My life as a Uber Driver: the clean & dirty on tips & tricks driving Uber or other ride-sharing service.
Missed the 1st part My Uber Life: Pros & Cons of being a Driver
Tips & Tricks
As with any profession, being a good driver boils down to attention to detail. I have had my own share of rides as a passenger and I’ve been able to gauge the wants of the passenger from my own experiences.
Essentially, the average passenger only wants two things from a ride: Comfort & Safety.
Let’s take it from the top. First of all, your car must be clean. It doesn’t need to be new. It just has to be clean. For Pete’s… sake, pick up any loose bits of stuff you may find, down to loose strands of thread. People notice. It’s okay if your car has a few years on it.
Get some new seat covers, they’re relatively inexpensive. They’ll spruce up your car a little with some colour. These will protect your seats if your car’s new too.
Make sure you have a car air freshener.
Wash your car and have it vacuumed once a week. It’s really not that expensive. RM10 for a wash and vacuum.
Remember: Your car is now one of the ways you bring in the bacon. Make sure she shines.
Most cars nowadays have a USB jack. You can play MP3s that you’ve acquired through legal means on your car stereo. I keep a selection of songs that I sometimes play for certain passengers.
Now, mostly during the day I just turn on the radio. Set your radio to remember stations across all languages. English speaking passenger gets on, you turn to Mix or Lite FM. Mandarin, malay stations, etc, you make sure to tune in to a station that suits your passenger. Remember, your own preferences are not relevant. Passenger comfort comes first.
Keep a selection of songs in a pendrive to play during certain times.
Eg. It’s 7PM, you just picked up a female passenger who looks tired. Obviously it’s been a long day. Fire up that instrumental version of Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years”.
Maybe you picked up a foreigner who looks like he just came out of a business meeting. Neatly combed hair, Prada shirt, Charvet tie and a custom suit, polished accent with a self-assured manner. Probably Oxbridge or Ivy League. Well serve up some Beethoven, Bach, Mozart or Chopin.
The devil’s in the details. People notice.
A Day in the Life of a Uber Driver
The day begins at home. Three keywords. Attire, presentation, grooming.
No need to wear a tie, but make sure that what you’re wearing is presentable. Collared t-shirts are preferable. Long pants only. No slippers or flip-flops. No need for leather shoes but any kind of shoe is a must. Sneakers, whatever. They must be comfortable for a whole days worth of driving.
Spray on some cologne.
Shave (unless you look good in a beard).
I get to my car and I start with a visual inspection of the exterior of my car. If she gets too dirty, then it’s time for a wash. Check to see if your tyres are fully inflated.
Next, an inspection of the interior. Dust out any stray bits of rubbish. I personally keep a container of sweets in the car for passengers. I make sure the trays are filled with sweets, ready to go. Make sure the seat covers are nicely tucked in. Check the level of the air freshener. I give all surfaces in my car a good once over with some wet wipes once every few days.
Start the car and check to see if there are any issues that you need to attend to. Low battery? Low coolant levels? Get it sorted. I always fill up on gas first before I start the day. This way you won’t need to worry about it half way during any rides.
Once you’re all set, switch on your driver’s app and go online. Over time you may have certain places you prefer to start in, but my experience has always been that it would be best to just start out where you live. If you’re not getting any ride requests after 30 minutes, you can start moving to more busy areas. Keep your app active when you drive. Sooner or later, you’ll find an area where you consistently get rides when you first start.
Request comes in, you accept, then you look at the name. English name, Chinese name, Malay name, you take note. You call ‘em. Speak in whatever language their name is. If they answer you in another language, you switch to that language, smooth as butter.
Ascertain their pickup point. Politely say that you have their pickup point at X. Whether that’s right or wrong, they will say so and you would have saved time and energy by not going to the wrong place.
Sometimes their stated pickup point may be a slightly different from their actual pickup point. Not because they purposely put it in, but maybe because they’re not familiar with the Uber app layout. For example, if the pickup point just says Mid Valley City, they could be at the North or South entrance, or the midway point between Mid Valley and the Gardens (Mid Valley Starbucks), or they could even be at the entrance to the St. Giles Hotel. You never know. Always call ahead and be sure. It saves a lot of potential grief.
Look, it’s simple. You may develop your own style, but if you’re just starting out, the template below may be useful
“Hi, this is Professor Xavier, your Uber driver. Good morning/afternoon/evening!
I have your address at Mid Valley. Which entrance are you at?…
Ah, South Court. I’m actually at the North Court right now but I can be there in about 2-3 minutes. I’m in a X-Jet Blackbird.”
However you do it, the important things to get across are:
- Your name
- Their pickup point
- Your current position
- Estimated time of arrival (ETA)
- Colour & make of your vehicle
Always speak in a clear and confident voice.
When you pick ‘em up, take note their attire, save for future use.
When they get in the car, make sure to greet them.
“Hi! Good morning/afternoon/evening! Your destination today is…. (swipe to the right in your Uber app to indicate that you have picked up the passenger) … Ikea Damansara!” (If this is not their actual destination, they will let you know).
Take note of their demeanour (whether they look happy, indifferent, tired), save for future use.
Once the passenger gets in, Waze or Google Maps will show you the estimated time of arrival. There are a few things you can do at this point. I find it useful to try to engage the passenger in some conversation. I find that once you are able to engage a passenger in conversation, a 5 star rating almost always follows.
Traffic conditions are a good starter.
“Looks like there will be some slight traffic on the way, but it shouldn’t be too bad.”
Other than that, the weather or current events are always a safe bet.
Maybe we’ve been experiencing some unusually hot days followed by heavy rain the late afternoons or evenings. Comment on that. Lead into other topics.
Remember some guy who cooked an egg in his car by leaving it on his dashboard? Posted it on Facebook. Remark on that.
Ya’ll remember that ostrich that got loose on the KL highway? Bring it up. (TheStar.com.my)
Then lead into how Huawei capitalised on that. (NST.com.my)
From here, a chatty passenger might be interested in your career as a Uber driver, in which case you will have some of your own answers prepared. Just be candid. You can’t go wrong with honesty. Tell ‘em your story.
After that, always ask about their stories. How do they make a living? What kind of challenges do they face? What’s the best part about their jobs? They married? Family? The better part of having a good conversation is to listen.
The Silent Treatment
Unfortunately, sometimes, for whatever reason, the passenger is in no mood to talk. If, after a few conversational prompts, they remain unresponsive, this is your cue to be silent.
However, that doesn’t mean that you can just sit there doing nothing. Remember those details you filed away for future use? Use them to determine the type of music your passenger might like.
Switch from radio to your pendrive music. Max out your air freshener settings. Drive extra smooth (glacial turns with smooth acceleration).
You have no control over whether your passenger wants to talk. However, you do have control over a whole host of other factors. Use them all to your advantage.
Share and discuss
How has your recent ride experiences been on Uber & GrabCar?