Since Uber launched in the Jordanian capital Amman in 2015, an “Uberification” craze has swept over the country’s services scene. Everyone now wants to launch the “Uber of this” or the “Uber of that”. It’s understandable of course. Here, finally, was a service on our smart phones that was hugely useful.
I mean, just look at my family. Uber has been making a decent revenue from my teenage son, on one extreme of the age spectrum, and my mom, on the other extreme. My son always had trouble finding taxis in our part of the city. With the lack of a decent public transport system in Amman, he often had to rely on his mother and me to take him places. Uber solved his mobility problem. And we as parents felt safer with the Uber drivers than we felt when he was taking taxis.
My mother, on the other hand, has almost never taken a taxi in Amman in her entire life. She also doesn’t drive. Recently widowed, she has had to initially rely on family members to drive her somewhere. But to my surprise she embraced Uber and used it several time to come and visit us.
It’s a shame that we had to wait for US-based Uber to come and help us with some of our urban mobility problem here in Jordan. Yes, I know that EasyTaxi (another import) launched before Uber, but it seems it was never as reliable and consistent as Uber and thus never created the same kind of buzz in the market that Uber achieved.
Which brings me to the Uberification craze. At SYNTAX we have met several entrepreneurs who had an “Uber of X” idea that they wanted to get branded, designed and developed by us. Some of those ideas were great and others, well, not so much.
So before you embark on your Uber-like startup, stop for a minute and consider these questions:
1 Does Jordan (or your city/country/world) need you idea? In other words, what problem are you really solving. We’ve seen too many entrepreneurs in this part of the world who create solutions that are still looking for non-existent problems. Uber solved a real pain for people in Amman and many other cities. In Amman that pain was an underdeveloped, degraded taxi service. We’re taking dirty, unkempt cars, drivers who often don’t want to turn on the meter, who didn’t have change, or who simply refused to take you to a certain place. Uber came and gave us a more reliable, cleaner, more elegant way to order a ride, make a journey and pay for it. Look at how many pains it removed. That’s why people embraced it, even as it was more expensive than taxis. Before you fall in love with your own idea to create the “Uber of baby diaper delivery” maybe you should notice that buying diapers is not a big problem in your city, as every coronership sells them. Are you solving a real problem?
2 Are you thinking just about an App, or are creating a whole customer experience? At SYNTAX we always think about and observe customer experiences. Don’t get us started about the lack of great customer experiences in our region. Getting a website or an app right is not easy. But even if you have a good looking and properly functioning app, you’ve only taken one step towards success. When Uber launched in Jordan it created a model of service that delivers a good customer experience. Of course they had to deal with regulatory issues. They couldn’t just go with their US model where basically anyone could become an Uber driver, as that would be illegal in Jordan. They got decent drivers, provided them with decent cars, and then they launched their app. When we talk about touchpoints at SYNTAX we always emphasize to clients that they need to think about what touchpoint has the biggest impact on their business. When you want to launch the Uber of Falafel, make sure you can consistently make and deliver good falafel, before worrying about your mobile app.
3 Customer experience is the best marketing tool. If you solve a real problem for people, and then prove to them you can deliver the solution without driving them crazy, and when your all touchpoints have been well considered and designed, then congratulations, you have created a great customer experience. What will happen next is that you will have happy customers tweeting about it, telling their friends on Facebook and face to face too. That’s the best marketing you can get. It’s better than advertising and also better than gathering the “usual suspects” of “social media types” for a “tweetup” (or whatever it is called these days). By all means, advertise and do social media stuff, if you have the money and the time. But not before you get happy customers talking about the experience they had with your Uber of Falafel.
4 Are you ready to learn from your customers? A customer-centric mind set is more than just keeping the customer in mind when you first design your app, product of service. It also means that you are willing to learn from your customer’s behavior over time. When you initially launch your Uber of Falafel, or any app for that matter, take into consideration that you will need to tweak your offering over time, according to how people actually use it. Entrepreneurs often make the mistake of not budgeting enough time or money for the long haul. They are too focused on getting something out of the door. Well, more often than not, things do not work out they way you imagined. So you need to be ready to continuously improve your app, your communication and every touchpoint of your customer experience. The customers of you Uber of Falafel, may have problems with their credit cards. Or maybe the falafel are being delivered to them cold. Whatever. Such stuff will crop up. You need to listen, learn and tweak.
We at SYNTAX wish all the Uberification entrepreneurs the best of luck. Our region needs a million brilliant digitally-driven service to make our lives easier. But we also invite you to a chat about your next project. A customer-centric design conversation can add a lot of value to your next digital startup or corporate service.
By Ahmad Humeid
Originally published at syntaxdesign.com on February 21, 2016.