys in the most ironic twist.
We will save concerns over access to user’s location data (even after a drop has been completed), other device-information, arm-twisting users for arbitration instead of lawsuits, constant location stalking etc. for another’s day rant (you can Google Electronic Privacy Information Center or privacy lawsuits till then). Yes, let’s skip even those that stick like a nasty pole before one decides to install these aexpp: Like, disclaimers of using data, and phone elements (that you may rightly wonder – what has ‘this’ part – example ‘the address book’ on my phone – got to do with my ride – but there’s nothing you can do as the app will only show you a list of things it will access. There is no permission-permission, only an appearance of information that it oh-so-transparently provides). Recall this line: ..use of the app constitutes your consent?
Let’s start some kms ahead.
Technology first – and you can think of all major names here, irrespective of the alphabet (U, O or M). Users have generously lambasted the loading times, server crashes, production-level failures, sloppily tested and lousy QA level of many apps by now.
The concern is understandable. No one wants to have a taxi app on a phone only to end up waiting more than one did on the roads in the B.C (Before Cab) years. If the app takes time to run, or crashes every now and then, forces the user to install it again and again for the updates that keep pouring in, shows errors or incomplete information between distances for pick-up and destination points, displays phantom cars that may turn from being around-the-corner to suddenly unavailable once the user taps, calculates wrong fares, goofs up on navigation, does abrupt/last-minute cancellations etc. then it clearly defeats the very purpose it was pegged on.
Even if the app is successful in boarding a passenger correctly, there is so much hard-to-wipe fog about payment-methods that one either ends up in a confusing argument with the driver or a double-payment. The latter one, by the way, further hairballs into an almost-never-ending refund-follow-up-tale.
One quick glance at the reviews of these apps is sufficient to discourage prospective users, when you look at how much one has to follow up for refunds or for sorting out wrong deductions for no fault of the user. The user, it seems, not only pays for the fault of a bug that the app houses, but also tastes salt on his/her wounds when customer-care is either inaccessible or colder than a steel machine could be. Scripted answers, delays in follow-ups and ostensible disregard to the user’s time and suffering appear to be the common pattern for many customer-service anecdotes.
Notifications are the exact opposite. They are proactive, intrusive and so frequent that they irk the user to a different degree altogether. Reviews also show that features added via apps (like driver scheduling) are not meeting the purpose that was intended.
To make matters worse – users reviews, which happen to range from disoriented to infuriated to helpless to so-vexed-and-flexed that they give up on the idea of an app completely, are often met with a terse vanilla answer that sounds like it has been typed by a bot in the most cold-shouldered habitat.
But the nightmare is something much beneath and beyond – this flurry of flak that apps are getting can be canaries in the coal mine. They are constant pointers to rude driver behavior, numb service personnel, arbitrary cancellations by drivers and gross lack of training into customer empathy and are indicating a danger that’s much more hard to fix than a software.
People are better, and by the same logic, worse than pieces of code. If a fleet is being run with just the numbers in mind, no level of urging people to download apps can make up for rude, indifferent, self-centered people who are actually delivering what the app facilitates. It’s easy to lure people with referral discounts or free-rides (this, again, is a sore thumb with users who report that no freebie ever translates into a tangible no matter what their wallet or app shows). What’s tough, of course, is to retain these users and deliver them what is promised.
For now, most apps are just adding the prefix ‘In’ to the ‘convenience’ they were apparently designed for. The only convenience is the one available to insensitive staff and those drivers who love to hide behind the glitches of an app.
The user was, perhaps, better off when he had one driver to argue with or even have a brawl with. Switching on an app leaves him/her with the classic problem of too many throats to choke. That too in a room where there are more reflections to chase than actual mirrors.