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Lyft revved up real-time communications with Twilio

Lyft cut support costs by 100% by letting customers contact drivers directly using SMS & Masked Phone Numbers.

The Results
Drivers worldwide
Fewer support calls
Cities Lyft serves

San Francisco-based Lyft is a major player in the booming ridesharing industry. Passengers can quickly request a ride in the Lyft mobile app, and get a welcoming, affordable ride from Lyft drivers within minutes.

Community and safety first

To provide a differentiated customer experience in the competitive ridesharing market, Lyft's on-demand service needed to enable real-time communications between passengers and drivers. Community and safety are core to the Lyft experience. By using Twilio's software-powered communications, Lyft created solutions tailored to its specific needs: real-time SMS driver updates for passengers and the ability for drivers and passengers to call each other without having to share their personal phone numbers.

Securing phone numbers

Twilio was the perfect choice for Lyft. Twilio enables real-time communication within the Lyft app to ensure the rider gets in the right car. When the driver accepts a ride, a communication channel is enabled without the need for either party to share their personal phone numbers. Lyft passengers can press the “Call” button on the mobile app to connect with their driver. The call button initiates a phone call to the Twilio phone number assigned to that ride and routes to the driver’s mobile phone. That’s how drivers can share more details to differentiate the car and its exact location. The driver can initiate calls if the passenger, for example, is not at the specified location.

This functionality is not only beneficial to the passenger, who can quickly identify the right driver, but also for the driver, who can minimize how much time she’s sitting idly on the street. “The drivers would rather be doing rides than trying to find a parking spot,” said Anthony Velázquez, engineering manager at Lyft. “That’s the fun part of Lyft—driving people around and connecting with passengers.”

Mobile phone numbers are very private—today, we’re no longer calling a place, but a person. Lyft needed to facilitate communications without exposing real phone numbers to meet high privacy standards for drivers and passengers. Already on an aggressive growth trajectory, Lyft sought a solution that could reliably scale as it added new markets, users, and features.

Managing lost items

Twilio Masked Phone Numbers are also used for Lyft’s Lost and Found functionality. Previously, if something was left behind in the car, a convoluted process ensued. The passenger would call the Lyft support team, who would notify the driver, who would then mail a package with the lost items to Lyft headquarters, at which point Lyft would mail the package to the passenger.

Now, when the passenger gets the digital receipt at the end of the ride, there’s a Lost & Found link. The rider simply clicks on the link and enters a lost item description and a phone number where she can be reached. Once the passenger submits the request, Lyft uses Twilio to text the driver and the passenger about the lost item. This allows the driver and passenger to coordinate directly in order to return the lost item. After 24 hours, the number expires, preventing further communication.

“Managing lost items used to be one of the most time-consuming tasks for our support team,” said Velázquez. “With our Twilio-powered Lost and Found solution, we’ve almost completely automated it.” As a result, drivers are relieved of the burden of mailing packages and passengers get their items back sooner.

Accurate real-time notifications

SMS is also an important component of Lyft’s real-time communication efforts. Lyft uses Twilio to send notifications when the driver accepts a request, arrives at a location, or when a ride status changes (e.g. is cancelled). In addition, Twilio powers Lyft’s communication with drivers to ensure they have an accurate view of all active drivers in the system. As an example, if a driver is showing no internet connection and therefore not appearing in the system, Lyft will send a text to ask if she’s still driving before taking him out.

Speedy ROI with Twilio

Twilio has demonstrated a positive ROI for Lyft. It’s easy to develop on, easy to interact with, and easy to manage. Thanks to Twilio’s intuitive communication API, the initial SMS and calling solution was built by developers in less than a week. The Lyft team has readily scaled the solution alongside the increase in drivers and passengers, and continues to find ways to extend their use of Twilio to address new business needs.

Twilio supports Lyft’s business goals by helping Lyft focus on community and safety to create the best possible experience for the passenger and driver.

Twilio helps us maintain that human element of connecting in the ridesharing model.

Anthony Velázquez, Engineering Manager, Lyft