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I started using Lyft about 18 months ago.
One thing that immediately surprised me was how consistently positive my rides have been. Drivers are almost unfailingly friendly and courteous. We often have a conversation that makes the ride go faster—something that rarely happened in all my years of riding in taxis.
I wanted to see if my experience was unique, so I posed a question on LinkedIn to ask people about their experience using services like Lyft, Uber, and Grubhub that rely on independent gig workers. Most people felt service quality was good, though somewhat inconsistent from city to city.
Which leads to a big question. How do companies provide outstanding customer service without giving their service providers any formal training?
Every driver has their own story.
Some are retirees, making extra income to pay for their next trip or just keeping busy for a few hours a day. Others are putting themselves through school. Many use Lyft to supplement what they earn from a full time job.
A driver in Dallas told me about his plans to become a music producer. He was driving for Lyft to make enough money to get his business off the ground. One of his idols was Shark Tank's Daymond John, and we talked about the power of John's entrepreneurial message. Coincidentally, I had just finished reading John's incredible book, The Power of Broke, so I gave it to my driver.
I’ve never started an impromptu book club in a taxi.
The thing that unifies all these drivers is a clear purpose. They share a sense of personal ownership, no matter what their reason for driving. Lyft promotes the vision, Drive toward what matters to you on its website. The website features several video profiles of drivers' stories like this one of Lamont, who wants to travel the world.
A team lead on Lyft's customer support team shared some additional insight on the Lyft culture with me. "I think our secret is that Lyft's platform attracts like-minded people from the get go. Our core values embody the principals of inclusion and celebrate diversity. Our drivers believe in those same core values and, in return, show it through the service they provide to passengers."
There are some unusual features in Lyft's feedback system that help promote great service.
Passengers are asked to rate their driver on a scale of 1-5 stars at the end of each ride. One thing that stands out is the way Lyft defines the scale:
5 stars means the ride was great and met Lyft standards. Anything lower than 5 indicates that you were unhappy with the ride, so we want to know why! Use the comment box in the app after the ride to leave feedback.
These ratings contribute to the driver's overall rating. Consistently low ratings put drivers at risk of deactivation, and Lyft suggests drivers aim for an average of 4.8.
Having a scoreboard gives drivers natural motivation to earn good ratings. The rating is an average of the driver's last 100 rides, so drivers know that each ride can have an impact on their score. Passengers can leave additional feedback, and drivers get a weekly summary of that, too.
Passengers also see a driver's rating when they request a ride are matched with someone through the app. Seeing a high rating (typically 4.7-4.9) naturally primes the customer to expect good service. This is a psychological trick where our expectations are likely to become self-fulfilling. If we think service will be good, we’ll probably think it’s good.
Another unusual feature is drivers also rate passengers. Mutual ratings tend to promote better service perceptions. For example, a study from Boston University on vacation rental ratings discovered that when customers and service providers rate each other, ratings tend to go up. There’s also a practical reason for people to be good Lyft customers—a low passenger on Lyft rating can make it more difficult for you to get matched with a driver when you request a ride.
An excellent product makes customer service so much easier.
The app generally works very well. I've used it to get rides from airports, hotels, office buildings, and restaurants. Wait times are typically minimal, the prices are very reasonable, and the automatic payment process is easy.
The few times I've had a small issue, such as the driver arriving at the wrong pick-up location, the driver was almost always knowledgeable enough about the app to make suggestions to improve my experience.
One time, I was charged a no-show fee even though I was standing in the correct location and the driver never appeared. A quick message to customer service cleared that up immediately.
In fact, I've found Lyft's customer service team to be very helpful and empowered the few times I've needed them for something. While it's best to avoid problems, having the support you need one something goes wrong can be the difference between an angry or a loyal customer.
There's a lesson here for internal teams.
Customer service leaders tend to over value the importance of training. As a training professional, I'd like nothing better than for training to solve every problem. But the reality is there's more to great service.
Lyft delivers consistently great service with a strong culture, consistent feedback, and a good product.