January 27, 2010

Toronto Transit Commission Chair Adam Giambrone, today, announced several measures the TTC will begin immediate work on in its renewed commitment to excellence in customer service.

Last week, the Commission approved the formation of an advisory panel. Panelists will be named in the next week. This panel will have representation from customers, the private sector, TTC employees and the public transit industry. The panel will review and approve a terms of reference then begin the work of assessing existing plans to improve customer service, advise on where the TTC should seek outside expertise to achieve its objective, conduct public consultations, and draft a customer charter or “bill of rights.” It is intended that the advisory panel will publicly report its recommendations by June 30.

“The Toronto Transit Commission must be committed to service excellence. Its customers want and deserve a safe, reliable and courteous TTC experience,” said TTC Chair Adam Giambrone. “I have clearly heard and understand the frustration customers have shared with us, particularly in the wake of several high-profile customer service problems in the last few months. By reaching out and listening to customers, and through a comprehensive review of hiring, training, and technology, we can and will improve the TTC experience.”

The panel is one of several new or expedited initiatives aimed at dramatically improving customer service for TTC customers.

Next week, the TTC will unveil the first phase of its Trip Planner. Customer feedback will be sought as the trip planner continues through development, including a mobile application. The TTC will make its data available to organizations, like Google – at no charge – so they can develop applications that may be useful to TTC customers.

This year the TTC will install up to an additional 50 pass vending machines across the system, allowing customers to purchase Metropasses. The TTC continues to work with the province of Ontario on a smart card and automatic fare payment system.

The TTC will improve its plans to assist customers and employees during major subway delays, including the use of emergency transfers and bus shuttles. The advisory panel’s input will be critical in ensuring the right information, from the right people, at the right time is delivered in a way that is helpful to customers.

In July, all 800 streetcar stops will have SMS capability whereby customers can send a text message to the TTC and get an immediate response about when the next streetcar will arrive at that particular stop. Select shelters and subway stations serviced by streetcars will also have LED readouts with next vehicle arrival information Bus stops will have the same capability in 2011 as the TTC upgrades the GPS units aboard all the buses in its fleet.

To help frontline employees and customer alike during subway disruptions, the TTC will install video screens at station entrances or at collector booths with system status information. As well, direct communication with collectors and supervisors from Transit Control will be implemented to ensure employees have the latest information to help them do their jobs effectively.

The TTC has a number of initiatives already under way, or in the planning stage, to improve the customer experience on the TTC. When a delay on the subway occurs that is greater than 15 minutes during rush hour periods and 30 minutes at all other times, the TTC’s website is updated, e-alerts are issued and platform video screens carry text advising customers of any delay. Customers are notified of significant surface route disruptions in the same way. The TTC also makes use of social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook.

While technology is an important component of customer service and customer information, the TTC recognizes it can, and must, do better in its interactions with customers.

“We don’t want our customers to wonder what their next trip on the TTC might be like,” said TTC Chief General Manager Gary Webster. “We want them to look forward to a reliable, safe and courteous trip. Each of us at the TTC needs to think about how we are doing our jobs and how we interact with our customers. As public servants, we have a unique and important responsibility to meet, if not exceed, customer expectations. The vast majority of our employees are courteous; we need to achieve 100 per cent.”

With the assistance of the advisory panel, the TTC will begin a thorough and comprehensive review of its training curriculum – for new employees, as well as those going through recertification training. A renewed focus on customer service will be at the core of all training. The TTC will also ask the panel to advise on its plan to ensure all new hires, as well as all internal applicants, have a measurable aptitude for customer service excellence. To ensure service excellence is not only achieved, but sustained, quality assurance standards will be developed, as will the use of “secret shoppers” and comprehensive supervision.

The TTC will seek the panel’s input and advice on the need to retain consultant-support to help develop and guide the TTC through this process.

The TTC has a summer program called TTC Ambassadors. Used primarily at special events, the TTC will seek input from the panel on expanding this program into a full-time program whereby customers can get information or assistance from an ambassador at its busiest subway stations, or during major disruptions. The TTC will also undertake a review of its uniforms and dress code for frontline workers.

Finally, the TTC will establish a 24/7 hotline for TTC information or for filing a complaint. It will also seek advice from the panel and customers on its complaints process. Greater public accountability and transparency for complaints will be reviewed and routine public reporting of complaints and resolutions will be studied to ensure performance excellence is measured.

The TTC has heard much from its customers about how it can improve. The advisory panel will greatly assist the TTC in ensuring it focuses on the most important aspects of customer service while it consults with riders, and reviews processes and plans already in place.

Backgrounder

January 27, 2010

A number of technological initiatives are under way to help improve the customer experience on the TTC. Next vehicle arrival information, Text messaging and an Internet Trip Planner are some of the technologies the TTC will deploy in the coming weeks and months.

Next Vehicle Arrival

Next Vehicle Arrival screen

Next vehicle arrival screens at subway stations, like this one, will roll out this year and next.

Text Messaging for Next Vehicle Arrival

Bus stop pole with Text Messaging for Next Vehicle Arrival decal

The TTC has more than 10,000 bus and streetcar stops. Each stop will have a unique number to allow customers to send a text message to the TTC for immediate response about when the next vehicle is due to arrive at that stop. All 800 streetcar stops will have this feature in place by the end of July and all bus stops in 2011.

Next Vehicle Arrival at bus and streetcar shelters

Next Vehicle Arrival at bus and streetcar shelters

Over the next 12 to 18 months, some 350 bus and streetcar shelters will be equipped with LED readouts indicating when the next vehicle is due to arrive at that stop.

Trip Planner

Screenshot of TTC Trip Planner

Next week, the TTC will unveil the first phase of its Internet Trip Planner. Customer and user feedback will be sought as the trip planner continues through the development stage. Data will be shared with private sector organizations, like Google, for unique transit applications.

View all articles from January