Restoring faith in transit system key

[attach]6697[/attach]The TTC’s chief customer service officer Chris Upfold told a public meeting in the Beach that his office’s top priority is restoring trust among TTC riders.

“Sometimes we have lost our focus on the customer,” Upfold says. “To make our customers happy, we have to deliver better service.”

Upfold took up his current position in the wake of several customer service disasters suffered by the TTC including a photo of a sleeping subway ticket collector that went viral over the internet.

To deal with these issues and the negative perception of the TTC’s customer service, Upfold unveiled a plan to improve the regular level of service to the customer.

While there are many large scale customer service issues with the TTC, Upfold says a key part of his plan involves focusing on the small issues such as cleanliness of vehicles and stations that can be fixed right away. He says that in the past too much of the commission’s time was spent working on big schemes rather than addressing some of the smaller issues.

“We were always focused on service, or the future, instead of what we could do to gain trust now,” Upfold says.

In fixing many of these smaller issues Upfold says he hopes to create new transit advocates who will encourage governments to put more money in to the city’s transit system.

“Who would want to put money into a service that’s not clean?” he asked.

He also says the TTC needs to change the way it does business by having specialized staff who can focus on narrow areas of the system. Reorganization of staff will lead to more efficient service.

Upfold says the commission will be creating teams to manage routes working with drivers and managers to improve the efficiency of the system. This could prevent a situation where five buses come all at once and then none for 20 minutes. Adding new staff at the TTC’s transit control centre, which monitors the entire system, would also help.

“Having a larger staff at [this centre] would allow us to better analyze road patterns and smooth the flow of our buses and streetcars.”

Additionally, newer technology will play an important role in improving customer service, Upfold says.

At the moment the TTC is unable to tell if an elevator or escalator at any of its stations is malfunctioning. Upfold says that a new system to monitor the elevators and escalators and deal with problems more quickly should be installed by 2014.

While Upfold says the new steps are a good step toward improving the TTC’s customer service woes, he said the commission must get better at “measuring our performance, holding ourselves accountable and challenging mediocrity.”

The TTC established a customer service panel in 2010 which came up with 78 recommendations to improve the TTC.

“Last year we addressed 40 of them,” including refurbishing all 10 subway station washrooms, expanding cleaning duties on subways and streetcars and extended hours on the customer service phone line, he says.

Upfold says he’s optimistic that the new customer service initiatives will work and that riders will start to love the TTC again.

“People used to be proud of the TTC,” he says. “We have to regain their trust.”