Chris Vetrano – Head of Partner & Customer Engagement | Bikes, Scooters & Transit at Lyft [Customer Engagement]

Chris talks about what it means to be customer-obsessed, how and when to add the right channels, and explains how Lyft has adapted in 2020.
Nick Glimsdahl 0:07
Welcome to the Press 1 for Nick podcast. My name is Nick Glimsdahl. My guest this week is Chris Vetrano. Chris is the head of partner and customer engagement at Lyft. And bikes scooters and transit and he was recently named actually one of the top 25 trailblazing customer service leaders. Chris, welcome to the Press 1 for Nick podcast. Thanks, Nick. Good to be here. Yeah. So I always ask every guest at the very beginning. And sometimes they get a little crazy. But what’s one thing that people who might not know about you? Yeah,

Chris Vetrano 0:37
I mean, I’m a pretty open book, I share probably too many things on social media. There’s not a lot. But I think the thing that people ask me a lot, career wise, that they don’t realize is I’m an independent music enthusiast and started my career in Denver, working on a small independent music festival that we, me and a team of folks grew into the western United States largest independent music festival in 2010. And since the Denver Post out there took it over. So it’s kind of like this really proud legacy. But I don’t wear the badge. And it’s not something that shows up a lot. In my kind of career story.

Nick Glimsdahl 1:24
Yeah, I see a badge coming in your future where it’s just the world’s largest customer, or the world’s largest customer experience band festival. However, that’s coming next, we’ll create it. So what do you do in your current role at Lyft? Tell me a little bit about that.

Chris Vetrano 1:48
Yeah, so I lead partner and customer engagement for our lift, bikes, scooters, and transit line of business. On under my team, I’ve got three smaller teams that are made up of the support operations, team. service design, training, all of our kind of like help access points within the app are managed by that team, as well is managing all the support for operations, and in-field workers, and then the voice of the customer. And then the third team is just customer experience, or better-known kind of like just our support delivery teams doing our traditional support. So all of those things fall under me. And then I manage all of customer experience end to end for like I said, the bikes, scooters and transit division have left so and then work closely with my colleagues on the rideshare side, but focus most of my time on micro-mobility.

Nick Glimsdahl 2:51
Yeah, how often are you going? So you have those three sections of business? Obviously, there’s so many things inside of what you just said, I don’t know how you sleep, you probably just work in blank and grab a Redbull and keep on going. But how often are you talking to the other sides of the business around the customer? Because one of the things that I want to talk about here after this is being customer obsessed. So how are you focusing on the customer from each channel? Yeah, so

Chris Vetrano 3:23
I mean, my my teams work closely together within the, we call it the TBS transit bikes and scooters, but then the TBS organization we work really closely, especially as it relates to the customer experience and being kind of customer obsessed, which we can, we can continue talking about that a little bit more. And then on the rideshare side, the nice thing is that when we launched our firt, when we put our first scooter on the ground, I think it’s been about two years ish, a little over two years ago. And when we launched it wasn’t a startup, right? We weren’t we weren’t doing this for the first time. We were doing scooters for the first time. But from a customer experience standpoint, there was a lot that we had already learned in our time as rideshare. So we were able to borrow from them like what worked really well from an infrastructure perspective, and then adapt it to meet the needs of our customers that were using our scooters and then later our bikes and our transit as well. And so that’s we work pretty closely as a company but also really closely within or similar line of business.

Nick Glimsdahl 4:32
Yeah, it’s kind of like, what I always like to say is people don’t just buy a book on customer experience and throw it on the table and say, nailed it. We get this figured out for our company. And in the probably the same is true with with each department. It’s it’s you got to be very focused and obsessed, which is a great transition. So the two things I want to talk about is about customer obsession, and social media. So what does cups can being customer obsessed me To you.

Chris Vetrano 5:01
Yeah, I mean, I think the way that I sort of describe it cross functionally within my colleagues and partners at Lyft, is it’s really advocating for the customers, it’s being the voice of our writers, it’s understanding really where are they experiencing pain? Or where are they experiencing pleasure within using our product? And how can we amplify the good stuff? And how can we fix the bad stuff? And really just thinking about them first, and every decision that we make is really customer obsession. And I think that, that’s really easy to do at a company like Lyft. Because I think customer obsession is something that we really value at the company overall, which makes it nice and easy to to bring the cross functional stakeholders along.

Nick Glimsdahl 5:55
Yeah. So how is lips specifically obsessed with our customers?

Chris Vetrano 6:00
Yeah, so we actually recently updated, you know, obviously, 2020 is a year of change. One of the things that lifted this year is updated our core values. We went from like three core values to kind of, I think now we call them 10 principles. And the first principle within that is, is being customer obsessed, and always putting your customer first. And so it’s part of our, it’s kind of like what we breathe, left. And that’s something that I have always really admired about the way that our founders have led the company. But I think that lift, you really see people walking the talk, because when we build a product, it, we always think about how do we think about what the customer is going to experience at the end of the day when they experienced that product? I think, in some companies that I’ve worked in the past, the product teams and the customer experience teams are two very different teams that oftentimes don’t agree on where things should be prioritized for our customers. In my line of business, specifically, actually, I set on our product organization. And so I work directly with our writer, product team and with our operations, product teams, as my colleagues so that when we go to roadmap for transit bikes and scooters, we’re thinking about the customers and the features that they need in order to improve the experience and turned

Nick Glimsdahl 7:31
Yeah, in. So you kind of touched on it just a little bit. But you said that some other organizations don’t always do what’s best for the customer and kind of focus on some other metric, maybe what they’re measured on what their benefit what their bonus structure looks like. But Why else? Are people not being completely obsessed, have a relentless focus on their customer experience?

Chris Vetrano 7:55
Yeah, I mean, I think it really depends on that kind of like top down strategy, like I mentioned, that lift, we kind of put, we put it as our first sort of core value, and everything that we’re doing is that we should, we should start with the customer in mind. I think that you kind of touched on it. And what you just said is that some people are bonused on like a sales or a growth figure. And so I think like you experience when marketing and customer experience are sort of on different teams or in different have different initiatives, you might notice some friction with them, where marketing wants to push a message, but they’re not understanding that the customer’s not understanding the message. And so if the two teams aren’t talking, it might look really great that that message got a ton of engagement, but nessa from the marketing perspective, but from the customer experience perspective, that message actually was very confusing for customers. And the reason people were engaging is saying, Why, or what does this mean? And so I think that sometimes it just decide, I think it’s sort of relies on what measures or metrics the team is accountable to.

Nick Glimsdahl 9:09
Yeah, and you’re making this easy me because I’m going to transition right to metrics for you. What you talked about it being the number one principle, and I think that is crucial, and it kind of sets the precedent of being Alright guys, we’re 100% focused on the customer, because that is our number one bullet. But how are you being measured? When it comes to being customer obsessed?

Chris Vetrano 9:36
Yeah, so I think, you know, from a, from an OKR, kind of like what’s important in looking at performance of the business like obviously, things like NPS and Sisa drive a lot of customer satisfaction, but the but that’s really important to me as a customer experience leader and a support delivery leader, but it’s not necessarily as important to some My cross functional leaders and so the things that I hold them accountable for so that they maintain customer obsession is like their cost per contact. So when somebody, when a product manager releases a new feature in the app, and we get, you know, 10x, on our support calls over it, that cost, I bring it back to them and hold them accountable to that cost for the customer experience. And then on the flip side of that, the same thing is kind of true for, like our marketing teams or operations teams, when when they make a decision that impacts their organization potentially positively. But then in, in return, we see a spike in volume, I hold them accountable to what that volume, what the volume driver was. So we use tickets per 1000 rides as a as a metric to measure how well we’re doing and kind of business health and how customers are reacting to our product. But the so the T 1k, is something that I push back to the other lines of business by saying like, you know, we had a six point increase on T 1k. Because of this email that went out that was super confusing, right. And so then I can hold the marketing teams more accountable. And so I look at volume and cost as a real success metric around customer obsession, because the ideal situation for our customer experience is that the best support is no support. Because the product was seamless and frictionless.

Nick Glimsdahl 11:33
Yeah, yeah, if they can get their problem solved, or or find a solution that is seamless, where they don’t have to call Yeah, that’s the best scenario. second best is, is fixing it on the channel of their choice. But I love how you guys actually bring it back and keep them accountable, good or good, bad or indifferent. Right? It’s, here’s the truth. And and here’s what we see, based off of what the data shows and what the customers are saying. Because then there’s no argument. Totally. Who else is doing that? Really? Well, who else is being customer obsessed from a company perspective?

Chris Vetrano 12:13
Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, there’s, I think, especially when you think about like NPS and world class, customer experience, there’s easy ones that come to mind for all of us. I mean, we’re probably both thinking of the same companies right now. But, um, you know, and it sounds it sounds cliche, but, you know, in this specific year, I actually think like Southwest is doing a really great job at reacting to what their customers are saying and what their customers are fearful of. And I think I read somewhere like frictionless flying. And it’s like, That, to me is like a really strong message, because it’s exactly what if I’m going to be somebody in a in a pandemic here. That’s thinking about Can I take travel, I want to make sure that it’s going to be frictionless that it’s potentially going to be contactless. And I want to make sure that my safety is the utmost importance. And everything that Southwest has done is no middle seats, you know, masks and on both your nose and mouth, and they’re making, they’re setting expectations really clearly for their customers, which I think is really important right now. And I think, I guess another company that I would say is doing a really good job this year, specifically, with and clearly putting their customers first is LinkedIn, I have really noticed how LinkedIn has brought a sense of community, I think in some of our other social, social channel options. There’s been a lot of controversy around them this year. And LinkedIn has kind of stayed away from that controversy. But in the meantime, people are losing their jobs. And what’s important to them is networking and community and elevating those stories where people are hiring or where people are looking for work. And I’ve just noticed, like the the way in which people are engaging on those types of posts in LinkedIn has actually been really inspiring this year in a way that I haven’t noticed in years prior. And so I don’t know if that’s just the nature of the world, and the fact that there are more people that are out there looking for work, or if it’s something that LinkedIn has actually done with their algorithms and with their product offerings that have helped elevate some of the needs of their customers. So I think probably that would be one that I would say specifically to this year. Yeah,

Nick Glimsdahl 14:39
yeah, I would say that also is true with LinkedIn. You can see the on the pictures, they say open to work, but it’s also the interaction or the engagement of the people that you’re connected with. I mean, you can see online are the people that are saying, hey, if I’ve ever interacted with you prior and you’ve been affected by this Let me know and let me know I can help. And if it’s me looking over your resume of me, if it’s me introducing you to somebody else, let me know. But it’s, it’s providing that community to do that. And maybe LinkedIn, like you said, is changing that algorithm. So when they see that, it might elevate that post so other people can see it.

Chris Vetrano 15:21
Yeah, yeah. And I think that I’m also seeing more of that end experience, too. Because if I saw the post of somebody looking for work, and then I see the post of when they announced that they got that job, it actually makes me feel really engaged in their story. And I think that that’s something that we need in this time, we need to be able to see people’s like, where they are really looking for help, and then how they eventually got it or where they kind of net it out with that.

Nick Glimsdahl 15:50
Yeah. And to stay on LinkedIn just for one more time is. Sometimes if you go to the job descriptions on people’s profiles, it says LinkedIn helped me get this job. And I’ve never seen that before, but they’re trying to help people get re employed in a time where they’re struggling. And so I just thought that was another creative way to get people to say, hey, maybe I should pay more attention to LinkedIn, along with my connections.

Chris Vetrano 16:21
Yeah, it’s it’s really true. And I think that that, I haven’t actually seen that. But that is a really cool feature. And I think it also helps build trust with people that if they aren’t looking for work right now, because they’re, you know, some of the lucky ones, they may be in the future. And now they have a platform where they feel like they can go do that potentially successfully. And so I think that’s really great product offerings that they’re doing.

Nick Glimsdahl 16:45
Yeah, so staying on social. What is how important is social media? out lift?

Chris Vetrano 16:56
Lift, I mean, social media is definitely important. So when I started out lift, about five years ago, I stood up our first social support team, we we hadn’t had it prior, most of what was being used on lift, social channels at the time was people sharing kind of their like promo codes to get free lift rides, and things like that. But we really opened it up as a space, because even though we are just, you know, a platform and an app that kind of connects people, drivers and riders to get where they need to go, that is creating community in some ways. And so we have a kind of a responsibility to be a community and be a host of this community to have a conversation with our riders and drivers. And so social media is definitely a part of our strategy all the time. And specifically, for me, obviously, having kind of stood up social media for the rideshare side, and then coming over and standing up our support for our transit bikes and scooters, social media has been like a primary focus for, for this new micromobility line of business that I’m managing, we’re really focusing our support strategy around real time channels, and the one that people use the most, whether they actually need help, or if they’re just complaining, is social media. And so we want to be there, because we want to make sure that as we are, you know, launching new bikes, or new scooters into their, hopefully into their transportation or into their commutes, whatever they may look like today, that they’re going to use Lyft for that transportation need. And so we want to be there to help solve those problems, whether they need them or not.

Nick Glimsdahl 18:42
Yeah. And so you said you, you help stand up the so the first social support, what channels were included in that.

Chris Vetrano 18:51
So initially, it was just Twitter. And then we kind of lightweight supported Facebook, because Facebook. B lift is kind of this interesting animal, which I think a lot of companies deal with, but it’s very localized. So people in different markets have different needs or different questions or concerns. But lift is national brand. And so it’s something that we had to kind of solve for on on Facebook to figure out how to make that more localized and make the experience better. But today, we support twitter, facebook, facebook Messenger, and then kind of lightly support Instagram where we need it. We don’t have great insights into like the Instagram dm space today, just based on some API limitations on Facebook’s side, but but we support the main ones, Twitter and Facebook and, of course direct message.

Nick Glimsdahl 19:53
Yep. And so let’s say that one of my listeners is saying this is this is all I’m glad that they’re doing social media. I’m interested in getting into social media, maybe right now we’re just doing Twitter. How do I know when to get to the next social channel?

Chris Vetrano 20:14
Yeah. So, you know, I, I get asked this question a lot internally to like the marketing team, you know, will bring me, Hey, are you guys ready to start supporting Instagram? Are you ready to start supporting this channel? And so I think that, you know, it’s first about what is the objective of your customer experience sort of goal and vision? For me, it’s that we’re there to answer people’s questions to help support them when they’ve run into problems. And early on, I think that this has changed in the last probably year or a little bit more maybe. But Instagram wasn’t that people were mostly commenting on photos, and mostly, and DMS weren’t really a thing, maybe maybe for dating or something like that would slide into the DMS. But for lift, no one was really like, quote, unquote, sliding into our support questions they were commenting on like, Oh, that’s a cool photo, or this activation that we did are great. I mean, and so when we started evaluating, like, what was actually there, there wasn’t support needs. And I think some of that was true of Facebook, before we actually launched Facebook, it was that the questions or the things that were coming in weren’t really support related questions. It was more comments and commentary. But I think that we’ve sort of changed our perspective over time, that actually commentary is not a bad thing. And it still can be support, even if it’s not answering our users question. Because it’s depending for us, we want to engage with our community and have a conversation. And so I think that that is the first question that you would have to answer is why do you want to be there? And what is your goal? Is it that you want to answer support questions, and you want to scale, you know, a support organization. But so if that’s the kind of end goal, then I would look at, what questions are coming? And are they in volume enough for us to sort of take that on? And then the second question is, if or the second kind of scenario would be if you’re going there to support our community, and have a conversation. I think that, you know, look at what channels and and do that the best and that you have the best platforms to sort of create that conversation.

Nick Glimsdahl 22:33

I think it’s important that you said it’s not all about support. It’s not about solving an issue, but it’s listening and engaging. Yeah. Because that builds trust and loyalty. And, you know, throughout that whole process, it’s not about solving people’s problems in that moment. So yeah, I really liked that. How have you guys at Lyft had to change or what was inside the the year that we’ve had? Hmm.

Chris Vetrano 23:04
Oh, well, a lot. I think that like obviously, I think that this is really where sort of our our two kind of lines of business separate right, like the the rideshare world is experiencing sort of this pandemic in a very different way than our transit bikes and scooters are transit. Surely like some in some cases, transit has completely shut down in some cities, or when we were in shelter in place, definitely shut down. But I think from like a customer experience standpoint, it was really about how do we support the needs of our users that we regularly kind of support. And so what I mean by that is our rideshare platform, most people are pretty familiar with you log on, you select a ride, unless you have a Lyft pink membership, you are kind of doing a one off for our bike memberships, we actually have annual memberships. Well, when people go to shelter in place, or when they can’t go to work, or now they’re working from home, we have to solve their problems in a very different way and also continue to show them their value in the product that they have. And so we kind of had to really rethink our kind of strategies around that. But also I think it’s it was really about for us like solving the problems that the world was facing. And so when we went to shelter in place, it was very easy for I think some businesses and when I say easy, I don’t mean financially easy, but it was easy for some places to I think just like lock their doors and say like we’ve got a we’ve got a close up because this is what we’re doing as a nation or whatever. But for lift, we are solving people’s transportation needs and as We know there were essential workers, there was people that were deemed essential to continue living their lives or at least performing their jobs. And so we had to figure out how do we still maintain our business and still sort of like run a business at maybe lesser scale, but deliver for these essential workers. And so that was really one of our biggest kind of programs that we launched, in the early pandemic times, was an essential worker program where we were able to deliver free rides for all of those essential workers. Yeah, no, it’s

Nick Glimsdahl 25:34
it’s awesome. There, they’re what what does the future hold for? For Lyft? What do you see it moving forward? You can talk about the bike, scooter scooters in transit, or you can kind of go further out and talk about kind of the macro level. Yeah, I

Chris Vetrano 25:52
mean, I think like, so. I think looking at it, like more granular, I think we’re looking at really solving support needs, and within our customer experience, thinking about the uncertain times that we live in, in a much different way, we didn’t plan for COVID. We didn’t plan for kind of all the things that have happened in this year. And so now we’re learning to adapt and like, how to plan for things that you can’t plan for? And do we know what that secret formula is? No, but I don’t think anyone does. Or if they do, I hope that they are the next guest on your podcast. But I, I do think that there is some changes to the way that we think about how do we support customers? Or how do we want to scale a support organization that we can take from these learnings from this year and adapt it moving forward? And I think that, like a wider lens with that question, you know, our, our goal is to continue to be a transportation company and to help people get from point A to point B. And so continuing to do that with the best experience possible. So hopefully, that’s what the future will hold is that we continue to add new ways of transportation and new ways to help people feel safe to get where they need to go, especially coming out of this year, whatever that looks like.

Nick Glimsdahl 27:27
Yeah, and it kind of sounds like keeping the priority of being customer obsessed as number one.

Chris Vetrano 27:34
Oh, absolutely. Yeah.

Nick Glimsdahl 27:35
Yeah. So I wrap up every podcast with two questions. And the first question is, is what book or person has influenced you the most in the past year? And then the second one is, if you could leave a note to all the customer service and or customer experience professionals, that’s going to hit everybody’s desk Monday at 8am? What would it say? Cool.

Chris Vetrano 27:57
First one, I think a book that I revisited this year, and that I recommend for all professionals, not just for customer service professionals, is crucial conversations. I think that as a leader, both a people leader and a leader cross functionally within lift, is this year really provided new challenges and having everything be virtual and figuring out how to engage your teams, but also in how to like share feedback, or how to advocate for customers, or how to share that what customers are feeling, it was really easy to do that, when we were able to kind of like bumping into each other in the hallways. And so I think that this, this book has kind of helped and made all of my people managers that are on my team, read it this year, because I think that it’s really important to learn how to have these crucial conversations, whether you’re in person or not, and how to kind of level up the things that are the most important things that you need to be sad. The other piece of that that I would take from Crucial Conversations is that it also helps people or has helped me sort of define what the voice should be for our customers. When we are thinking about how we provide support. It’s how do we have Crucial Conversations with our customers? And so I think that that’s kind of like transitions into your second question about like, What would I say to people is that, you know, this is a year where everybody has a lot of strong opinions. And we’ll just kind of leave it at that for for. So we don’t get political or anything on this on this one. But I think that in a year where everyone has a strong opinion about whatever it may be, you want to be on the right side of that. And so you want to learn how to have like a really honest, transparent conversation with your customer to continue to maintain that trust. I talked about a little bit when we were pivoting and we had annual members and we have casual members. And sometimes things go wrong. And I think there is always this kind of common denominator that people do understand that mistakes are made. And yeah, you might be upset that a company made the mistake. But if you can make it right for them make it right. But I don’t think see any harm and along the way, really sharing with them, like transparently like, Hey, we’re learning this too. I, I said earlier this year, and in a conference that I was speaking, or a virtual conference that I was speaking at, that the only thing that is certain about our future is uncertainty. And that goes for everybody. It’s not just for companies, it’s for the customers on the other side, too. And so getting down in the dirt and being really real with them, I think will help build trust and ultimately it will help build loyalty and understanding when you’re solving their problems. And so I would learn how to have those really transparent, honest conversations with your customers. And hopefully, everyone will have a shared understanding and walk away with a much better experience than they started with if if they’re calling to complain.

Nick Glimsdahl 31:06
Yeah, solid insight. Chris, what’s what’s the best way for my listeners to connect with you on LinkedIn or Twitter? What’s the best way to for if they want to connect me? They said, Hey, this is the world’s greatest podcast episode. How do I get a hold of this fella?

Chris Vetrano 31:24

well, on all the socials, I’m at cm, Emmons and Michael and then move to Toronto. So cm Toronto, and LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram, Facebook, I think on all the all the platforms, I think I’m on with that same handle so they can find me there.

Nick Glimsdahl 31:44
Nice. And just spell the Toronto for all of the listeners that might not know.

Chris Vetrano 31:52
Yeah, so the Toronto is V as in Victor et RA and Oh,

Nick Glimsdahl 31:58
awesome. Chris, thank you so much. I had a blast and look forward to being in touch with one of the top 25 trailblazing customer service leaders and hearing what Lyft is up to in the future.

Chris Vetrano 32:11
Awesome. Thanks so much for having me, Nick.


The Press 1 For Nick podcast is both educational and engaging, and each episode offers listeners a dynamic blend of insightful stories, best practices, and invaluable lessons.

Nickโ€™s guests – each with a unique wealth of knowledge – include leaders from a variety of backgrounds and industries. Some of his guests include:

  • Customer service & customer experience leaders
  • A hostage negotiator
  • Award-winning authors
  • Home Depotโ€™s Senior Director of Customer Care
  • Former VP of Disneyโ€™s Magic Kingdom
  • Lyftโ€™s Head of Partner and Customer Engagement
  • Deputy Chief Veteran Experience Officer from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs

On every episode Nick asks his guest two questions:

  1. What book or person has influenced you the most in the past year?
  2. If you could leave a note to all the Customer Service and CX professionals, what would it say?

You can find all the podcast guests’ answers under their episodes below.

If all you want is the guests’ book recommendations, you can go here.

Subscribe on: Listen on Apple PodcastsListen on SpotiListen on Googisten