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10 min read

    10 min read

    With Uber’s recent announcement of Uber Pro (a driver loyalty rewards program), we expected to see Lyft announce new features designed to help drivers, too. We were not disappointed! Senior RSG contributor Jay Cradeur breaks down all the latest driver enhancements Lyft has rolled out (and continues to roll out) over the next few weeks.

    Recently, Uber came out with a driver loyalty rewards program called Uber Pro.  It assigned drivers one of four classifications (Partner, Gold, Platinum and Diamond) and rewarded the drivers based on their earned classification.

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    But now its Lyft’s turn!  Lyft is launching several new features for drivers before the end of 2018 and below, I’m going to present the new features and give some feedback on their value and usability.

    Lyft has presented the features in three categories:

    1. Helping Increase Earnings and Lower Expenses
    2. Making the App Experience Easier and More Informative
    3. Helping Drivers Feel Safe and Supported On & Off the Road

    My Favorite New Feature!

    My favorite new feature from all of this is Lyft’s New Accept Screen Feature. This feature will save me both time and money.  It’s the best improvement of the bunch.  By allowing the driver to see the time and direction of an upcoming trip at the time of the ping, Lyft is giving us far more control over our workflow.

    This feature will also benefit the passenger in that only drivers who want the ride will accept the ride.  There will be fewer cancellations after acceptance.  Uber offered this feature with Uber Pro.  Now Lyft also will offer the feature.  I love it.

    Category 1 – Helping To Increase Earnings And Lower Expenses

    Tipping Improvements: Lyft will provide passengers with two new opportunities to tip drivers.  First, passengers can select a default tipping amount for each ride.

    For example, let’s say I am a passenger who is happy to tip an extra 15% on each ride.  I can set this as my value, and then each ride I take will pay out an additional 15% to my driver.  Second, passengers can also tip during the ride.  Up to this point, drivers were not given the opportunity to tip until the ride ended.   The tipping improvements will roll out across select markets in December with broader roll out after the New Year.

    My Take:  As a passenger, I will always wait until the end of my ride to determine how much I will tip.  A great driver will get a bigger tip.  A poor driver will get no tip.

    On the other hand, it is usually pretty obvious if the driver is good (and should get a tip) before passengers arrive at their destination, so for those passengers, this could be a good improvement. It also could be a benefit to passengers who are going to the airport, for example, and want to tip before they get distracted with security lines and check in. This seems like a good change for drivers.

    Default tip is a nice feature since with services like DoorDash that default customers to a 10% tip amount at the checkout page, Dashers receive tips on 98% of orders.

    Instant Bonus Payout: Now, drivers can cash out the money they earn from bonuses immediately, instead of waiting for their weekly payout. Right after the bonus requirements are achieved, drivers can access their earnings via Express Pay.  This feature is available to all drivers now.

    My Take: This feature won’t earn drivers any more money but it definitely makes things more convenient for drivers in big bonus markets.  And it also benefits Lyft in that many drivers will now find more incentive to reach their bonus goals.   So it’s a win-win.

    2019 Tax Support: Drivers will receive expert tax advice and help to prepare their returns to get all eligible deductions through Lyft’s partnership with TurboTax.  Accelerate drivers (drivers who reach certain driving milestones over a three month period) will receive free access to TurboTax Self-Employed and 50% off TurboTax Self-Employed Live (which includes the ability to chat with a tax expert from anywhere).  TurboTax partnership begins December, personalized Tax Summary documents available to drivers by January 31.

    My Take: This is a great perk.  Each year I purchase TurboTax and do my taxes.  The software costs $90.

    If Lyft is providing this for us, then this is a real and tangible reduction in expenses.  This is a wonderful addition for drivers.

    Related: How to File Your Rideshare Taxes with TurboTax 

    Category 2 – Making The App Experience Easier And More Informative

    Updated Driver App Home Screen With New Demand Data: Lyft will provide an updated home screen with all available bonuses, local events, and a demand graph that shows the busiest hours of the day.   Tap once, and drivers will see anticipated hourly demand for the entire week ahead.  This feature will roll out across select markets in December with broader roll out after the New Year.

    Redesigned Earnings Tab: Weekly and daily earnings are front and center without extra taps as well as a clearer payout status, making it easier for drivers to see what they’ve earned.

    This feature will roll out across select markets in December with broader roll out after the New Year.

    Multilingual Driver App: Drivers who have their phone set to Spanish will now be able to use the app in that language. New users who have their web browser set to Spanish will be able to apply to drive in the language as well. All alerts, directions, and messages inside and outside of the app will be in Spanish.

    This feature will roll out to all drivers with their phones set to Spanish in early December.  Chinese, Portuguese, Russian, French, and Korean are coming after the New Year.

    My Take: All of these features are nice updates, but I’m not sure how useful the demand feature will be to me personally. Since I’ve been driving for so long in San Francisco, I already know where I need to be to maximize my revenue. However, for new drivers or drivers unfamiliar with the area/events, this could be a huge benefit. 

    In addition, the inclusion of many new languages is a powerful improvement for those drivers for whom English is a second language.

    New Accept Screen Information: Now, drivers with an acceptance rate of 90% or higher will see the direction of the rider’s drop-off destination and how long the ride is anticipated to take before accepting. All drivers will be able to see the pickup ETA (estimated time of arrival), if there’s a bonus associated with the ride, and the ride type (Shared, XL, Lux, etc.). This feature will roll out across select markets in January with broader roll out after the New Year.

    My Take: I’ve already covered above that this is my favorite new feature.  Up to this point, all we drivers could do is get close to the pickup and then see the destination once we tap on the Arrival button.  That may take two to 10 minutes of driving and the gas necessary to reach the pickup.  This feature eliminates all the needless driving.

    Enhanced Airport Wait Time Information: Lyft is changing the airport queue information from the total number of cars in line ahead of a driver to an actual estimated wait time.  This feature is live now to select drivers across the country and there will be a broader rollout after the New Year.

    My Take: Since I never wait in the airport queue, this feature is not relevant to my driving performance.  For those who do wait in the queue, this information will certainly help you to better manage your day.

    Category 3 – Helping Drivers Feel Safe And Supported Both On And Off The Road

    Improve the Driver Rating System: Lyft is making it easier for drivers to maintain a high rating.  There are three features.  First, Lyft will drop the single lowest rating from each driver’s last 100 rides.  Second, Lyft will remove all low ratings for issues that are outside of the driver’s control (like traffic).  Third, Lyft will default to a 5-star rating if a passenger doesn’t provide one.  This feature will roll out across select markets in December with broader roll out after the New Year.

    My Take: As drivers, we are all graded on a curve.  Some of us get high ratings.  Some of us get low ratings.  This updated rating system will jack up every driver’s rating.  Ratings are still relative.  Changing the rating system won’t turn a bad driver into a good driver.  This feature simply moves the goal posts a bit.

    Safety Cancellation Protections: Drivers will get paid a cancellation fee and their acceptance rate will not be affected when we cancel a ride because of a safety issue like an unaccompanied minor or more riders than seat belts.  This feature will roll out across select markets in December with broader roll out after the New Year.

    Actionable Rider Feedback: When a rider rates a driver 4-stars or lower, the rider will be asked to qualify the rating with feedback on what could be improved. Lyft will provide the feedback in a weekly email to drivers.

    Instead of mysterious low ratings with no explanation, drivers will now receive helpful, actionable ways to improve the ride experience.  This feature will roll out across select markets in January with broader roll out after the New Year.

    In-App Safety And Support Bundle:  Drivers now have three added features to help them feel safe and supported from right within the app.  First, 24/7 customer support with three easy ways to reach a Lyft agent at any time:  from the Earnings tab after a ride, from the drop-down menu during a ride, and from the Help tab any time.

    In the rare event that drivers need to call 911, they can do it from within the app as well.  The app will also display the driver’s current location and vehicle information (including license plate number), making it easy for them to tell 911 dispatchers the details.

    Finally, drivers can report an accident right away from the Help tab in the app. This new feature lets them upload photos and add details like the location of the accident and the other driver’s information.  This feature is available to all drivers now.

    My Take: These are all valuable additions to the Lyft app.  In 22,000 rides, I have only had one minor in my car.  If you do have a minor (mine was a 16-year-old high school student), and the ride will earn you $20, will you cancel for a $5 fee, or drive the minor to their destination?  I have asked a few drivers about driving a minor, and most would rather avoid the task of kicking a kid out of their car and instead make the trip.  Maybe this new feature will change behavior.  Time will tell.

    Summary

    Those are the updates as of today.  These enhancements were designed to benefit all drivers using input from Lyft’s Driver Advisory Council, a group of drivers who provide Lyft with feedback.  I am not on the Driver Advisory Council, but if I were, I would make a few more simple suggestions to improve on the Lyft app, such as showing Prime Time level during all trips, including queued rides.

    What is missing for me in Lyft’s announcements is the opportunity for great drivers to get great benefits.  With Uber Pro, a driver can earn more (a 6% increase in earnings) by displaying loyalty and maintaining a strong rating and low cancelation rate.  Most of Lyft’s rewards are for everybody, so there is not the same incentive to do an exemplary job.

    Still, it is good to know both Uber and now Lyft are competing for our loyalty.  We deserve it.  We are the drivers.  We represent these companies every day in every interaction with every passenger.  For the time being, they need us.  And as of today, I am grateful Uber and Lyft are working to improve our experience on the road.  Be safe out there.

    Drivers, have you seen any of these changes on your Lyft driver app? Which new feature are you looking forward to the most?

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    Jay Cradeur

    Jay Cradeur

    Jay Cradeur, a graduate of the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, is a full-time driver with over 26,000 rides. Jay has a driver-focused podcast: Rideshare Dojo with Jay Cradeur. When Jay isn’t writing articles or making videos, he is traveling the world. You can see what Jay is up to at www.nomadjay.com.