comscore Ola's big problem: It doesn't care about its users or drivers
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Ola's big problem: It doesn't care about its users or drivers

India's largest cab hailing service pays lip service to customer care while its drivers take customers on a ride.

ola-cabs-iphone-stock-photo

If you were on a night out in Bangalore yesterday and were relying on Ola and Uber to get back home, you would probably resonate with what comes next. It was pouring and hailing a cab was next to impossible. There were no Ubers on the road and trying to book an Ola was a bad case of fastest fingers first — cabs would disappear before you could go through the three steps required to book one. But more than the vanishing cabs, it revealed what a safety and financial nightmare Ola can be if you happen to get stuck with the wrong driver. I found it out first hand last night and realized I wasn’t the only one. My nightmare started when I finally managed to book an Ola cab at around10PM and like they say, you won’t believe what happened next. Also Read - Ola Cabs to start services in London from February 10; details

Also Read - Ola self-drive car service 'Ola Drive' kicks off in Bengaluru; 3 more cities to follow soon

First some background. I was booking a cab for a friend who was stuck in Kormangala. Her phone was running low on battery and she asked me to book the elusive cab for her. After trying for 15-20 minutes, I finally managed to book an Ola cab, which the app showed was two minutes away. I called Madhu Sudhan, the Toyota Etios Liva driver, who thankfully spoke good Hindi and was quite pleasant to talk to. He asked me the pickup point, the drop location and whether I was going to pay by cash or Ola Money. I found the third question odd but told him it would be part by Ola Money and part by cash, depending on the bill amount. Sudhan said he was on his way. Also Read - Ola expands services in two new UK cities, taking total to nine cities

He indeed was, but there was just one problem. He passed by the pickup point but didn’t stop there. Instead of picking up my friend, he just passed by her and started the trip. I didn’t realize that he had already begun the trip and thought he didn’t know the location. I called him again to give him directions, but he won’t listen to what I had to say and kept repeating he was reaching the pickup point.

Minutes kept passing by and Sudhan kept driving further. Since Ola doesn’t require the rider to enter the drop location, he was free to drive in whichever direction he pleased. And he did. Once I realized what was happening, I tried canceling the ride. But guess what, a rider cannot cancel a ride that has already started. I tried calling Sudhan, who had conveniently diverted his phone number registered with Ola and I couldn’t reach him.

The next logical thing was to hit Ola Support, which like Uber, only let’s you lodge a complaint via email. But unlike Uber, which is very prompt with its response, I didn’t hear anything from Ola after raising a ticket. At this point of time, I was only glad that my friend didn’t board this Ola cab. She was safer on Bangalore roads even while it was pouring than being in a cab driven by a psychopath driver, especially when her phone’s battery had almost run out.

While I thought what to do next, Sudhan was on a joyride on a pleasant rainy night in Bangalore. The weather, I am told, is to die for if you can stay away from the nightmarish traffic. I doubt Sudhan cared much about traffic, till the time he was getting paid from my Ola Money account and could go wherever he pleased.

ALSO READ: Ola to launch Ola Exclusive subscription service for cab rides: Report

With no way to reach the driver, a non-responsive Ola support team, the next logical move was to take it to Twitter. After nearly 30 minutes of registering a complaint via the Ola app, I finally got a response from Ola but not to the email complaint, which happens by default from the app but because of the tweets I sent. Turns out I was one of the lucky few to receive a “prompt” reply and resolution from Ola.

Another thing that emerged out of my Tweetstorm is that I was not the only one who got ripped off by an Ola driver for using Ola Money. Apparently, it is quite common for drivers to start a trip without picking up the passenger or plain refuse trips that would be paid by Ola Money.

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Why drivers hate Ola Money?

I use either Ola or Uber, whichever is available, on a daily basis. And this is something I have noticed — Uber drivers don’t ask if you are paying by Paytm or cash. They just don’t care. Ola drivers, on the other hand, ask me whether I will pay by cash or Ola Money on a regular basis. And it turns out this is a pretty common occurrence.

 

During my conversations with drivers riding for both Ola and Uber, most of them preferred Uber’s payment system — the money came to their accounts like clockwork, there is complete transparency of what they earned and they would get the exact amount that was due. Meanwhile, drivers don’t have a single good thing to say about Ola money. Their money doesn’t get credited to their accounts on schedule and even if it does, there are missing trips and little transparency. No wonder they hate riders who pay by Ola Money.

ola-bill

Meanwhile, nearly 90 minutes after my tweetstorm that got a number of people replying and retweeting, I finally got a call from someone at Ola, to tell me that they have blocked Sudhan’s device and have asked him to report to office for his side of the story. But the question is whether Ola should be taking so long to respond and whether they called me because of my tweets or because of the ticket I had raised. I suspect it is the latter, as I keep hearing tales from my colleagues who tell me they never get a response to their emails or even when they give one-star rating to drivers.

ALSO READ: Ola introduces Ola Lux, lets you book luxury cars like BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes

At the end of the day, it seems clear that in its quest to grab market share, Ola doesn’t care about its customers or drivers.

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  • Published Date: June 2, 2016 12:51 PM IST
  • Updated Date: June 2, 2016 4:26 PM IST



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