Online taxi firms improve services to win over riders

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By Glenah Nyamwaya

As a variety of online taxi companies enter the Kenyan market, there has been need for players to up their services in order to maintain clientele. In a bid to counter its competitors, online taxi firm Uber has partnered with First Assurance Company to offer personal accident insurance cover against rider injury or death.

The cover, which came into effect as from mid-October 2017, compliments the Public Service Vehicle (PSV) insurance that each Uber drivers has for their vehicle, enhancing the safety of their passengers.

According to the taxi firm, “Uber riders will be insured for accidental medical expenses, costs while on hospital confinement, ambulance emergency as well as compensation for death or serious injury suffered while on a trip with Uber.”

Uber General Manager for East Africa, Loic Amado disclosed their excitement of the new policy terming it as innovative and giving them an edge over their competitors. “The insurance coverage goes hand in hand with Uber’s commitment to build safety into our service from beginning to end: before a passenger even gets into the car, throughout the journey and after they have reached their destination,” he said.

The product comes hot on the heels of the real-time ID check rolled out by the firm in June to verify the driver’s identity through advanced facial recognition technology. This security feature allows for checks every time drivers go online, to protect their accounts from fraudsters and boost safety of riders using the service.

Some of the other apps introduced by Uber since January 2017 include the share trip feature which allows drivers to enable friends and family to keep track of their location, a function that was previously available to riders only.

The in-app chat, also introduced some months ago, makes communication for the driver and rider easy. Meanwhile, Uber’s most inexpensive competitor, Taxify has introduced the Comfort Service, geared to provide riders with a top- end service experience. The service will allow users’ access to better car models driven by the most experienced and highest rated drivers, competing with Uber’s Select option.

Taxify Comfort was introduced with a 25 per cent offer for the month of November, with a base fare of Ksh120, Ksh25 per kilometer covered, Ksh4 per minute and a minimum fare of Ksh 250. On standard taxis, Taxify currently charges Ksh100 base fare, Ksh20 per kilometer, Ksh4 per minute and a minimum fare of Ksh220.

On the contrary, the Uber premium service dubbed Uber Select charges Ksh100 base fare, Ksh43 per kilometer, Ksh4 per minute and a minimum fare of Ksh300. Another competing firm Little cab charges Ksh100 base fare, Ksh50 per kilometer, Ksh4 per minute and minimum fare of Ksh270 for Comfort Plus; and Ksh190 base fare, Ksh35 per minute, Ksh 4 per kilometer and a minimum charge of Ksh190 for the Comfort option.

With its innovative streak at peak, Uber also recently announced plans for an in- vehicle advertising platform that is set to be rolled out soon. This, the firm says, is aimed at diversifying revenues for the company and its drivers. In partnership with CabbyTV Limited, the taxi firm will install a screen in cars and the drivers paid a monthly fee as agreed.

The screen will provide a platform for advertisers to engage with Uber riders while they browse the entertainment options available. But even with the rush to secure more riders, Uber has started charging a waiting fee on its riders to compensate drivers where they are made to wait by customers for lengthy periods.

On the driver’s arrival, the taxi app sends a notification to the rider advising that the per-minute charge will apply after the allowed first five minutes of waiting. “The waiting charges will be added to the receipt where an upfront fare is quoted and when there is a surge, the wait time fees will increase as well,” said Uber East Africa spokesperson Janet Kemboi. Taxify on its part has introduced demand- based charges, also known as surge pricing, as it seeks to attract more drivers to its platform.

The surge pricing allows the online taxi firm to temporarily raise prices on its platform during periods of peak demand. Taxify defended this move saying during periods of high demand, drivers who have signed up on multiple platforms opt to work with Uber, to heighten their profit margins.

This scramble for drivers has also led Uber to succumb to the pressure of their recent drivers’ strike, increasing their prices from the previous Ksh 200 minimum fare to the current minimum fare of Ksh 300. For ease of payment options, both Uber and Taxify accept cash and debit card payment. None of them however cater for M-Pesa payments but the rider can directly send the amount to individual drivers.

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