Uber’s Crisis Comms Strategy: Automated Email Responses

uber-300x225Amateur chauffeur provider Uber got a bit of attention on this blog back in July for saying (via General Manager Chris Nakutis) that PR is a waste of money and that new companies can “almost jump over the…process” altogether.

We’re starting to think that the business really does live that philosophy. A couple of weeks ago we noted, via BuzzFeed, that Uber issues the same “Safety is our #1 priority” statement every time one of its drivers scores negative coverage.

Today we learned, via Valleywag, that in some particularly egregious cases the company doesn’t bother releasing a statement at all.

In the post, an anonymous customer tells Sam Biddle that she went through the usual steps to order an UberX car in L.A. but that her driver took her more than twenty miles (and two hours) out of the way, stopping in a remote parking lot and only returning to her proper address after she “caused a commotion and screamed.”

She contacted Uber, which gave her a partial refund and a robotic email apologizing for the “inefficient route”(!!) before refunding all her money after (we hope) reviewing the service complaint from Hell.

Obviously, Uber employs lots of people, and the company cannot be held directly responsible for the behavior of every single driver. But at a certain point this famously non-responsive attitude will grow larger than any single case. And stories like this one will keep coming.

Maybe Uber could follow Tesla’s lead and hire some visible real-world humans to handle this stuff.

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.