Lyft is an on-demand ride-hailing transportation company headquartered in San Francisco. Launched in 2012, the Lyft app matches passengers with local drivers at the tap of a button. Lyft is now available to 95% of the U.S. population and provides more than 10 million rides per week.
In 2015, Lyft launched a new business unit called Lyft Business, which has been experiencing triple-digit year-over-year growth. Since its inception, Lyft Business has developed transportation solutions in a variety of industries for thousands of partner organizations to move employees, customers, patients, and students.
In March, Lyft announced a partnership with Allscripts, an electronic health records company, to create a platform allowing healthcare providers to arrange rides for patients without transportation to appointments. Over 2,500 hospitals, 180,000 physicians, and 7 million patients rely on Allscripts.
Its first fleet management partnership was announced on April 23 with LeasePlan USA, a fleet management and driver mobility company. The partnership with Lyft Business was part of LeasePlan's strategic initiative to become a mobility hub for its fleet clients.
To learn more about Lyft Business, Automotive Fleet interviewed Benjamin Sternsmith, area vice president at Lyft Business.
Automotive Fleet: Could you provide an overview of the mission of Lyft Business, why it was started, and its position within the larger Lyft organization?
Benjamin Sternsmith: Lyft Business was launched in 2015 as a division within Lyft, which is a consumer company. Lyft Business is comprised of a group of Lyft employees who are solely focused on serving enterprise organizations ranging from Fortune 500 companies down to startups. We help enterprises and organizations of all sizes provide safe, affordable, and friendly rides to people they care about. Any company moving an employee or customer of their business falls in our camp versus a consumer ride.
AF: What are some examples of companies partnering with Lyft Business?
Sternsmith: We're partnering with new and used auto dealers, rental car companies, auto shops, and car insurance organizations. In addition, Lyft Business also partners with healthcare companies, educational institutions, corporate travel departments, and public transit agencies.
We are improving the customer experience of these companies via our Lyft Concierge product, which is a way to call rides for a customer who doesn't have the Lyft app on their phone.
AF: Is there a differentiation between the Lyft Business drivers and Lyft consumer drivers? For instance, could the driver who responds to a Lyft Business call conceivably be the same person who responds to a consumer call?
Sternsmith: It's all the same driver base. In order to maintain a low ETA (estimated time of arrival), we have the same fleet of cars responding to all those needs. At Lyft, ETA is a metric we obsess over.
AF: You recently partnered with LeasePlan USA. How does this partnership work?
Sternsmith: We're really excited about our partnership with LeasePlan USA. It is the first-ever partnership between Lyft and a fleet management company. Together with LeasePlan USA, we're looking forward to providing its fleet clients with greater transportation flexibility and convenience, along with better access to data. This partnership allows LeasePlan clients to combine corporate travel with fleet management to view their total cost of mobility and control it. Prior to this, LeasePlan's clients were seeing increases in ride-hailing usage by their employees and wanted to partner with someone to help them manage it.
If you're running a corporate fleet, sometimes you want to give different options to employees. LeasePlan has partnered with us to offer a way to give that option.
Also, Lyft announced last April that all rides from now on will be carbon neutral, due to its multimillion dollar investment in carbon offset programs around the world by directly funding emission mitigating efforts, such as renewable energy programs and forestry projects. By being carbon neutral, Lyft aligns with LeasePlan's own mission to reach net zero by 2030.
AF: Who within Lyft Business is spearheading your partnership with LeasePlan USA?
Sternsmith: My lead is Zach Austin, our senior account executive who works in our New York City office. We have a team dedicated to auto led by Jaydon Robinson, our regional vice president of that group, who is also based in New York City. Zach and Jaydon have been spearheading our partnership with LeasePlan USA from inception.
AF: Let's examine how Lyft Business partners with other industry segments. What services does Lyft Business offer new- and used-car dealers?
Sternsmith: We have a partnership with new- and used-vehicle dealers who are members of the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association (NIADA). We're partnering with NIADA members to provide rides for their customers, which helps improve customer satisfaction and increases their Net Promoter Score (NPS). Many businesses use NPS to gauge how well they are doing in customer service. If people are satisfied, they will promote your business, giving you a higher score versus detractors who didn't have a great experience. Companies want their NPS score to skew toward the top end.
One area that impacts NPS is a dealership's customer shuttle service. If customers have a long wait time, it will result in a huge hit to NPS and customer satisfaction, especially if they have to wait longer than 30 to 40 minutes. In addition, a dealer shuttle service is based on a queue drop-off system as to who gets to work first.
Lyft Concierge lets dealers request rides on behalf of customers and gets them on their way in a matter of minutes. It's an easy, reliable, and affordable way to help customers get to work, home, or their next errand while their car is being serviced. This creates a really great customer service experience. Later, when the car is ready for pickup, many customers call Lyft for a ride back to the dealership, eliminating the need for a loved one to drive them or to use the dealer's shuttle.
For example, City Toyota is one dealer we can talk about. They're a new-car dealer in the San Francisco Bay area. They had a lot of customer complaints about their customer shuttle service. As soon as they introduced Lyft, those complaints dropped off drastically. This has resulted in happier customers because they are able to get in and out of the service center quickly.
In addition, through our collaboration with NIADA, we're helping connect auto dealers with Lyft drivers who need cars, and we're rewarding dealerships with bonuses for referring new drivers. Auto dealers can now sign up to become Lyft referral partners to earn bonuses every time they refer a new driver. It's an innovative way for dealers to increase sales while helping grow the Lyft community.
Participating NIADA members will also allow drivers to apply their earnings toward their monthly vehicle payments — a faster and more affordable route to getting a new car.
AF: Corporate travel is another application. How would that work?
Sternsmith: That's probably one of our oldest use cases and it is still continuing to grow. Three years ago when we started Lyft Business, we provided a transit option for corporate travelers. Once a corporation establishes an account, there's a lot of elegant ways an employee can seamlessly get around, instead of renting a car or using other traditional transit options.
Lyft is integrated with most expense management systems making expensing very easy. We offer features like Autopay and PeopleSync, where a company uploads its employees and seamlessly links to Lyft. As people are hired by a company, they're invited, and as they leave the company they're deprovisioned via that feature.
Autopay provides the ability to never do an expense report using Lyft. It is extremely easy to use. All the accounting is taken care of by us, which includes all the project codes you need to account for if you're in a services business. There are lots of different angles to that. We have the accounting and ease of mobility and expensing down pretty well.
One thing I want to be clear to your readers is that we serve all businesses, from the Fortune 500 companies all the way down to startup companies that have just a few employees.
AF: What services does Lyft Business offer to healthcare providers?
Sternsmith: Hospitals can call non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) brokers, or use those brokers through traditional methods, or they can set up Lyft Concierge just like an auto dealership. Once they open an account, they can call rides for patients who need transportation. This service goes all the way down to the clinic level. We were recently at the HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) conference in Las Vegas. While there we saw many examples of different use cases, such as eye clinics that need to get patients in and out for a non-emergency ride. Lyft is a great option.
AF: What are the different modes that a user can hail a Lyft driver?
Sternsmith: There are three modes to call a Lyft: mobile app, API, and Concierge. Within the mobile app experience, a company can drop credit into the account of the customer pretty seamlessly. I won't get into the technicality of how that happens. You can agree to receive Lyft credit in lieu of a rental car and magically $200 shows up in your account and you debit from there. You then use that credit for transportation in lieu of getting a rental car itself.
An API integration allows our partners' applications or services to talk to our network of cars to schedule a pickup by one of our thousands of drivers we have on the road every day.
The third mode is Lyft Concierge. For rental car companies and auto dealerships, both new and used, this is the primary method used to call a ride. Lyft Concierge is an online portal. You log in and put in the address of the destination for the customer. You hit a button and the Lyft texts the customer on their phone. It's a pretty easy experience.
We offer Lyft Concierge because we want to avoid friction in making customers download the app to use our service. We'd love to have everybody download the Lyft app and use it, but in some use cases, like an auto-service experience, you simply want to get customers on their way and be happy.