Public transportation in the metropolitan St. Louis area is on the move, and we’re not just talking about the buses and light rail system that transport over 36 million people every year. Metro Transit, the agency that manages more than 70 bus routes in Missouri and Illinois, as well as 38 stations for their 46-mile light rail system, continues to move transportation forward with their adoption of messaging.
Metro Transit recognized their need for a new method of reaching their riders, effectively and conveniently. Customers were specifically asking for the ability to engage with the agency via text messaging for both customer service and public safety issues. Customer service requests like “Can you send me my trip plans” and “Can you text me bus schedules” were increasing in frequency. The agency set out to find a solution that would work for both customer service and public safety and found the perfect match with Quiq.
Setting a New Destination for Messaging
Leadership first learned about Quiq and its capabilities in January of 2018. The RFP process made it really easy for the transit agency to see what Quiq had to offer, and Metro Transit made the decision to move forward with new text messaging and live chat options.
Metro Transit went live with Quiq’s messaging platform in July 2018. While most Quiq implementations happen in days (if not less), this timeline was considered lightning speed for the agency. Most of the implementation was focused on internal decisions, such as, how many of their existing numbers should be used. The agency ultimately decided to reduce to 2 of their existing landline numbers for messaging.
The platform’s smooth launch was followed by their customers’ quick adoption. Not only was there pent up demand for messaging, but the agency also did a great job of promoting the platform. In addition to adding information about messaging to the agency’s website, the new capabilities were also promoted in an email to the agency’s 30,000 newsletter subscribers, on posters found in bus shelters, on trains and buses, and at every station. The agency also handed out tens of thousands of printed flyers to inform customers that text messaging was now available.
Messaging is now officially part of the agency’s Transit Information and Customer Service teams that handle more than 30K transit and customer care calls a month. Questions about transit are usually handled by the 14 agents who help customers with trip planning and finding schedules, while 3 customer service agents field about 2,500 calls and 600 to 700 emails a month on topics that range from operational concerns such as a bus failing to make a designated stop to service issues like schedules and timeliness. The agency hasn’t seen a decrease in call volume, but is thrilled that they are now reaching new customers who would not have contacted them otherwise.
“We’re reaching customers who would not have called or emailed otherwise. Text is their preferred communication channel and now we’re able to engage with them.“
Paul Stefanski, Manger IT Operations Systems
Without a doubt, the messaging channel has proven to be an effective vehicle for customer service, where 90% of the conversations are related to trip planning and the balance made up of customer service issues. The ability to reach new customers who would not have engaged otherwise becomes more obvious when it comes to public safety.
Moving Forward with Messaging
Because it was clear that text messaging was the next stop on Metro Transit’s customer experience journey, leadership set out with a clear purpose: find out what was possible with text messaging. The agency had already been working with the Public Safety department for several years, searching for a solution that would provide customers the privacy, security, and immediacy that they desired.
Prior to messaging, customers had the option to either use an intercom available on the platform or located on either side of the train to report concerns. Only one problem: everyone could hear the conversation the caller was having with the dispatcher on the other end, including the person or party who may be the object of concern. This caused many riders to avoid reporting anything because they didn’t want to make themselves out to be a target.
Today, Metro Transit customers can directly connect with transit security by text messaging, allowing them to discretely communicate their concerns with security personnel, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Because text messaging makes it easy to report issues and not stand out, the agency has seen public safety reports increase. Agents have seen reports go from 0 when no used the intercom to about 10, out of the 110 to 120 public safety messages they receive per day.
This has improved the transit experience for riders who feel that their concerns are being addressed in the moment, and a big win for Metro Transit who has seen a significant decline in public safety complaints. Public Safety Dispatchers, on average, respond in under 2 minutes, with typical response times being within 30 seconds. Dispatchers immediately alert nearby personnel who can quickly respond to any concerns.
What’s Next for Messaging in Public Transportation
Since implementing messaging there has been a steady stream of praise from customers. Not only do customers love the ability to engage via text messaging, but also enjoy the experience they have with their agent. Agents are loving the interaction too. So much so that Metro Transit needed to rotate the responsibility to ensure that each agent had the chance to be the dedicated messaging agent for at least a week.
The agency hopes to build on this momentum by exploring other departments where messaging can be used. The agency also seeks to create a link within their app to make texting to customer service more accessible.
Though messaging is rapidly growing in popularity for many industries like retail, financial services, and consumer services, Metro Transit has taken the road less traveled by transit agencies. In doing so, they are leading the way in innovation and setting the precedence for public service.