How Uber Applied Gamification and Improved This Real World Experience
With his acoustic guitar held well above his shoulders, Wesley Schultz – front-man for radio darling the Lumineers – ended the encore, which ended what had been an incredible evening of soulful harmonies, bittersweet melodies and audience entwined sing-along. With a “thank you” and “goodnight!” the crowd offered back one last sound-crest of whistles, cheers, and waves. Then as the mostly Manhattanite hipster gathering poured out of Terminal 5 – a rock hall on the west side of the isle just north of the Intrepid – the mad dash to hail a cab ensued. Many decided to walk, many fought the odds and the masses for the limited cabs that were present, and I pushed a button on my cell phone. Yes, we’ve been hearing for over a year now why Uber is a beloved application and please worry not, this post isn’t a simple re-cap of the Uber service and interface, that story is already very well worn. But this story begins with a simple question, from a not so simple NYC Uber driver.
“Are you hungry?” he said to me a few moments into our journey back to the east side of the island. With a slow nod and a thoughtful, eye-brow even-ing furrow I answered in a definitive cadence, “Yeah, I am definitely hungry… Is there a Wendy’s or something on the way back?” To his credit, my cabbie quickly dismissed my amateurish request and fired back, “You like chicken and rice, really good?” I again found myself answering this with a head-nodding “yes”.
Within 90 more seconds or so, my driver found a nook on the side of the busy street and pulled into the spot with authority. Leaving the car on, he hopped out and gave a jovial, “Come on.” I could see the food truck dead ahead, but I also saw a line that even a Manhattan-paced “yuck-truck” would consider long, and it was freezing out. As we approached I tossed out a soft, “Huge line man.” and again the driver simply pressed forward saying only, “Don’t worry.”
He approached the truck from the side and was greeted by the cashier of this 2 man operation with a smile. Within seconds I was being asked what kind of sauce I wanted as I paid the vendor for what was a voluminous and delicious smelling plate of steaming hot cuisine. On the way back to his car, the driver quickly pit-stopped at a nearby vendor selling soda and water. He turned to me and asked, “What do you like for drink?” and as I chose the Diet Coke, the driver handed the man $1 and we were off, back to his vehicle. I was (born a New Yorker and not exactly used to this type of treatment from a cabbie) stunned. So I asked my driver a very blunt question: “Why are you doing all of this for me?” His answer was even more stunning as he said calmly, “Just give me a great rating please.” as he smiled and opened the door for me.
A simple gamified rating system drove this man to an exceptional level of service. This virtual currency and digital rating system changed my physical user-experience. In fact it near re-invented it! Now the question for you as an innovation leader: How can your company, organization, or enterprise do the same? Note, I don’t mean how you can apply gamification, perhaps you can, and perhaps you should, but I am talking in both broader & bigger terms. How can you create a new user-experience by thoughtfully applying digital innovations to what are physical experiences?
RELATED STORY – See how relevant these ratings are to Uber drivers
The Internet of Everything aka web 3.0 is at the doorstep. Those who will win in this new era of hyper-connectivity will be applying technology to traditional physical experiences to re-invent how the user experiences “it”. The shift back to the physical world is very real. Whether it is augmented experiences, sensor technologies creating individual neo-data consumption opportunities, 3D Printing wonderment, or savvy applications, like Uber, that alter traditional physical experiences, the physical world is being permanently tattooed with an invisible (or near invisible) digital layer. How you cross this chasm and create the innovations that synergistically bridge the two is your quest. This is where new experiences will emerge from. When you change the user experience for the better, you win the innovation game.
And for the record, both the chicken and rice and my Uber driver received there well deserved 5-star ratings.
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image credit: www.thetroubadoursroad.com, recommend.travel, bits.blogs.nytimes.com