Because of its lack of local presence here in the UK, Lyft remains the lesser known of the US ride hailing giants. In the states however, the repeated scandals circulating Uber have left Lyft's reputation looking relatively untarnished and - however low the bar - earned it the label of an ‘ethical’ alternative.
Vice president of customer experience operations at Lyft, Jaime Gilliam-Swartz, spoke at the Twilio Signal conference in San Francisco last week about how the company has improved its customer journey over the years with the help of the cloud communications API specialist.
For Lyft, meeting expectations and maintaining trust is vital, on both sides of the customer-driver equation. “Anything you do that doesn't happen in that way makes for an equation that degrades trust,” says Gilliam-Swartz.
On the driver side, there has to be trust that Lyft’s system works, and that the balance between supply and demand will ensure the job is worth their time. A degradation of trust on the consumer side, on the other hand, could result in the user switching to a different app for their next ride.
“We want Lyft to be known as respectful, friendly, and caring," says Gilliam-Swartz. "How do we make sure that the customer experience that we give holds up that line?”
Her team is responsible for understanding anything that could go awry in the customer experience, tackle it and take measures to reduce the chance of it happening again.
To do this, in typical Silicon Valley style, they have conducted extensive data analysis, focusing on customer service contacts.
"We went through and collected every single one of the contacts [customer requests for resolution], and we grouped them into about 140 submission reasons. For each one of those submission reasons, we developed a recipe. The recipe included training assumptions, data requirements, the investigation steps, and the resolution actions for all 140 of those submissions."
This research is essential for driving customer satisfaction. “For me, it gets into how you design with deep understanding and empathy. If you can understand what your customer is trying to do or what they're trying to get help with, you can make a much better service for them,” she says.
This approach has born fruit, with rides on the platform rising 21-fold, these 'contacts' have only increased eight fold over the same time period.
The company now caters for over 12 million rides a week and though the service doesn't operate in the UK yet, signs are stacking up that it may launch here in the near future.
Lyft employs thousands of staff members to resolve customer issues - particularly on Friday and Saturday nights when the demand for resolutions surges - with about half handling voice calls, and half handling queries through digital channels.
“These field agents are assigned to take in contacts as needed, so that we're available when customers have questions," says Gilliam-Swartz. "It's incredibly important that everyone has the skills to solve the contacts that are coming in. So, staffing at the right times is truly important.”
At the Signal conference, Twilio announced that its fully programmable contact centre platform, Twilio Flex, was being made available for general release. The product was initially announced at the Enterprise Connect conference in March 2018, and the prototype has been available to various beta customers since then, including Lyft.
Lyft has indicated its desire to continue using the platform which, among other things, offers customisability at the granular level for each part of the UI, as well as the ability to group communications from different channels, including social media, SMS and voice calls, in one place. Through the interface, different agents can claim different customers, and the progress of contacts can be monitored in real time.
Previously Lyft was reliant on a fragmented contact centre, where agents worked across multiple different platforms, including a custom CRM, and ZenDesk.
Now, Lyft has chosen to move away from this fragmented approach, and adopt Flex as their one-stop shop for contact resolution. Lyft has said they will begin migrating onto Flex from November 2018, starting with voice agents, with the aim of being fully migrated by the first quarter of 2019.
The adaptability of Twilio Flex means the ability to integrate with many different platforms, to preserve everything in the same place. For example, Salesforce, ZenDesk and custom CRMs can immediately be plugged in to the interface.
The comprehensive data capabilities afforded by Flex (Flex Analytics) will no doubt also be attractive to Lyft, given the importance of data in shaping their product strategy.
“When we work through those things, we can really dive deep and get to the root cause, which is what we then show our product team," says Gilliam-Swartz. "This is a really tough step, and it's a critical one to get right.
"It takes a tonne of persistence and a lot of doggedness for folks who work on this. They have to be very savvy with data, but then they have to figure out how to tie that data with personal or empathetic stories that really drive both heart and mind."