Travel tales – the Uber experience and the future of brokered services!

I read about Uber’s revenue model in the latest issue of the Economist, in Uttara’s house in London, and serendipitously ask her about it.  She has used the service and we decide to book my airport ride, for my flight to Madrid, where I am conference bound, through Uber.  I love the idea of a broker that auctions the service to the lowest bidder.  The result –  rates are impacted by volume surges, simple principle of supply and demand.  I also like that the service is available at any time of the day or night provided the consumer is willing to pay the price.  Why would drivers not show up at I any time when they get to keep 80% of the fare? Being just a click away on a smart phone, I hear Uber is all the rage everywhere.

The Uber model is relevant for all brokered services.  MCIS had better sit up and take notice.

The broker in the language services industry will bring relevance by ensuring a supply of high quality  professionals.  In addition, with their use of complex algorithms in their databases they will ensure market efficiencies. Consumers will no longer pay a flat fee.  The rates they pay will vary with changing demographics, needs in particular linguistic communities, the supply of professionals and the hour of their need.  Interpreter service needs are particularly unpredictable given the hundreds of languages and the numerous global events and trends that impact this need.  The broker will rationalize the rest of the world by analyzing mined data and will thereby ensure delivery of cost-effective services to consumers.  Language professionals will name their price and part with just 20%, or any other negotiated percentage, to the broker!

MCIS would not have to whet the quality of interpreters, as Uber does with its taxi drivers, if there is a self regulating body of professionals, as the one that is emerging in the form of the Canadian Council of Community Interpreters or it’s global equivalent!  However, as a broker, it will rate interpreter performance and feed this into the peer monitoring process.

Back to my story.  Uttara and her friends swear by Uber and I decide to take the proverbial leap.   I realize with some excitement that I am about to participate in a quiet revolution that is fundamentally altering how we live.   An overhaul of the taxi industry is an example of just one such activity experiencing a shift change given apps, the GPS, and other forms of advanced technology.  In most industries current service delivery models are fast becoming anachronistic!

It is past midnight and we use an online service called “” to do the booking.

This, I am told, is like Expedia.  It searches for and gets you the best cab deal.  So the Uber model already has local competitors.  My preference is for Uber since the company has branded itself well as a quality service with polite and punctual drivers.  Uber’s reliance on customer ratings of every ride ensures the use of a dynamic and interactive service model that drives quality and responsiveness.  Yet Another relevant function that a broker in language services would perform and distinguish itself by!

I cannot believe that it was going to cost me just 28 pounds to get to Heathrow from St.John’s Woods, a good 50 minutes by road through normal traffic.  Contrast this with taking the Heathrow Express, hauling my suitcase up and down stairs and on and off the tube and the express train, not to mention the 7 minute walk to the tube station, at a cumulative monetary cost of 20 pounds, in addition to the wear and tear sustained by my middle-aged body.  Contrast this also with the marked black cab, which would have cost me well over a 100 pounds, burning a hole in my pocket book

It’s 11 a.m. and my car is due any minute.  Since old habits die-hard, I wait with some  trepidation.  It all seems too good to be true.   I am told via Uttara’s mobile that I am to look out for a silver Mercedes.  It’s all very surreptitious.  Finally, after what seems like an aeon,  I see the car.  It has no visible signs of a cab.  Uttara, who is at her office, tracks its approach on her phone and confirms.  It is just five minutes late.  The driver is a young Bangladeshi with a British accent.  I ask him about his Uber experience.  He says to me that he straddles both worlds.  He extols the virtues of using a local cab company and picks that as his personal preference.  I sense that he quietly drives for Uber to get on the bandwagon, where to fully resist would mean watching his business being cannibalized.  But he is loyal to his roots – at least for the time being.  London city has 5000 Uber drivers with several being added everyday.  This wave may even give public transit here a moment of pause.  For eg, why would anyone ride the Heathrow Express?!  As usual I engage in chit-chat and find out that he has jam packed days with rides from these “private deals”

We arrive at Heathrow and I hand him 30 pounds.  He carries my bag to the curb and reaches into his pocket for change – I ask him to keep the 2 pounds still filled with disbelief over the amazing value for money this experience has been!  It was indeed an Uber special experience!



Quartz – Uber-economic: Sometimes the invisible hand slaps you in the face



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