Ride-hailing Services in China Has Ample Room for Improvement as Each User Reports Six Problems, J.D. Power Finds
Ride-hailing users’ mobility needs dropped sharply due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak; drivers are experiencing higher economic pressure and the platforms’ operating costs are increasing. To deal with the harsh environment, online ride-hailing platforms have taken various measures, such as daily disinfection of cars and placing prevention tips inside cars. Ride-hailing platforms are learning more than this – enhancement of service quality cannot be realized by only one step; it is the result of continuous improvement. The experience accumulated in this special period should be transformed into standardized service procedures which will last beyond this period.
In addition, this crisis teaches us to reflect on the weakness of the business model. Many service industries have their standard self-rescue methods. For instance, the catering industry can turn to take-out services to compensate for part of their losses. Similarly, diversified development can be a way out for ride-hailing companies. The well-known Uber has adopted the diversified development strategy. Apart from driverless cars, it is developing businesses in food delivery and take-out, logistics, and financial services.
The challenge posed by the outbreak highlights the importance of service refinement operation and service quality for mobility platforms. The J.D. Power China 2020 Ride-hailing Service Quality Study released recently shows that the industry’s PP100 (problems per 100 users) is relatively high, averaging 575. This means on average each user complains of 5.75 problems. Premier services (486 PP100) generally outperform non-premier services (692 PP100). Overall, the service quality of ride-hailing industry needs to be improved.
The Study covers ten mainstream ride-hailing brands. The finding at brand level shows that during the car hailing, UCAR, DiDi Chuxing and CAOCAO have better performance than the industry average. In terms of other service aspects, such as Getting-In-The-Car, Riding Experience, and Order Payment and Management, B2C premier service brands, especially the mobility brands invested by automotive companies, generally have better performance, e.g. Ruqi Mobility, T3Go, SAIC Mobility, and CAOCAO.
The problems complained by the users mainly lie in two aspects: “Platform Service” and “Driver Service”. For both aspects, the steps with the most problems are both the first step, i.e. “Car Hailing” and “Getting-In-The-Car”. This finding proves the golden rule of the service industry – there never will be a second chance to make a first impression on customers. Therefore, J.D. Power proposes the following four principles of online ride-hailing services.
Make good use of the golden time to retain users efficiently
As online ride-hailing is a very time-sensitive type of service, “punctuality” and “efficiency” are very crucial in retaining users. The Study finds that if the order response time exceeds five minutes, 41% of the users will choose to cancel the order or change to anther platform; if the driver is more than ten minutes away from the user, 50% of the users will cancel the order. “Golden five minutes” and “golden ten minutes” are key time durations for prevention of losing customers.
For ride-hailing platforms, the difficulty lies in “high efficiency” and “high customer retention rate”. The key to achieving high efficiency is optimizing platform efficiency, providing users with the most accurate waiting location and waiting time by improving real-time traffic status update and the algorithm for estimating arrival time. The key to keeping high customer retention rate is to place oneself in users’ position and think about what they need.
Honesty is the best way of business; credibility is the best way of making profits
According to the Study, 36% of the users cannot get a ride when the App shows there are cars nearby; over 50% of users report that the real arrival time is 5 to 10 minutes, or even more than 10 minutes longer than the estimated arrival time. When the nearby car status shown on the App deviates from reality, or when the car arrives later than the estimated arrival time, users’ favorable impression of the brand will be reduced greatly.
Online ride-hailing platforms should make the car status transparent and update car information for users in a timely manner; they should also improve the algorithm for estimating arrival time and reduce the probability of sending a distant car to a user when there is a closer car available. In addition, the service standards should be perfected. If the driver cannot accept the order or will arrive later than estimated, then the user should be notified properly so that they can make better mobility decisions.
Understand users’ needs to deliver caring services
Service provided by drivers is an important part of ride-hailing service and has a direct impact on consumers’ impression of the brand. Among the complaints from consumers, many are about drivers’ service. The top three problems reported are “The driver’s driving habit is not safe enough”, “The driver doesn't remind user to look out for cars from behind when getting out of the car”, and “The car smells unpleasant”. Some users say the driver was very unfriendly when the user brought a pet dog into the car. The numerous complaints show that the service provided by drivers does not satisfy users’ needs on many occasions. Therefore, enhancing service training of drivers will be crucial for improving users’ online ride-hailing experience and letting users feel they are provided with high quality service and are respected.
Improve customer services to enhance users’ trust
Although for the online ride-hailing industry, the number of complaints from users is very high, the Study finds that nearly 90% of users do not want to communicate with customer service about the problems they encounter. Most users think the platforms will not solve the actual problems but only offer some coupons and bypass the problems. The loss of trust will result in decline of loyalty. Therefore, to enhance users’ trust, it is crucial to perfect the service system and improve customer service staff’s capabilities.
Users communicate with customer service staff in the hope of solving the problems rather than getting temporary consolation such as coupons. To improve the service capability of customer service staff is actually to establish the mechanism of solving the problems. Online ride-hailing platforms should solve the problems for users in a transparent way, avoid oversimplified and superficial solutions, and let users know clearly that their complaints or needs are being treated seriously and the platforms are trying hard to find solutions.
About J.D. Power 2020 China Online Ride-hailing Service Quality Study
The Study conducts interviews and surveys with users of different brands from different regions to find out the problems users encounter in the different steps of online ride-hailing experience. The Study evaluates two major service types: platform service and premier service, and covers the six main steps of the ride-hailing experience – Car Hailing, Getting-In-The-Car, Riding Experience, Getting-Out-Of-The-Car, Payment and Management, and Safety. The service quality is measured by the number of problems reported per one hundred users. Smaller number represents better service quality.
About the Author: Lin Pei, Director of Digital Customer Experience at J.D. Power China, responsible for automotive Human-Machine Interface (HMI) user experience study and product design consulting, and user experience study of future smart mobility product and new smart connected car technologies. If you wish to know the performance of specific online ride-hailing brands in the China Online Ride-hailing Service Quality Study, please contact: email@example.com.