The pill-shaped device, dubbed "Amp," is expected to turn up the dial on the company's user experience--and draw another line in the sand against its ride-sharing rivals. The main function of the device, which connects to the Lyft smartphone app via bluetooth, is to enhance the communication between riders and drivers. Specifically, its multi-color display matches what appears on a passenger's phone, so riders and drivers can more easily signal each other.
"We know that last 50 feet is a pain point for users." says Lyft's vice president of marketing Melissa Waters, referring to the time when a driver approaches a pickup and attempts to connect with a rider.
Starting on New Years Eve, drivers in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Francisco will sport Amps on their windshields. By mid-2017, the device will appear in all of Lyft's 200-plus markets. Amp's colors can also be changed en masse to involve Lyft's fleet in of-the-moment events--say, a rainbow to support LGBTQ rights during Pride Week or perhaps a blue and red motif in Chicago to celebrate the Cubs' World Series win. The interior-facing side of Amp can display customized messages for the driver or for passengers.
Amp is just the latest in Lyft's efforts to rise above what it sees as the basic requirements of price and speed to win in the ride-sharing category against the likes of Uber. The icing on the cake for ride-share passengers, and where Lyft thinks it has an edge, is customer experience. "We want to surprise and delight our customers," says Waters.
But of course, Lyft also wants to attract new customers. The company says it facilitated 17 million rides in October compared to 7 million in the same month last year. While avoiding huge markets like India, in which Uber is heavily investing, Lyft is looking to attract customers from a less likely target market: non-smartphone users and elderly or disabled people.
After raising $1 billion in January, the company launched a concierge service which allows users to order a ride for someone else, say, a parent who needs a ride to a doctor's appointment. It also partnered with Sunshine Retirement Living--which is based in Bend, Oregon, and has 19 locations in California, Georgia, Louisiana and Oregon--to allow residents to order rides through a community concierge. A deal with San Diego-based health tech company GreatCall allows non-smartphone users to order a ride with a phone call--no app required.
To better serve these customers, Waters says part of Lyft's driver onboarding includes training in sensitivity, as well as how to help riders who need assistance getting into the car or loading walkers or wheelchairs.
"Some riders are not used to this method and need a human touch," Waters says. It's a lesson a lot of app-based, on-demand companies are learning these days.