Disclosure: Ridester.com is supported by our users. We may recieve compensation from the companies whose products we write about, test, or review. We are independently owned and the opinions expressed here are our own. Please refer to our Affiliate Disclosure for more information.
One of the best ways to improve your Uber or Lyft driver ratings is to have a great greeting and the ability to strike up a good conversation with your passengers. At least with the ones who want to talk.
This won’t work if you get all chatty with someone who is obviously not in the mood to chat. And we’ll leave it to you to figure that out, as it is an entirely different subject from this article.
But if your passenger wants to chat, it can turn into a great opportunity for you to get a 5-star rating… if you handle it properly.
Today we’re talking about everything you need to know about conversations with your passengers.
This is an exciting topic, so let’s dive right in.
Keep it Impersonal
There is a lot written online about interesting ways to strike up conversations. However, as I read through a bunch of them while doing research for this article, I was struck by how inappropriate most of them would be for drivers.
If an article on starting conversations with strangers isn’t written specifically with drivers in mind, they could lead you very far astray. For instance, one article suggests the following conversation openers:
- Tell me about you.
- What’s your story?
- What personal passion project are you working on right now?
Well, chances are if you’re a male driver and a female passenger gets in your car and you ask her any of the above questions, you’ll end up with a big fat slap on the face and a seething complaint filed with Uber! You’ll probably even get a cancelled trip and most likely end up with a 1-star rating.
Those are great openers in the right situation, but for Uber and Lyft drivers, they’re terrible. They sound like you’re flirting or looking for a date. They’re far too personal and intimate for drivers.
Drivers should keep their conversation openers very superficial. The social interaction between a driver and passenger is one situation where you definitely don’t want to get personal. You do not ever want to sound like you’re prying or nosey or trying to get more information about your passenger’s business and personal life than you have a right to as a driver. And as a driver, you have a right to basically none of that kind of information!
So you’ll want to keep the conversation openers very impersonal and superficial. Anything deep or penetrating will feel way too personal for your passengers and will (not “may”, but “will”) turn them off, freak them out and result in a low rating.
Talk about things you immediately know you have in common. The best conversation starters are:
- A welcoming smile. (Yes! A smile)!
- The most common thing people have in common is the weather
- Politics (maybe… under the right circumstances)
Believe it or not something as simple as a smile when you greet your passengers goes a very long ways in helping them to like you. You should smile at every single passenger as they get in your car.
Even if they can’t see your face, you should smile. Because when you smile, it will change your voice and they’ll hear the smile in your voice. So whether they can see you or not – always smile when your passengers first get in the car.
And a smile is the very first step in opening up a conversation with your passengers. No one wants to talk to a driver who had a big sour frown on his face when they got in his car. And no one wants to talk to a driver who didn’t give them a cheerful greeting. So, a nice smile and a friendly hello will go farther than anything else in helping you get great ratings.
Okay, once the smile and friendly greeting are out of the way – your riders will be far more open to talking to you. So now all you have to do is think of something to say that can lead to a pleasant conversation.
The best topics are those where you and your rider have something in common. And right off the bat, you’ll have something in common with every rider.
Everyone has weather in common and it’s a completely safe topic. It’s also something strangers frequently start conversations about. You can never go wrong commenting on the weather… especially if it has been in the extremes: extremely cold, extremely hot, extremely windy, extremely wet, extremely dry! Whatever the extreme – people love to talk about it.
The easiest meteorological opening comment you can make is, “Can you believe…?” “Can you believe how hot it’s been lately?” Or cold, or dry or rainy, or whatever it has been doing too much of lately.
If your passenger is open to this and has a few more words to say than a simple one-word acknowledgement such as, “Yep”, then you can continue on. Perhaps ask them if they’re from here originally and if not, ask them how the weather was where they grew up.
Since you and your passenger are both participating in rideshare, you as a driver and them as a passenger, you always have that in common. A lot of passengers ask drivers how long they’ve been driving for Uber or how they like it. You can do the same. Ask them how long they’ve been riding with Uber (or Lyft) and how they like it.
Ask them what their best experience has been so far or what they like most about it. Keep it positive though. Don’t ask them about their worst experience. You don’t want them to think about something like that while they’re riding with you. They might bring it up on their own and if so, that’s okay. But don’t be the one who brings it up first.
Another thing the two (or three) of you have in common is that you’re in traffic. Traffic is a lot like the weather when it comes to conversation. Everybody agrees that bad traffic is bad and good traffic is good! Which is good – because it doesn’t really leave any room for controversy or disagreement between you and your riders.
If the traffic’s really bad at the moment, you can always say, “Wow, what is going on with this traffic? It’s terrible.” That way you’ve opened with a question that will give them an opportunity to respond. And a response is all you need to open a conversation!
Alright, this one is a little trickier, no doubt. Everyone knows you shouldn’t talk about politics with strangers. Especially when those strangers have the power to rate you and negatively impact your work. But sometimes politics is in the news and it’s top of mind and it might be appropriate to bring it up – as long as you do so in the right way.
The right way to bring up politics with a passenger is to ask a question that does not reveal your opinions on the subject. For instance, if say the President did something that is pretty universally considered crazy (or awesome), you could say, “So, what do you think about what’s going on with the President right now?”
That doesn’t reveal your feelings one way or the other and it gives them the opportunity to share their feelings – which they’ve probably been wanting to do all day!
Do not say, ”I can’t believe this idiotic (or wonderful) thing the President just did.” Because that reveals your feelings and it will greatly offend your passenger if they happen to disagree with you. Do not assume that just because you think it’s idiotic (or awesome) that everyone else feels the same way. Believe me, they don’t!
Then be prepared to agree, or at least not argue with your rider when they give their opinion. Let’s say the president just did something incredibly stupid and you think everyone agrees with you. But let’s pretend that your passenger is a big supporter of the president. So, it would be safe to say, “What do you think about what the president just did?” It would not be safe to say, “I can’t believe what the president just did – he’s such a fool!”
When you ask how they feel about it, if they say, “I love it, it’s about time a president did this”, then you should say something like, “Yeah, there are a lot of people who agree with that!” Note, that you will not be compromising your own beliefs and opinions by saying that. You’re simply stating the fact that there are a lot of people who agree with them and disagree with you – which will be true no matter where you stand on the issue.
If you happen to find out that you and your passenger actually agree – then you’ve hit a homerun! Then you can engage more openly on the subject and they will love the fact that their driver agreed with them. However, we would never suggest that you pretend to agree when you don’t. Keep it honest and keep it kind. That’s the motto if you’re going to talk politics with someone who can rate you. And in fact, that should be our motto with everyone, whether they can rate us or not.
Be careful with sports! It may seem like a safe topic – but it can be every bit as incendiary as politics can! People can have a great emotional investment in sports. And they won’t take kindly to someone who is outspoken about their opposing opinions.
Take this for example: suppose you live in Atlanta and you love the Falcons. You pick someone up at a bar after the Falcons beat the NY Giants during an important game. You think because you’re both in Atlanta that they will agree with you when you express your excitement over the Falcons’ win. But you never know… they might be a transplanted New Yorker who loves the Giants and they might be quiet emotional and even a little depressed that the Giants lost!
So, you don’t want to aggravate them by stating your opinion too soon. Treat it just as you would a political issue. Instead of saying, “How awesome is it that the Falcons won!!! Wooo Hooo!!!” That could send them into tears! And you do not want to do that.
Instead, do it just as you would a political issue and say, “Wow, that was quiet a game today! How did you feel about it?” Then let them lead. Let them set the tone. Let them share their position on the matter first. If they disagree with you, then just say, “Yep, I know all the New Yorkers must be very sad… they really played hard this year and it must be heart breaking to have this loss.”
Come on, even if you hate the Giants, you can understand how someone who loves them would feel. So, empathize with them.
A Sure-Fire Way to Get a Five-Star Rating
There is one sure-fire way to get a five-star rating from a passenger, yet it is elusive. It’s not something you can do on every trip. But it is what you should shoot for.
If you can leave them laughing, they will love you! If they get out of the car with a big smile on their face because you just made them laugh right before they got it – that’s golden. And those passengers will almost always give you a 5-star rating.
That’s why it’s so important to strike up a conversation with your passengers when you can. Because during the conversation you’ll pick up bits and pieces of information from them and by the end of the trip something might come together in your mind that you know they’ll think is funny. If you say it to them near the end of the trip – they will go out of their way to dig out their phone and give you 5 stars.
It’s hard not to like somebody who just gave you a big laugh. And it’s hard to rate somebody less than 5 stars when you like them! Remember, the most sure-fire way to get good ratings is to build a personal rapport during the short amount of time you’ll have with each passenger.
If they like you personally, they won’t even care about all the other little things. Maybe you missed a turn on the way, or maybe your car wasn’t spotlessly clean. All of that will be easily forgiven if you’d made them like you by making them laugh at the end of the trip!
And if you can’t make them laugh – at least make them like you by being kind and respectful. That will go just as far as a good laugh.
Jonathan Cousar began driving for Uber in 2013 when the ride-hail company first began operations in New York City. He has booked more than 7,000 trips. In 2014 he created Uber Driver Diaries, which was the first blog by an Uber driver describing the highs and lows of driving as well as offering tips and tricks and information on the industry as a whole. In 2016 Ridester acquired the site, and Jonathan began writing full-time about the rideshare industry and the gig economy. He has also done extensive research into driver issues related to pay and working conditions.