The best part of Uber’s customer experience this Halloween isn’t the little candy corns and witches that have replaced the regular vehicle icons on the in-app map. (Though I have to admit, those are pretty damn cute.) It’s the way Uber has set expectations about the surge pricing that will inevitably force Halloween revelers to fork over much more than a couple of full-size Snickers bars to get to and from their festivities this evening.
Not surprisingly, surge pricing isn’t popular with customers. Does anybody really want to pay 1.75x or 2.25x the price of a regular taxi fare? Of course not. I’d argue it’s just about the only ghoulish thing about the entire Uber experience. But it’s a fundamental part of how Uber does business, as it “ensure that pickup is available quickly and reliably.”
Rather than springing tonight’s surge pricing on unsuspecting (and, let’s be honest, inebriated) customers and creating a frustrating beginning or end to an otherwise fun night of partying, Uber just sent out an email with the subject: “An Uber Guide to Halloween.” In it, Uber reminds us to “keep in mind that tonight will be one of those rare evenings when every witch, mummy and Miley look-alike wants to leave at exactly the same time.”
It then shows an illustration of how customers should expect prices to rise and fall throughout the evening and offers tips on how to save money tonight — or at least know what you’re going to pay before you request a ride. And, given the number of accoutrements (like wands, tails, and wings) that Uber riders will be carrying with them tonight, the email also provides a URL for getting in touch with your driver should you happen to lose a critical costume part in transit.
Why is this email so great? Bad customer experiences (like paying more than you thought you would) are never fun. But the degree of perceived badness can be mitigated when companies set appropriate expectations — and provide alternatives — ahead of time. My guess is that customers who read this email will be a little less peeved about the surge pricing tonight than they would normally be on any other Friday. And that will lead to a very happy Halloween, indeed.
Have fun, stay safe, and ride cheap out there tonight!