Initially, I wanted to talk about how you could tell if your Uber driver was an experienced veteran. But then I looked into this concept of experience a bit more. Turns out, experience is overrated. Sure, it could matter and sometimes it does matter. But for the most part, hiring someone is a crapshoot and having one year of experience or ten is hardly noticeable when it comes down to it.

What does matter is what the candidate has learned and how that candidate interacts with others and solves problems. Yep, this is starting to sound a lot like a career advice article. But that’s only because it’s the truth! Soft skills matter more than number of years. Attitude and work ethic matters more than specific knowledge. Employers have slowly figured this out.

Okay, so what does this have to with Uber? I’ll tell you. The other day I was driving and I kept hearing the same question over and over: How long have you been doing this? Now, this question doesn’t bother me as I suspect most people are just trying to stikre up small talk and really don’t know where to start. So I started varying my answer – just started to one year to over five years. I wish I could track their responses and see if it matters.

Because here’s the important take away. Like a potential boss, you shouldn’t be so concerned with years of experience. You should be asking how you can tell if your driver is any good, how to tell if he or she is well prepared and professional. Here are five ways to tell if your driver is well prepared, often done in the first minute of the ride.

1. You are greeted back with a smile.

This is a customer service field. Anyone can drive a car. In fact, cars drive themselves now and we may be next (but that’s another topic)! So what separates a good driver (and all good drivers should know where they’re going and be safe) from an amazing driver is how they make you feel. Is your driver smiling, relaxed, but still focused? If so, it’s because your driver knows what he or she is doing. Hence, prepared.

2. You don’t even have to look out the window.

Speaking of knowing where you’re going, some drivers know the city well, some don’t. It’s fine to use GPS and maps and even backseat navigation systems (Read: That’s you!), but the prepared driver knows where most things are. I’m not saying that this will always be the case. Of course, there will be times that even the best drivers get lost or aren’t familiar with a road or location, but chances are good that your driver is well prepared if he or she doesn’t need your help.

As a passenger, I remember how irked I used to be when I would get into a taxi and the driver would ask me how I wanted to get to my destination. You’re the driver! You tell me! The real reason this is so bothersome, though, is because it signals a lack of trust. Is my driver going to go the right way? Does he know what he’s doing? Am I being tricked? The answers are most likely: Yes, yes, no, but it creates doubt and that’s bad for professionalism.

3. You are having a (non-pushy) conversation.

Another aspect of service is building repoire and a certain comfort level. If you find yourself in a comfortable conversation with your driver, then this is something to celebrate. Some can’t make the transition naturally so never try and engage the client. Others talk too much and ask inappropriate questions. It takes a true professional to engage without being over bearing.

Part of the experience of Uber is learning how to interact with people in a short time. You only have a second to make first impression and you only have a quick ride (for the most part) to talk about something. It’s hit and miss, but the great drivers know how to gauge a situation and continue or drop it.

4. You won’t be thirsty.

This comes down to preparation. Are there snacks in the car? Is there water? Is the car clean? Did your driver go above and beyond what was required just to make you feel like a celebrity for a short while? If so, then you should be thankful because your driver does this every single time. So if he or she can do something to make you feel unique, you know that your driver has the ability to make every journey count.

5. You want to tip!

Tipping is for extraordinary service. When you receive it, you want to acknowledge it. Sometimes it isn’t something specific but a general feel or reassurance that your needs were met. When you feel like you want to go out of your way and tip then you know your driver has gone the extra mile.

Regarding that last point, this is why drivers of Uber are saddened and disappointed by Uber’s overall lackadaisical stance on tipping. It’s a gesture of appreciation so to encourage riders not to engage in it is a bit perplexing and, yes, it does affect our bottom line. Good think there’s a Tipbx app under development to solve this exact problem. It really will change the way things are run. Drivers and riders will benefit.

When you come across a true professional, you’ll know it and you’ll be thankful. Now, not every ride will be as smooth or as great and that’s fine. Like anything, great service means going above what is required. If you’re a rider, look for those signs and tell your driver you appreciate it. I promise you that it isn’t as easy as it looks!

Written by Ryan

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