Revolutionary and innovative are rarely words used to describe a cab company…unless you’re referring to Uber.

Started in 2010 in San Francisco, Uber is a ridesharing service that uses a smartphone application to connect passengers to drivers. It’s seen incredible success over the past few years and was named 2013’s tech company of the year by USA Today.

For those who aren’t familiar with how Uber works, here’s a quick overview – they employ private drivers who use their own cars and pick their schedules by turning on and off a cell phone provided to them by Uber. Passengers use the app to request a cab and see how long it’ll take for one to arrive. They’re sent a picture of the driver and the kind of car they’re in. After passengers are dropped off at their location, funds are automatically transferred out of the payment method on file.

The story of Uber is really an incredible one that started with their identification of gaps in the current cab market. The cab industry hadn’t seen any major changes to how it operates in the last several decades before Uber came along, proving that every industry, no matter how complacent in its procedures, can see change. Uber went against everything others were doing and carved out a niche for itself, earning the loyalty of their users and the disdain – and lawsuits – of their competitors.

Additionally, they picked up on the mobile trend and based their service around an app that stored customer payment information and automatically applied it to their trip. They recognized that mobile has become not so much an accessory as an integral – and preferable – part of consumer’s lives.

Uber took almost every pain point of cabs and fixed it. No more trying to hail a cab in the street, not knowing the status of your cab, or finally getting one and being told they only take cash (10% of Americans don’t carry cash at all). Here’s another key element of Uber’s success – they simplified payment. It eliminated guessing how much a ride will cost or spending time paying at the end. Because payment is applied automatically, passengers are able to immediately exit the cab upon arriving at their destination.

As Uber continues to grow at an extraordinary rate, all businesses should take note of how this company has taken the world by storm through a relatively simple business plan. They started off by understanding their industry and consumers, and taking advantage of the growing impact of mobile. They simplified the process of using a cab as much as possible and focused on customer service. These are universal practices that every business should apply to how they operate, as well as an ability to adapt and apply innovation to help improve your current customer experience.

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