The first time I used Uber, I was desperate.
It was a few years ago, and I was standing on a busy intersection in New York City as a storm rolled in. I was trying to hail a cab to the airport right around the infamous time of the “changeover”—the time of day when the cab drivers on the morning shift go off duty and the evening shift is just starting.
With my luggage in tow and desperation on my face, it was undeniably the worst time to be trying to beat the rain. After having no luck for at least 20 minutes, I decided to try out an app I'd been hearing about—apparently you could order a car via your phone, and it would just show up to pick you up.
So I juggled my umbrella to my left hand and started the download and signup process for Uber. That’s when it happened: There was a moment during the registration and new account creation when you had to enter your credit card number.
It’s probably the worst part of trying to sign up when you’re standing on a street corner in the rain. But Uber had a button I'd never seen before that allowed me to take a photo of my credit card so the app could automatically read the numbers and enter them for me.
How much time did avoiding typing those 16 digits save me? Probably about 10 seconds. But as a new user of the Uber app, it told me something very important: It was a sign that the company cared about my time. In fact, it cared so much that it would rethink even the most mundane aspect of its user interface and go through what I presumed to be extra effort just to save me the 10 seconds of time it would take to enter my card number.
At that moment, I became a customer for life, and since that time, I've used Uber in more than a dozen cities and recommended it to hundreds of people.
Every time we consume a product or service, we're looking for a great experience. Sometimes we get it, and sometimes we don’t. Yet what the example of Uber and its user interface design illustrates is an important principle for any business:
When you care first, results come later.
Caring first can mean having customer service people who answer the phone without putting customers on hold. It can mean making the packaging on your product easy to open instead of the plastic death traps we often get. It can even mean making it easy for your customers to return a product even though it may cost you money.
Caring first is the human thing to do, but it can be an easy thing to forget in a world where cut-and-pasted terms and conditions are easier and easier to coat on top of nearly every customer interaction.
Sometimes I feel the temptation myself. But then I remember that Uber experience and just how important those 10 seconds were to me as a customer. Or I think about the experience I once wrote about where Amazon ensured my customer loyalty with just 32 cents.
The point is, focusing on results is the easy way to do things. Caring first is harder, but it's very clearly worth it.
Rohit Bhargava is the bestselling author of five business books and has been invited to headline events in 27 countries around the world to help teach businesses how to be more human and build customer loyalty. He often evangelizes products and services he believes in, and he never ever tries to hail a cab in New York City during the changeover … anymore.
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