This Multi-Millionaire Founder Drove an Uber to Learn About Customer Service

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This Multi-Millionaire Founder Drove an Uber to Learn About Customer Service
Image credit: John Davenport
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This story appears in the March 2017 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Last year, Paul English signed up to be an Uber driver. As a multimillionaire, he didn’t need the money, obviously. He wanted to understand what it’s like to be rated.

Related: 4 Assumptions Needed to Deliver 5-Star Customer Service

It’s an eye-opening experience that company executives rarely get. Reviewers tend to react to a customer service agent, or the skill of the chef in a kitchen, or, well, the driver behind the wheel. And yet those reviews can impact an entire business. “Reviews provide a first stop for any potential customer to understand a product from a consumer point of view, delivering honest and impartial insight from peers,” says Tomer Tagrin, cofounder of Yotpo, a social review platform for e-commerce websites. According to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising report, 70 percent of global consumers say they trust online reviews.

English wanted to build reviews into Lola by enabling travelers to rate the agents they used. But before the feature went live, he spent six months driving for Uber -- in his Tesla -- to better understand what his agents would go through. As an Uber client, English always noticed the little things about his drivers: Did they blast the radio without asking permission? Did the car smell? Did they drive crazily? But as a driver, he realized how important personal interactions are.

Related: The 4 Essentials of a Customer Service Plan

“I’m an introvert by nature, but being a leader in tech, you have to learn how to be extroverted,” he says. “I took it as a personal challenge: Can I engage them? Can I get them to laugh?” That paid off. His driver rating was 4.97 -- with nice comments, too.

Not everyone has the bandwidth for a similar experiment, but English thinks every entrepreneur can benefit from something like this. Put yourself out there in front of your customers and experiment with how to make them happier -- and listen closely to their reviews.

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