Let’s not fool ourselves here… As a rideshare driver, you’re not expecting to make much money from tips.
Sure, tips are a perk that pads your wallet (and maybe your ego), but they’re not a guarantee. But still – wouldn’t it be nice to get more of them?
The trick to more tips – and more 5-Star ratings – is to give your riders a reason to like you. And that has nothing to do with the water and candy you stock your car with, and everything to do with good old-fashioned conversation.
“People don’t want to give out five stars by default,” said Mike, a driver in Baltimore and D.C. that pulls in over $1000 per week. “I think that they’re looking for a memorable experience. That means, ‘This uber driver was different than my prior experiences.’ And how you set yourself apart from that can be a lot of different things, but everyone likes to talk.”
Sure, not every rider is going to be your next best friend, and not every rider is going to want to chat, but making a connection is an important part of the job. So whether you’re a pro talker or still getting comfortable with it, here are some tips to help you up your conversation game – and your take-home.
Make a Great First Impressions
It helps to read your passenger right when they get in the car. Is their heart racing? Did they give just a quick hello? They might be in a hurry. And even though the car ride lasts as long as it lasts with or without conversation, passengers that are running late usually prefer to concentrate on the ride and skip the small talk.
If it seems like they might be open to conversation, first impressions are still important. Analyze their clothes. Are they wearing a sports team shirt? Strike up a conversation about the game last night.
Are they dressed as a comic book character? Chances are they’re at a Comic-Con conference, and there’s got to be something interesting there to talk about.
If they’re wearing a suit and it’s 5pm, you can assume they’re just getting off of work. This can open up a few avenues of conversation: a simple “Heading home?” or, “So you made it through Monday,” or, “Any weekend plans?”
You can also see if they’re carrying a camera or looking attentively out the window. These could be signs that they’re a tourist. Ask them what they’re doing in town, if they’re enjoying the city, or even give some impromptu tour guiding. They may be in need of a good restaurant recommendation, or might enjoy knowing the history of the neighborhood they’re staying in.
Breaking the Ice
If first impressions aren’t giving much away, it’s time to pull out the tried-and-true icebreakers – but try to shake them up a little bit.
Everyone’s first instinct is to talk about the weather, and that’s not a bad thing. But rather than the usual, “Wow, how about this weather?” try to think of funny or unusual lines to make it more interesting.
Something as simple as “What are you going to do to enjoy this beautiful weather?” or “What’s your favorite way to escape the cold?” can immediately take a conversation away from the weather and into plans, interests and hobbies – the things that actually get a conversation going.
Another easy icebreaker is to talk about ridesharing itself. It’s something you both obviously have in common, and you can even sneak some work tips out of the conversation.
For instance, ask your passenger about their best, worst or most memorable rideshare experience. When they launch into a story about the guy that blasted country music, or the car that smelled like hot dogs, take note.
Another safe conversation bet is to steer the conversation back to the passenger. People like to talk about themselves, and the usual “What do you do?” “Where are you from” and “How long have you lived here?” can get people talking.
If your passenger lives in the area, it can also be informative for you. Maybe they’re craft beer buffs, or just heard of a great new restaurant opening. These are things you can use in your personal life, or that you can pass on to other passengers to up those stars and tips.
Remember though: the dinner party rule applies in the car, too. Don’t bring up religion or politics, unless you have positive confirmation that the conversation will go smoothly.
Sometimes, STOP Talking
Knowing when keep quiet is just as important as knowing when to engage. Conversations are important, but only when the passenger is in the mood. Otherwise, you run the risk of doing the opposite of what you intended – your rider might give you a bad rating because of how much you talked.
Luckily, there are some simple ways to read whether someone is open to engaging or not: If they get in the car and keep their eyes on their phone, chances are they want to keep doing that.
If they put their phone away but lean their head back against the headrest, take it as a sign that they want to be left alone – especially if they close their eyes.
If none of these signs are there but your attempts at small talk are falling flat, take it as your cue to turn on a little music and give your rider their space.
However, there are still things you can do to be a standout driver and get those ratings high. Offer them a charging cord for their phone. Ask if the temperature in the car is OK. Offer to let them pick the music.
Even if they decline all of the above, you’re bound to stand out as a top-notch driver, and your ratings will show it.
Make the Ask
After all of that positive customer interaction, you still have to make sure that riders know how much you would appreciate tips and a 5-star rating.
Use a rideshare sign to politely remind passengers that you’d appreciate tips and 5-star ratings without being pushy.