The MacNair Travel Leadership Blog

Uber and Lyft are cool. Can cool get you in hot water?

Posted by Mike MacNair on Jun 4, 2014 11:45:00 AM

newtech_TravelmanagementI love how technology is revolutionizing the world. I am amazed how bureaucracies like taxi commissions are being challenged by new ideas and products like Uber and Lyft. I even love how being able to book black cars and taxis online are making their way into our capabilities. I personally use Uber myself and love it, but I thought about how products like this need to be evaluated and vetted by your procurement team like every other supplier used by your company.

I have been watching taxi commissions trying to address the public use of these tools and can understand both sides of the argument on the subject. Governments have set expectations about what taxi services should have to protect consumers up until now and in most locations, services like Uber have not had to comply with these requirements. On the other hand, I have sat in bad dirty taxi vehicles driven by drivers that don’t know there way around for too much money. Drivers who don’t talk to me because they are on their phones with a friend, who have ancient technology on board, and who I have no easy way to rate their service.

As you may know, Uber gives you the capability to rate their drivers and even pick the highest rated ones. I am by no means trying to throw taxi drivers under the bus, but inconsistencies are rampant in a system that was developed to protect consumers and ensure quality. As in anything, I think that the answer of what to do with the revolution started by companies like this lies somewhere in the middle. Some regulation, more competition, and automation. I am pretty confident that that is where this will end up.

That being said, this is an example of the risks that your travelers can be obliging your organization to if you do not vet and pay attention to the suppliers used by your staff. If an accident does occur, if an executive misses appointment, if a road warrior spends way too much (price should also be vetted in the process), or your credit card data is stolen, there will be costs to your organization. I am not stating what your policy should be, I am only confirming that directing your people to approved suppliers is a good habit. I will add that many limo companies and rental car companies are trying to play catch up, and they too are an option that should be considered.

Is this addressed in your travel policy? Do you tell your travelers which process to follow, which suppliers to use, and which payment system to utilize? The recommended process, your preferred suppliers, and why should be identified. As always, engage your travel squad (a team involved the most in travel who helps evolve your travel program including legal and HR staff). Then, finally, tell your TMC what to enforce.