Lyft’s VP of Customer Experience and TRUST, With Mary Winfield – CB40

About This Episode

I was really enamored in speaking with Mary. Lyft is a company founded on a specific mission (more here), and her role is designed to reflect both customer experience and trust. Some companies you’ll see claim to have an awesome customer experience program, but what they mean is “we generate a bunch of revenue from customers.” That’s not actually customer experience. The entire idea of effective customer experience is rooted in trust and relationship-building, which is why I found this conversation with Mary so enlightening.

About Mary

From Mary’s LinkedIn: Mary Winfield Jeanne BlissI am an experienced executive with focus as a highly strategic, visionary Customer Experience Leader capable of delivering transformational results. I have led multiple turn arounds for operations, order management, payment and customer support organizations turning them into a growth lever and differentiator, driving increased customer promotion and delight. I am a true veteran in leading teams through large scale change. I have comprehensive experience in building global customer support, including organizational structure, culture, and business operations. In all that I have done my record is that of accomplishing key company objectives and exceeding expectations.

My personal leadership focus:

  • Creating a powerful, clear, strategic vision that inspires and aligns stakeholders
  • Compellingly making the bigger case for change…and rigorously supporting this with data.
  • While approaching transformation with distinctive innovation and creativity
  • Leading with an adaptive, systemic, learning mindset
  • Demonstrating strong domain expertise and business acumen
  • Thinking end to end and from multiple perspectives
  • Constantly seeking and adopting external best practices
  • Embracing and internalizing feedback
  • Leading with a deeply authentic, sustained passion while demonstrating great tenacity and courage

Why This Role Was Perfect For Mary

Mary is another serial customer experience leader who,  like many of us, gravitated to this work long before it was commonplace or fully understood.  

Her background is a progression of skills that led her to this role.  She began as a process and quality guru, then connected with technology. These two steps started creating the foundation that led her to this role. Next Mary focused on ‘design for delight’ and took lead roles in supporting and leading the front line.  She then turned to small business automation and more technology and app design. All of this helped bring her to Lyft.

Defining The Customer Experience Role In A Mission-Centered Company

Lyft has three core trust audiences:

  • Drivers
  • Employees
  • Customers

If they reduce trust with any one group, the entire triangle can collapse and the business can start falling behind. Because Lyft is a very mission-driven company, ultimately this need for trust in every interaction became baked into Mary’s role. But this had another wrinkle: Lyft is a high-growth company (in fact, it’s the fastest-growing transportation / ride-share app in North America right now).

How Does This Work Fit Into A Hyper-Growth Business?

First, she had to understand the stakeholders. This is common for almost everyone I interview that gets into this role, but it’s crucial in a hyper-growth company. Everyone has a ridiculous amount of demands on their time. If you come at them for something and they don’t have context for who you are, they’ll most likely ignore you. So building the relationships and understanding the people is crucial. That’s Part 1.

Part 2 is realizing that there’s a right way and a wrong way to manage fast growth. The right way sets you up for more growth. The wrong way tanks your revenue modeling.

Actions To Grow In The Right Way

Mary needed to make sure that she could embed things to help Lyft stay obsessed with driver happiness and connected to customers.

Here are some of the actions Mary and the leadership team do regularly to ensure this correct type of growth:

  • All executive members go on the road city to city and spend time with drivers
  • All execs drive Lyft
  • They hold “whole company support” sessions
    • These give deep immersion to everyone to what the custemr is expderiencing in a certain portion of the journey.
    • They go through exercise to immerse people in the actions and experiences customers have  

They have also created a metric of issues per 100 rides that drives focus and a simple way to understand the life of the customer. Similarly, they all go to driver hubs where drivers stop and they spend a day in the hub listening to the drivers coming and going and hearing about customers and different experiences and pain points.

The Power Of Good Hiring

We all understand the power of having good teams. But, especially in a fast-growth environment, hiring can feel rushed — roles are needed now — and it’s hard to know if you’re getting the best people in the door, which is why you need to stay ahead. Mary needed to formalize what she looks for in hiring. Some of what she arrived at was:

  • A deliberate set of questions (non-generic)
  • Competencies she looks for
  • Attempts to measure values, empathy, and where there would be a “care fit” between Lyft and the candidate
  • Job modeling where candidates sit with associates, see the job/work, and understand what they’re considering and the team they’d enter

“What Do I Know Now That I Wish I’d Known Then?”

Mary’s responses to my standard end question:

  • The story matters more than the data. You need both, but emotions move the needle faster than figures.
  • Have the skill to guide the company to designing with the customer in mind.  Observe the customer experience in an unbiased way in this process.  Don’t design what the company thinks it needs.  Design what the customer desires.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of first building an easy, consistent reliable customer experience.  You need to ‘earn the right’ to the customers peace of mind and wanting to continue with you. Not everything needs to be super complicated, especially not in the early stages. Business is complex, yes; but actions within should be simple.
  • Be a chameleon; everyone needs to hear the story and be engaged in a different manner. Know the hot buttons and priorities of who you are working with internally to be able to engage and commit with them emotionally to take action with you.

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