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  • How to retain ride-hailing drivers: 10 driver engagement steps

How to retain ride-hailing drivers: 10 driver engagement steps

Dear ride-hailing business owners, let’s face it: without your drivers, you don’t have a business. You need to make them an offer they can’t refuse and give them a reason to become an invested partner for your business for years ahead.

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We’ve asked more than 300 local ride-hailing companies to give us some advice on how to build a relationship with the drivers and grow an effective and loyal fleet from scratch. 

As a result, these are the best practices on  how to grow your ride-hailing fleet coming straight from the leaders in the ride-hailing industry:

Step 1. Research competitors’ offers

Research is your first and most vital step. By the end of your competitor research, you should know:

  • The conditions your competitors offer to their drivers (competitors’ commissions and any incentives or benefits);
  • Additional benefits their drivers training & support, vehicles, community events;
  • Tools competitors’ drivers can use.

To research competitors, use all means available. Here’s what you can do:

  • Use companies’ reports and open sources
  • Sign up as a driver for the competitors’ app
  • Look through reviews on app stores
  • Ride as a passenger with competitors' drivers
  • Analyze competitors’ ads (with Facebook ads and similar sources, or tools like Semrush)

To find out more about research methods, read the article on how to outperform established competitors.

Effective Ways to Research Competitors in the Ride-Hailing Industry

Watch here

Step 2. Learn drivers' preferences & concerns

Common drivers’ preferences and concerns are listed in the article on drivers' likes, dislikes, behavior, and preferences. However, there will also be market-specific preferences and concerns. To discover them:

  • Dive deep into driver communities (they usually exist on social media (esp. Facebook & Reddit) and popular messengers (Esp. WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger);
  • Read competitor’s service reviews and take notes of drivers’ complaints.

Step 3. Learn the specific needs & peculiarities of your market and operational area

Your market may have some unique characteristics. For example:

  • Driver might need snow tires in cold climates or air conditioning in hot climates;
  • Local events and festivals might attract all drivers;
  • Drivers might only accept cash payments or local payment providers.

The best way to find out about these issues and requirements is to dive into local driver community chats. They often exist as Facebook or WhatsApp groups. 

You need to be aware of such needs for further actions aimed at improving driver engagement.

Step 4: Craft an offer that makes drivers’ hearts beat faster 

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When crafting an offer for your drivers, you should take into account all of the above factors. Your offer should combine financial and non-financial benefits.

Checklist: Grow your ride-hailing fleet in 10 steps!

Get here

Driver plan

  • Develop an attractive fee structure

It can include flat or percentage-based fees and subscription plans per period. In some markets, flat rates work better than % fees. If you’re unsure how to set up a specific subscription plan and what the options are, check out possible Onde options for driver tariffs.

  • Free period for new drivers

It’s better to offer drivers a period with no fees or commissions involved. This way, nothing will stop them from trying out your company. However, the zero fee period should last no longer than 1 month or act as a reward for achievements. If you keep the zero-fee policy for too long, drivers might refuse any fees in the future. Additionally, a zero-fee policy means you can’t apply fines. 

Bonus examples from Onde's experience

1) One company is regularly tracking the market and cutting fees to make sure they offer the best conditions on the market.

2) One company charges every new driver $5, and drivers can earn it back the moment they start driving.

3) One company offers two plans to choose from: a commission per order (for drivers who take just a few orders per month) and a monthly charge plan (drive more, earn more).

Incentives & benefits

Now that you’ve researched your market and your competitors, you should know which indirect incentives could work best for your drivers. Here are possible options:

  • Provide car insurance
  • Cover fuel costs
  • Offer smartphones on credit with attractive conditions 
  • Provide cars on lease to bring in drivers who don't own a car but want to earn money by driving

Driver app

Driver apps make the lives of drivers much easier, and it’s important to make that clear to them. Promote the Driver app and its features to your drivers. This way they’ll know how the orders are assigned (logically and fairly), how they can earn more, and how their pains are solved with the existing Driver app features. 

Features that you might want to point out: 

  • Back-to-back rides: offer the driver new orders while the previous one isn’t completed, ensuring constant order flow and the possibility of earning more.
  • Dynamic routing: the real-time optimization of a driver's route based on current traffic conditions, which makes sure drivers are not stuck in traffic.
  • Surge pricing: dynamic pricing model where fares increase during periods of high demand allows drivers to earn more during rush hours.
  • Customer rating is a lot of things, but also a safety measure, that helps drivers avoid suspicious passengers. It’s especially relevant for regions with a high criminal level.

Step 5: Optimize the payout process 

The best way to engage drivers is by optimizing the payout process so that they get their earnings instantly. It’s very important to many drivers as they often don’t have a steady income and might not be able to afford lunch or gas if the payments are delayed. Instant payouts are available via Stripe and integrations with other mobile money systems. Each country requires a custom approach: your choice of payment method will depend on the location.

Drivers also appreciate bonuses for reaching a specific target. Goals for drivers should be short-term. This means that a bonus can be given for a number of rides made within a day or a week, but not a month. Short-term goals motivate drivers, while long-term goals do not. 

Bonus examples from Onde's experience

One company hires drivers on a full-time basis and they earn a standard monthly salary. This model is more suited for the Premium ride-hailing services and small fleets.

Your payment approach can be your competitive advantage and something to advertise to potential drivers. To find out more about payment gateways and how your drivers can get their money, look through the article on payment gateway features.

Step 6: Educate drivers

Ensure drivers feel confident and equipped. Organize training sessions and a tech support line, and use Onde tutorials to teach them to use the Driver app. While it’s very simple to use, it’s important to double-check that drivers understand what they are doing.  

Step 7: Improve driver management

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Managing more than a couple of drivers isn’t an easy task, and it’s often underestimated. Driver management consists of a series of mini-steps:

  • Establish a supervisory system for group management and driver support.
  • Announce a fines system, with a clear official policy outlining unacceptable behavior and corresponding fines.
  • Monitor drivers daily: the Onde admin system provides metrics to assess driver efficiency and in emergency cases take immediate actions. The metrics include cancellations, order acceptance rate, the number of drivers online, orders per driver, the average time online per driver, etc. 
  • Set up Driver levels: this system ensures that top-performing drivers automatically get better conditions, such as subscription cost, number of included rides, and order fee. 

Step 8: Ensure drivers’ workload 

Drivers are only happy if they have enough customers to work with. This means you need to constantly ensure that balance: if you’ve managed to attract more drivers than you need, speed up customer acquisition. Drivers won’t wait around until your brand grows: they need to earn right now. So if you’re in this situation, throw all you have into customer marketing: App Store Optimization, online and offline promotions, coupons, referral programsSMM marketinglocal influencer marketing, and so on.

If you’re experiencing difficulties, contact Onde’s ride-hailing marketing agency.

Step 9: Establish your company's physical presence and visibility

For established markets with global ride-hailing players that you’re competing with, you’ll need to go a step further to establish trust. You’ll need to maintain a local office and call center to provide support and build trust. You’ll also need to conduct PR activities and engage with the community to strengthen your brand image and credibility.

Checklist: Grow your ride-hailing fleet in 10 steps!

Get here

Step 10: Build relationships & foster emotional connections

Congrats, you’re at the last step! But it’s a very important one, so don’t relax just yet. 

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Loyalty is a quality that’s difficult to find in part-time and freelance employees. You’ll need to work much harder to ensure that drivers don’t shift to your competitors. While the most important things are the ones we’ve described above, it’s also personal relationships that matter. Drivers need to feel valued and seen. 

Build an emotional connection by talking to your drivers. Talk to them by phone and in person, and listen to their feedback. You can also try the following methods: 

  • Build a community

Organize office meetings, where drivers can approach you together and you can brainstorm solutions together. This will make drivers feel connected and heard.

  • Build an exclusive driver network

Implement a selective driver recruitment process to make drivers feel valued and part of an exclusive network. 

Bonus examples from Onde's experience

One company conducts in-person interviews and provides education before activating drivers on the platform. They also conduct regular office meetings, fostering a sense of belonging and a sense of community. Drivers know the founders and view the service as an employer, not just an app.

That’s it! 

What you now have in your hands is a 10-step guide to growing your fleet by engaging and retaining drivers. It’s a process of building a winning fleet of drivers, tested and proved by Onde’s most successful clients.

If they did it, so can you! One final note, however: don’t jump from one step to the next and try to do everything at once. Follow the process.

Driver retention webinar: best practices from Onde’s clients

Watch here


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