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20 other dissemination media utilized in addition to telephone by the transit agencies that were interviewed. The Internet n ne et si LC oni pho ag PD visi pho tern U.S. (transit-agency-specific websites) is also very common. Other In Distribution Media International common dissemination media include e-mail (for agencies le e o te bil sending out alerts to customers and for customers providing le mo r ne r A C via input to the agency) and printed materials. The study team be- a b at a e D lieves that the relatively low utilization of printed media is a P function of how the question was asked and how interviewees by gn D to interpreted the question (i.e., the question was open-ended-- de ion m t agencies were not specifically prompted for each medium, and a o rm fo Vi many of them may not have mentioned printed material be- in e ic 0 5 10 15 D cause they thought it was a given, or not the focus of this Vo LE phone-oriented study). In reality, essentially all transit agen- Number of Agencies cies provide information via printed media. Source: TCRP Synthesis 48: Real-Time Bus Arrival Information Systems (p. 13). Figure 2. Distribution media for real-time bus 188.8.131.52 Matching Dissemination Methods/ arrival information. Technologies with Customer Needs and Preferences indicate that wayside and changeable electronic signs (com- The 25 transit agencies that were interviewed for this study monly known as dynamic message signs [DMS]) are the most were asked several questions relating to understanding and common dissemination method for real-time information, meeting the needs of their customers, including the following: followed by the Internet and telephone/PDA. This study indi- cates that real-time information is seldom provided manually, · What is the specific role served by telephone information in by live operators on transit customer information phone lines. your overall customer information strategy (e.g., do you use One of the questions asked of the transit agencies inter- the telephone to provide specific types of information or to viewed for this study focused on the type of dissemination meet the needs of specific types of customers)? media utilized. All 25 of the agencies responding to this ques- · What methods do you use to accommodate customers' tion provided information via telephone by live operators, special needs? making this dissemination method the core, foundational · How do you determine customer needs and preferences method for transit customer information. Figure 3 shows the and their satisfaction with customer information? 30 25 (out of 25 interviewed) Number of Agencies 20 15 10 5 0 s d ts s y e s l ve s rts R s ls s ai ad re ar op pl te sk sit gn le ai IV lm ei le re hu si bo ut io eb m st TV si ec la eb )o ai rk te oc il n- w at ge a lr ai Sn w le o e Em er br as cy ai ls Em sa m ab er ls th s/ ia Em dc en to ia es th l ro /C er ia oa us er Ag O m er io at (o at C Br ad at tm ic tm s am tm le R in Sa in Pr yn in Pr Pr D Figure 3. Transit information dissemination media other than telephone.
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21 Figure 4 summarizes the results of the interview question, when customers are en route and looking for immediate Do you see your telephone customer service as serving a different information assistance, need or type of customer than your other customer service media? · Information requests from customers with special needs This question was open ended (i.e., interviewees were not (e.g., customers who are senior citizens, customers with presented with a list of specific, potential answers). As indi- disabilities, or non-English-speaking customers). cated previously in Figure 2, the most common answer · Requests for paratransit and rideshare reservations. (noted by almost half of the 25 agencies interviewed) was that the telephone is simply the dissemination medium that they The second most common role served by telephone infor- think most of their customers prefer. Further, compared to mation, and noted by just over one-third of the agencies, is an IVR, staffed telephone information lines are fundamental that the telephone provides a means for serving those cus- because many callers, especially the elderly, want to speak tomers that do not have access to the agency's website. Other with "a real person." Overall, the agencies' telephone infor- relatively common answers (noted by 20% or more of inter- mation is the core, fundamental communication method viewees) were that telephone information plays a specific, im- used for customer contact. Also, agencies rely on telephone- portant role in serving customers who are unfamiliar with the based communication for relationship building, and adver- transit system, elderly customers, and customers who need tise their customer service telephone numbers on their very detailed information. The general impression was that websites, in printed information brochures, and through the direct, two-way, human-to-human communication pos- other media (e.g., DMS). Transit agencies use the telephone sible through the telephone makes this medium the core as a primary means for the following types of customer infor- method for meeting the most challenging information needs mation requests: of customers. Also, with most demand-response services rely- ing on making trip reservations and confirmations via tele- · Information requests on what/how/where/when questions. phone, the phone plays a particularly critical, central role for For example, questions can include "how to ride a fixed route paratransit agencies and customers. bus," "when is the next bus on route No. X," or "where can Two of the questions asked of the transit agency interviewees I get my monthly pass?" These questions require live inter- focused on how they determine their customers' needs, prefer- action with an agency representative. Such questions are ences, and capabilities, as well as their satisfaction with the received mostly from infrequent riders or visitors. agency's customer information services. All agencies gather this · Information requests from customers who are looking for sort of information on an on-going, daily basis through some personalized information that suits their specific needs and combination of customer comment/complaint mechanisms, preferences. including caller comments to agency customer service opera- · Information requests on the real-time status of transit ve- tors and caller voicemail, fax, and/or e-mail messages. Agencies hicles, detours, or service disruptions, received mostly at seem to perceive this as a basic means of feedback. Most agen- agencies that do not have electronic information resources cies supplement this sort of feedback with customer surveys that available to customers. Generally, such calls are received are administered on-board, on-line, or by telephone. 14 (out of 25 interviewed) Number of Agencies 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 em ly ss rs s s s n h d es er er e io is re ito ce at st gl om at om cc er s i ac sy En ed rm Vi ef ta st st e pr m e fo cu cu e t th on no im rn in is ly it ith ph te d e ns e fo er le ag in rw on in ll tra d ai ce o gu El Ph ilia d t N ra de ee an o Pa m N N d tl fa ee rs ot N Fi N Figure 4. Types of customers and information requests addressed by telephone.