Uber is starting to ditch email support in favor of a new customer service feature within its own app. Why? The company says it's just easier for all involved.
The in-app messaging service is designed to replace "firstname.lastname@example.org," which customers and drivers have been using for years, Uber announced Wednesday. "Email not only puts a lot of the work on you, the customer, it also doesn't work in countries like China and India, where people increasingly don't have email addresses," the company said.
The in-app messaging customer service, launched last year, became widely available to U.S. users in January. Uber looks to expand the feature abroad in its communication with riders and drivers.
While an Uber blog post about the shift refers to it as "customer service at the push of a button," Uber says the changes do not constitute the emergency button some critics of Uber's safety procedures have suggested the company implement. Nor was the shift a response to media coverage -- in particular, a Buzzfeed story about sexual assault complaints -- regarding how the company handles complaints, says Michael York, an Uber product manager overseeing customer service.
The best description for the button is "the hub of all support," he says. Customers will be able to report potentially urgent situations such as an accidents or feeling harassed by a driver, York says. In that way, the in-app messaging feature appears to share some uses with the emergency phone line Uber is piloting.
(Uber emphasizes that riders and drivers should still call 911 in the event of an emergency.)
With the new in-app messaging, riders and drivers will be able to select from a list of options (including an "I can't find my issue" option) for the types of problems they face, allowing for swifter processing than email.
Uber is moving away from email communication gradually, and the emphasis now is on shifting customer and driver service communication to the Uber app, says Michael Mizrahi, Uber's global community operations lead. "We're going to take it slow, make sure we get it right," he says.
Mizrahi and York expect the change in communication method to have particular appeal abroad. The blog post specifically mentions China and India -- two markets where the company is trying to expand -- as areas where users are increasingly likely not to have email addresses.
The changes do not impact Uber's customer service policies or involve any changes or expansion in the company's customer service operations staff, York says.