On Friday last week on a night out, I sought to hail a cab as I always do. My first and natural choice is usually Uber but with a smartphone running on fumes, launching the App and turning on the internet and location did not seem plausible. Now a few weeks back, Little, Safaricom and Craft Silicon’s taxi hailing service announced that users could hail cabs via USSD. This seemed like a good option and I proceeded to try it out.
Upon dialing *826# I was prompted to sign up for the service by giving my details (I had not previously signed up for the service. Return users accept a condition to share their location). After the completion of this sign-up process, I was asked to accept the location sharing terms, where I then received a message that Little was looking for the nearest cab next to me. A few minutes later, I received an SMS with the details of the driver, the car model, and number plate with the cab arriving a few minutes later for the ride. The ride was then completed, paid and I was done.
Unfortunately for me, my experience with Little was not the best. Frankly, the only good part was it made my club hopping easy, everything else was chaotic, lousy and even excruciating. The whole point of a taxi hailing service is the technology. It matters not how many cabs you have on the service or how much cheaper it costs. It’s the technology. On this front, Little has a whole country mile to run. I have to say that the UX on the USSD front is pathetic, which has everything to do with the numerous prompts.
Admittedly, the service functions but has its lapses due to the hops (it is as annoying as the data bundle buying process). I am fully aware the USSD has just launched and as such, will keep improving but that does not cut it for a bad user experience excuse. A friend who has used the Little App had this to say “I do not like three things first the fact that after launching the app it automatically hails a cab for me; the fact that I cannot see my former trips and the radio ‘thing’ they so much hype does not even work”, he said.
After hailing the cab, the driver was able to fully locate where I was as we were talking on the phone giving directions. This pointed to a problem with the maps and I was about to experience the same. I told the driver where I was going but as he was not fully aware, I hoped to key in the same through the Driver’s App but ALAS! there wasn’t such an option within the App. What happens is that Little redirects you to Google Maps for directions. Google Maps, unfortunately, is not very nifty and we missed a few turns.
My biggest disappointment was on the payment front, which was remarkably underwhelming. After the trip was completed and the driver ended it, I received an SMS notification giving me a summary of my trip costs. I assumed that this being my first ride, I was eligible for a discount worth Kshs. 500/= but this time, it did not reflect. I paid for the trip in its entirety and I have no qualms about that.
I also assumed that by having Safaricom come in as a partner, there would be some form of integration with M-Pesa, which would allow Little to fetch my fare from my M-Pesa wallet and settle it. To my surprise, I had to use the pay bill option when making the payment which was underwhelming seeing as Safaricom says its M-Pesa API is open to developers (is it really?).
My final issue with Little was the drivers. The driver seemed to struggle with practically every part from the use of the App to directions despite stating that he was one and half months into the service. Part of this I feel is due to lack of proper training but then again Little is not a chauffeur service but a technology one so we can live with that.
I WILL STILL USE IT
Coming from Uber, Little feels like a downgrade in practically every aspect. However, I will continue using the service. I think for a service developed in under one month, Little has a long way to go but the only way for them is up. I am keeping an open mind with them and looking at the current versions of the service as Beta versions which can only get better for them.
Despite the lapses, several things were alright such as the incredibly short arrival times for the ride and the cheaper rides. The driver was also very polite and not afraid to ask for help after the ride especially around using the Google Maps functionality.
I can only keep my open mind for so long and I hope they get several things right such as making the process of payments easier. I think the Lipa na M-Pesa card will be a big deal for them but before that becomes actionable, we need to see a Safaricom partner actually using their API. As far as the APP and the USSD platform, I think it is going to be a continuous process of improvement for them and the more the iterations the better it gets. So first, fix the UX on both the App and USSD then move on to optimizing the maps functionality then work on the payments end and users might get sold to the service.
On that note, see you tonight!