Do Service Changes Improve Customer Service?

capmetro upgradesCapital Metro’s latest round of service changes went into effect last Sunday. Soon after they announced their changes, Atlantic Cities ran an article on The 3 Keys for Drawing Drivers to Mass Transit, which got us thinking. They report:

A strong mass transit system needs frequent and reliable service to maintain its ridership, and the ability to reach job centers across a metro area. But even systems that meet these requirements struggle to attract new riders in cities with high levels of car ownership. After all, a car offers frequency, reliability, and job access too.

We asked Todd Hemingson, Movability board member and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Development for Capital Metro, whether these service changes are about the “basics” (frequency and reliability) or more so designed to attract new customers. Hemingson says:

The changes are both to improve the basic quality of service and to attract new customers. Frequency and reliability require constant tweaking as conditions (construction, traffic, etc) change as well as demand for services, and all this must get balanced against available funding.

Hemingston indicated that frequent service over a long span of time each day is hands down the best way to grow ridership; but as the Atlantic Cities article suggests, giving people a transit option that competes may require even more than a simple “build it and they will come” approach.  Their research finds, “the most effective way for transit systems to close the deal with drivers is to identify what they love about cars and bring those qualities to the experience of riding.” They offer three key recommendations:

  • Pay more attention to rider perceptions. Too often transit operators evaluate service quality based on criteria they consider important — even if riders don’t feel the same.
  • Target the motivations that cause people to drive instead of ride. In many cases this motivation is comfort and convenience.
  • Recognize that not all drivers have the same potential to become riders. New residents to an area might be particularly inclined to switch travel modes, for instance, so programs that target this subset of the population may be cost-effective and successful.

We think MetroRapid will allow CapMetro to raise the bar on attention and conveniences provided to customers. We also think the growing number of customer-driven blogs, hashtags, and Facebook pages about specific routes will only help identify customer interests, like Daily Bus Rider, Stack Less (@stackless), and @the3bus.

What do you think? Is Capital Metro providing you good basic service? Should they be doing more to  incorporate customer feedback into service changes?

Click here for the specific service changes that began this past weekend.

3 Responses to Do Service Changes Improve Customer Service?

  1. Jennifer says:

    I also found a Twitter account today called @capmetroblues. But I’m sure you already knew that.

  2. Terry Grier says:

    I think these bus twitter accounts are a great thing. We frequently discuss comments by the @dailybusrider and @the3bus and the others you listed on our weekly podcast When in Austin
    http://www.wheninaustin.net/wia-shows/2013/6/29/33-the-detentions

    While I support and generally like the service capmetro provides – I believe they have a little bit of “group think” and/or rose colored glass on – not to mention they do not take critique very well at all – and by that I mean they come back very defensive.

    I agree with your point – If you are not serving the customer – you will not have a customer. At time that defensive posture is to “explain” away issues raised by their customer. That is fine if that is what they want to do – but my point is they are in essence telling the customer “they do not understand” . One day that customer might not be there. Just saying.

    Terry
    @wheninaustin