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Uber was founded in 2009. Essentially, it is a software company providing a service: an efficient and user-friendly way of transporting passengers from one place to another in an automobile. Uber is an app – nothing more. Without drivers and their cars, Uber would not be able to function.

When Uber was founded, the company focused on creating and building customer loyalty and I was a loyal customer. I used to think Uber would eventually become generic for car transportation as Kleenex is for tissues and Xeroxing is for copying. But now I’m not sure if they will still be the dominant player in a very competitive field. Now in selected geographic markets, Uber has competition from Lyft, Gett and Via, as well as new services that seem to be popping up everyday.

When I take an Uber, which is fairly often, I have had many casual conversations with drivers. When they talk about Uber there is no passion or mention of loyalty. With only a slightly leading question from me, many times they will voice their frustration with income, hours, out-of-pocket expenditures, etc. There is no connection to the brand – that piece of the puzzle is missing. Compare this to Zappos, where the associates live, sleep and breathe the company’s culture. While not every company can replicate the Zappos associates’ passion for the brand, it is important to make that goal part of any organization’s DNA.

Recently, Uber began adding a tipping option. At first the company fought the concept explaining that customers wanted to have a frictionless experience without having to decide on a tip amount. The underlying message was that the drivers do not need or warrant that extra compensation. The new tipping option takes less than 2 seconds to execute after you have rated your driver. I think tipping contributes an additional motivation to provide a better experience. When I wrote my last blog about Uber – it is a hot topic – focusing on creating a more human interaction between the driver and passenger, I got varied responses from my readers. Some totally agreed and others said, no, they weren’t looking for a relationship. However, one thing I can be certain about is that every passenger would appreciate a complimentary bottle of water or today’s edition of a newspaper, whether they wanted a conversation or not.

Uber’s market value is projected to be approximately $50 billion, down $10 billion from a short time ago. Their recent bad press made investors wary. Can the culture at Uber change? Should the change just be within the corporate structure? I think the wealth and health of Uber must focus on the driver. Without loyal drivers, Uber will lose market share with each new competitor that arrives on the scene.

Personally I don’t feel loyal to Uber anymore. It has nothing to do with bad press about the corporation having a poor culture, the CEO recently stepping down, or the accusation that they took advantage of customers during a taxi strike in New York. I’m not a loyal customer because there are now many choices and Uber service delivery and environment are not consistent.

Uber must listen to their drivers as often as getting feedback from users/customers and treat drivers as importantly as customers. Finding out from drivers what passengers are saying and feeling about the Uber experience is also key data. The drivers are the frontline associates.

Uber should shift their focus and understand that drivers are the company’s biggest assets. Drivers being well compensated, treated with respect, and appreciated for their efforts will make Uber survive. The ultimate goal should for Uber to become another Kleenex or Xerox. While it took those two companies many years to become generic household names, I’m afraid Uber’s clock is ticking and I’m not sure if it will survive past midnight.

What do you think? How passionate do you feel Uber drivers are to the brand?