Uber 'back in driving seat' after CEO's 'intelligent' response to London ban

PR pros have hailed Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi as "emotionally intelligent" and said the company is "back in the driving seat" after he apologised for mistakes that led to Transport for London (TfL) revoking its operating licence in the capital.

Uber CEO apologises after TfL revokes its London licence
Uber CEO apologises after TfL revokes its London licence

Khosrowshahi made the apology in an open letter published on Twitter yesterday (see below), following TfL's decision last week not to renew the ride-hailing service’s operating licence.

According to a statement from TfL on Friday (22 Sepetmber): "Uber is not fit and proper to hold a private operator licence."

In response, Khosrowshahi said: "While Uber has revolutionised the way people move in cities around the world, it’s equally true that we’ve got things wrong along the way. On behalf of everyone at Uber globally, I apologise for the mistakes we’ve made."

He added that Uber would appeal the decision on behalf of millions of Londoners, saying that the company does so "with the knowledge that we must also change".

Mark Stringer, founder of PrettyGreen, argued that Khosrowshahi’s open letter had humanised the situation and "put Uber in the driving seat". He said: "They’ve admitted some mistakes, alongside committing to both changing and also going through the (probably) lengthy process of legal appeal. 

"It makes it difficult for TfL not to enter into negotiations and if they’re not careful TfL will come out as the bad guys in all this. An email petition to save Uber in London has already gathered over 700,000 signatures, showing huge public approval for the service, which Uber will look to capitalise on."

Managing emotions an important trait for good communicators

Graham Goodkind, co-founder at Frank, said the Uber CEO had shown "a degree of emotional intelligence", both in his open letter and in the alleged internal email he sent to Uber staff about the situation.

Goodkind said: "When you have a CEO who is like this, I think its a good idea for them to be a significant voice for the organisation they represent.  The ability to manage your own emotions and the emotions of others is such an important trait for good communicators."

Effective CEO apologies follow common path

According to David Fraser, founder at Ready10, an apology from the CEO is expected and increasingly vital, particularly when a firm has been accused of being unethical or unlawful. 

Fraser said: "Whilst there are very clear examples of how not to do it – see BP’s Tony Hayward bemoaning that he 'wanted his life back' – the most effective CEO apologies follow a very common path: contrition, taking responsibility and setting out a clear strategy for fixing the problem.

"Khosrowshahi’s apology is vital to Uber getting this decision reversed and him being the one to make it is a smart move, because he represents change. The whole world knows he only started last month and so by fronting up, apologising and pledging to fix it, he is making a subtle appeal for time and space to fix the situation with the company under new management." 

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