Oh dear, Addison Lee’s £23m smartphone app appears to be getting a roasting

Paging Gerald Ratner! Paging Gerald Ratner!

[UPDATE: Addison Lee has updated its app and this has nudged up the star rating from one-and-a-half stars to two-and-a-half stars. The 250+ bad reviews are now shunted backwards, leaving a shiny new space for some more comments. UPDATE ON THE UPDATE: At 16.30 on Monday 23rd April, the app was back to being a one-star failure, a word-of-mouth train wreck. And by Thursday 26th April even the new app had had nearly 150 reviews, about 99 percent of which were scathing. This will hurt more than Addison Lee lets on: in an interview with the FT last year, Addison Lee boss John Griffin said: “we feel that word of mouth is the best form of advertising. By Wednesday 25th April there had been 400+ negative reviews left on the iTunes store for the Addison Lee iPhone app.”]. Last Monday’s ‘die in’ at the Addison Lee HQ lasted an hour or so, and was in response to John Griffin’s misjudged comments.

Addison Lee may have a thick corporate skin but it can’t fail to be worried by the scathing reviews of its business on places like Yelp, Google, and, most especially, the bad reviews now appearing for its smartphone app developed in Russia. (See base of article for tech info on the Addison Lee app and check out these ideas for how Addison Lee could build bridges with cyclists).

The Addison Lee CEO is certainly proud of his company’s app. It generated £23m in fares last year. But following this #boycottaddisonlee heads-up on BikeBiz.com, it appears that the app’s rating on both iTunes and Google Play is heading to the dreaded ‘one star mark of shame’ (there’s also a Windows 7 version: users, you know what to do). And the reviews, oh, the reviews, they’re devastating.

John Griffin: read ’em and weep:

And, on Android…

ADDISON LEE: From Russia with not much love for cyclists

All credit to Addison Lee, the company did the right thing to bring out an update. For a few hours the app had a few of its star-ratings back. But good ol’ social media soon pegged the app back to where it belongs: at just one star, the lowest rating possible. And there have been many more bad reviews. A few 5 star ratings and positive reviews were very likely left by Addison Lee staffers, or perhaps the app dev team in Russia.

Addison Lee’s tech is done by Haulmont Technology, which outsources its coding to Samara in Russia, home of the Samara State Aerospace University.

According to a 2009 article in Computing magazine, 16,000 companies hold corporate accounts with Addison Lee including 50 percent of the FTSE 100 companies.

Over the past week Addison Lee been able to make buddies out of black cab taxi drivers and cyclists. Earlier it cheesed off UK tech firms, when IT director Peter Ingram told Computing British coders were too expensive:

“[Our Russian developers] are bloody hard working and are appreciative of the opportunities offered by working on our projects. The cost of living in Russia is lower than the UK, so they are a lot less expensive to use than British developers.”

This relative cheapness likely means there will be more updates from Addison Lee, and more faux reviews from Addison Lee staffers. Although the company’s 3500 “self-employed” drivers don’t appear to be creating 5-star reviews for their “client”. Could it be because of treatment such as this?