An apology tour from Didi, but customers are calling for change

Society & Culture

The death of a 20-year-old female passenger at the hands of a Didi driver marked the second murder case related to the ride-hailing giant in three months. The second case has again prompted widespread concerns about security issues on the platform. The company had to embark on a full-blown apology tour to regain customer trust.

On August 28, two days after Didi issued a statement apologizing to the victim’s family, its founder, Cheng Wei 程维, and president, Jean Liu 柳青, jointly released a letter (in Chinese), admitting that the company’s “ignorance and vanity has caused some irreversible damage” and that it’s time for them to “face the pain, be more responsible, and work harder to solve problems.”

“When we started the company six years ago, we firmly believed that technology had the power to make personal transportation better. But all these tragedies made us realize that we lack reverence for our users,” the two executives wrote, adding that in the wake of the recent killing, Didi will, from now on, prioritize addressing safety issues and improving its customer service over its revenue growth. “We have no excuse to absolve ourselves facing the dead. We sincerely apologize to everyone.”

To no one’s surprise, Didi’s latest apology didn’t register well with the vast majority of people on Chinese social media, as many internet users have started calling the company “die die ride-hailing” (die die 打车). One Weibo user wrote (in Chinese), “Your public relations team is really good at crisis management. But, sorry, I’ve already decided to delete your app.”

Bad news keeps coming in: According to transportation authorities in Guangdong Province, Didi has been irresponsibly uncooperative in sharing information about drivers and cars with local regulators, making it extremely difficult for authorities to weed out disqualified drivers. It’s reported that in Shenzhen alone, about 5,000 Didi drivers and 2,000 cars are on the roads without proper approvals.

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that the company’s customer service department’s mishandling of previous complaints filed against the driver in the recent killing is far from an anomaly. In an interview with People 人物, a former Didi employee said (in Chinese) that his salary solely depends on the number of customer service calls he answers. “To put it bluntly, my goal was not to address problems, but to answer as many calls as possible,” he said, adding that he rarely gave priority to the processing of a complaint even when the user requested it and he agreed. “It’s because the managers didn’t want to see too many urgent cases.”