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Inside the Place Where Uber Tries to Make Nice With Its Drivers

Under fire, Uber doubles down on its investment in making sure drivers are happy.

The laundry list of problems with Uber continues to pile up by the day.

Executives are dropping like flies. Former attorney general Eric Holder is investigating the company's alleged culture of sexual harassment. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was caught on camera two months ago arguing with a driver over falling fares and later issued an apology.

And that's just scratching the surface of the issues the company has dealt with this year. In short: It's not just a public relations problem. It's a crisis.

"This is the size and scale of a company that I would say normally takes 30-40 years to develop," Janelle Sallenave, Uber's head of customer support for North America, told NBC News. "And we’ve done it in six. And what that means is we haven’t necessarily had the time to sit back and reflect."

Inside a 'Greenlight Hub'

One of the points Uber has been doubling down on in recent months is investing in the driver experience.

Sallenave took NBC News on an exclusive tour inside Uber's newly revamped driver hub in Long Island City, located just a few miles from Manhattan.

The 30,000 square foot facility, which Uber calls a "Greenlight Hub," is one of more than 650 locations around the world positioned to help drivers with everything from the onboarding process and learning about the app, to taking classes on how to properly install a car seat or improve their ratings.

Drivers sign in on iPads, then grab a coffee and wait less than 15 minutes before a support professional assists them.

The hub in Long Island City serves an average of 800 drivers on any given day, Sallenave said. Worldwide, she said Uber will do 20 million driver service interactions this year.

"We have been spending a lot of time over the past few months talking about the driver experience. Are we thinking about our support policies the right way? Are we responding fast enough? Are we getting the right staff in the right place?" Sallenave said. "This is the kind of stuff day in and day out that we are just obsessed about because we want to be a world class support organization for our drivers and our riders."

Related: Uber Hit With $1.1 Million Fine Over Handling of Drunk Driver Complaints

But with falling fare prices, complaints about the mapping system and competitors sweetening incentives for new drivers, why would anyone want to drive for Uber? Lyft, Uber's biggest competitor, also has driver hubs in some of its busiest cities.

"We simply have the volume so that you can stay busy. You can be driving when you want to drive in the places that you want to drive. I think we also have a very strong commitment to working with our drivers to support them," Sallenave said.

When several drivers visited a hub recently to ask about confusing pay statements and earnings going to an unrecognizable account, Uber's green light hub team members were able to flag the problem to corporate's fraud team that drivers had been hit by a phishing scam, Sallenave said.

"We are the human side of the technology," she said. "We get to hear that feedback day in and day out from our drivers."

Falling Prices, Growing Ridership

Perhaps one of the biggest complaints from drivers on Uber forums is falling trip prices. It's also the reason why Uber driver Fawzi Kamel confronted Kalanick in that now infamous video.

Sallenave said the pricing issue boils down to "how do we make sure supply and demand is balanced?" She declined to share ridership numbers, but said Uber is "very much in an active growth mode."

Of the reported 200,000 people who asked Uber to delete their accounts during the #DeleteUber movement in February, Sallenave said only a fraction completely left the platform.

"We’ve been tracking very carefully the number of re-ridership rates and many of those that initially requested for their account to be closed decided not to complete the process and so, actually remain to this day as active accounts," she said. "And many of those continue to be used."

In an exclusive interview with NBC News last month, Kamel said Uber doesn't care if drivers are "not even making minimum wage."

Sallenave said her approach is to work with drivers to help them hit their earnings target, making it "not about the trip, but the day, week."

Getting Leadership Help

As for that video, Kalanick apologized in a blog post after it surfaced in late February, sharing that "this is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it."

That means hiring a chief executive officer, an experienced leader who can help lead Uber into the future. Uber is essentially looking for a Sheryl Sandberg.

They're currently reviewing candidates. A company spokesperson said there's no official timeline to share yet as to when Kalanick and the board may install a new second in command.

In the past few months, several Uber executives have left the company. Uber president Jeff Jones left after six months at the company, citing differences in beliefs. Brian McClendon, vice president of maps, followed shortly thereafter, returning to his home state of Kansas to explore politics.

Rachel Whetstone, Uber's public relations executive, departed earlier this month. Sherif Marakby, vice president of global vehicle programs, left the company last week.

"The commitment and passion of our executive team has not changed," Sallenave said. "A lot of the press in the last few months has, if nothing else, reinforced our commitment to be the best company we can be."

That also means getting firsthand experience of what it's like to be an Uber driver. Sallenave drives a few hours a week and so do many other employees, through an employee driving program.

It's something she said they refer to internally as "dogfooding."

“You can’t be customer obsessed and you can't be truly focused on making the best driver experience if you don’t know in detail what that driver experience looks like," she told NBC News.

Kalanick has been keeping a low profile since all hell broke loose at Uber. However, a company spokeswoman said the CEO still "regularly tags along when other employees go driving."

"He mentioned in a staff meeting the other day that his driver’s license is actually suspended — not because anything happened, it just expired, so it’s on his to-do list to go down to the DMV," Sallenave said. "I think there is a lot of interest for him and the whole executive team to be on the road."