The TTC has announced the makeup of its customer service advisory panel. According to the TTC’s press release, the first work of this panel will be to review the scope of work including:
- A review of Operator, Collector and other frontline employee initial training, as well as recertification training;
- A review of the commendation/complaint process;
- A review of the selection and hiring criteria for frontline employees;
- The introduction of a customer Bill of Rights that would include employee as well as customer expectations;
- A review of current TTC plans to address customer service;
- Conducting public consultations/meetings/focus groups;
- Conducting employee consultations/meetings/focus groups;
- A public report on recommendations; and
- Advising on expertise/resources needed to achieve success, e.g. external consultants, organizational changes that could include members of the Commission, members of management, as well as private citizens to address specific areas of interest.
The panel is expected to report by the end of June.
From my own point of view, a review of how the TTC interacts with its customers is only one part of a three-part problem. Two others must be addressed in parallel. If they are ignored, then this panel’s recommendations won’t go very far.
First of the two is the relationship between the Amalgamated Transit Union and the TTC, and through them with the public. Recent media reports and “gotcha” photos of TTC staff in less-than-productive poses, coupled with public furor over the botched fare increase procedure, raised antagonism between frontline TTC staff and the public. My gut feeling from riding the system is that this is dissipating, but wouldn’t take much to become a major issue again.
If the ATU has specific issues regarding working conditions (the protocols re work hours and breaks, for example), then these need to go on the table in a public forum. If we, the public and the larger political framework in which the TTC operates, don’t know the nature or the scope of the problems, we cannot possibly assess their importance, priority or how they might be addressed.
The contentious nature of public statements by ATU leaders only serves to undermine support for the frontline workers. This may “play to the house”, but it alienates the public whose support is essential.
Second of the two is the nature of TTC management. Far too often we hear what cannot be done, not what can be achieved if only we have the will to do it. Some of the issues are financial, others are organizational. If there are ways to improve the quality of service, we need to have a public debate about how this will be achieved and at what cost, if any. The Ridership Growth Strategy was based on the premise “tell us what you can do” while placing the policy decision for what we considered “good” in the political realm where it belongs.
Meanwhile, the TTC needs to examine everything it does through a customer service lens. Will proposed changes in fare inspection annoy riders and frustrate operating staff? Are operating and management procedures for surface routes appropriate for provision of good service? Can customers and route supervisors benefit from widespread availability of real time displays of service conditions (eg: Nextbus)?
Whatever changes are made, they must not be superficial, but should bring a real sense of improvement for the riding public and for TTC staff. Riders must feel in their bones that the system is improving, and staff must feel that they can actively contribute to this process with the support of TTC management and the Commission.