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How Grab Hurts Their User’s Loyalty with Cancellation Policy


As a Bangkokian, in a city that has the most severe traffic jams in the world, I truly understand the frustration the comes with commuting in 40C weather.

Interestingly, according to Tripadvisor, BTS Skytrain is the number 2 thing to do in Bangkok? I’m not sure if you would get the same information talking to local people though.

I personally rely on taxis and Grab a lot (in case you’re not familiar with it, Grab = Asian Uber/Lyft). I take at least 40 rides a month. The other day while trying to get a Grab to my office Grab suspended my account, alerting me that I had “canceled too many times”.

The reason I canceled was that the driver was far way, needed to drop other passengers first, and didn’t have a very good rating.

I canceled almost right away after I got matched. And this is the first time I did it in the last two days. Yet, without explanation, Grab decided that it’s too much.

I ended up using Line Taxi instead.

I called Grab and after a long conversation I found out that if you cancel 4 times a day or 8 times a week, your account will get suspended.

I understand their side, but I believe that this threshold is creating pain to their heavy users that they should be taking care of the most. The more you use Grab, the higher the chance you will cancel and get suspended.

I believe that Grab could both prevent the cancellation and frustrations by:

  • Having a better estimation of the driver’s arrival time before users book the ride. Currently, the app is showing 5–7 minutes while it could actually be a 15-minute wait.
  • Removing the bad review drivers. There are so many times that I’ve taken a chance with bad review drivers, and I never seemed to prove the review wrong. If I’m paying a premium price, I at least want peace of mind with safety and no weird smell in the car.
  • Not counting against the cancellation quota if the driver takes super long to get there or the driver goes in circles because he doesn’t want to pick you up (waiting for you to cancel).

Grab could also change how the cancellation quota is calculated:

  1. Percentage: have a cancellation limit be 2–10% of the rides you took last week. This means it would be fair to both heavy and light users.
  2. Cancellation Credits: Every 5–10 rides you take, you get one cancellation credit. You can even encourage users to not use it by having an option to change those credits into the Grab points programme where users can get premium discounts.
  3. Short Period Frequency Cap: Not allowing users to cancel more than X times in 5 minutes will prevent users from spamming the cancellation.
  4. Time Cap: Like Uber, have a penalty after 5 minutes of ride confirmation. This way, users have time to decide if they can wait and cancel before the driver spends too much time trying to get there.

With over 6 million rides a day, I’m sure Grab can do a lot of testing to see how each option impacts user retention/NPS and get a result in no time.

Otherwise, with the kinds of complaints you see on the internet every day, it could mean very low user loyalty and that users will be happy to switch to a better option in the future.

Send me a message and share your experiences with ride-sharing apps or transportation options in your city!

PS: As I was researching for this article, I found that Grab has launched a new cancellation policy on 1st April to charge users if the cancellation occurs after 5 minutes. I still had suspension happen on the 26th April so let’s see if the new policy will actually be rolled out for all users.

Written by
Chalakorn Berg
Chalakorn Berg