In the first part of this series, I looked at the background of the TTC’s Customer Service Advisory Panel, and reviewed the first set of their recommendations dealing, broadly, with organizational issues.
In this second part, I will review the three sections dealing with communications: TTC to customers, customers to TTC and within the TTC itself.
Communicating With Customers
This section includes many recommendations given that the absence of good information flow is a fundamental problem between the TTC and its riders. Of particular note in this section (pp 19-30) is the random order in which the recommendations are placed. Some are duplicates, related items are separated from each other, and generally one gets the feeling of some very hasty editing. The practicality of some proposals has not been thought through. Coupled with the chaotic editing, this gives the impression that the Advisory Panel fell victim to some of the same “communication” problems that they highlight at the TTC.
First up is a proposal for information kiosks at busy stations where “staff and volunteers” could answer questions and provide basic travelling assistance. This is a great idea, although the idea of volunteers will guarantee that just when you most need someone, nobody will be available. Has the transit system come to the point where it needs volunteer help?
In an attempt to get away from the isolating nature of collectors’ booths, the report recommends that the kiosks be open with no glass barrier. The panel should try hanging out in some of the draftier stations in mid-February or the scorching heat of July to see just how foolish that proposal is.
Screens, signs and wayfinding need many improvements. Definitely no surprise to anyone who actually rides the system. The recommendations include a consistent, system-wide wayfinding process, improved signage throughout stations, overrides on platform screens to ensure major announcements get the prominence they deserve, screens at station entrances and collectors’ booths to avoid problems with people entering the subway and then finding it’s not operating.
I was surprised at what the panel missed in this shopping list. First off, the single biggest problem with platform screens is that there are not enough of them. When they were installed, they were 1:1 replacements of the old “Metron” text-based signs. However, for clear visibility on platforms, at least two and possibly three separate screens per platform are needed. Screens at street level would be nice, but complaints that those in the subway enter, pay, and then get no service ignore the fact that the TTC once issued “subway emergency transfers”. Of course if the collectors don’t know there is an emergency … well, you can see where that leads.
There is a suggestion that surface routes have a mechanism for notifications of major disruptions including on connecting services. While technically possible, this could lead to information overload and a “crawl” of text that takes forever to make one cycle through its messages. What we do not need, but which I wouldn’t be surprised someone in TTC will suggest, is full-size video screens scattered through surface vehicles ostensibly as informative displays but actually filled with advertising.
Operators might deal with a rider whose questions they could not answer with a customer service “contact card”. The panel seems to miss their own point, articulated elsewhere, that operators have more to do than hand out info, and in any event a contact card may only send a customer to the information line (which is only staffed during business hours). Operators on the new streetcars will not interact with the passengers, for the most part.
A new display “Bus Full” is proposed for the destination sign to explain to riders why the bus is not stopping for them. This is a nice touch, but it does not address cases where the real problem is with service bunching and uneven vehicle loads.
“How to use the system” posters are proposed to assist with newcomers, but there is no mention of how many languages this might be done in. In vehicle ads for the same purpose are also suggested, although the new streetcars will not have any advertising frames.
The report recommends that the vicinity maps, recently updated be reviewed for accuracy and completeness. I cannot help wondering why the new maps omit locations of special interest to tourists, but tell us where all of the schools are. Some of the info is just plain wrong having been copied, without real understanding of the neighbourhood, from Google Maps judging by spot comparisons. This was a good example of the TTC persisting in producing in house a product that should have been contracted to professional map makers who have all of the base data needed for complete and accurate maps.
On the subway, the general route map , which has severe problems with scale in the north-south direction, may be “iconic”, but the report recommends that individual line maps be created such as in other cities. These could include info about connecting surface routes. Similar maps are proposed for streetcar routes, although this ignores the fact that streetcars don’t stay on one route from day to day, or even within one day (for example, some 510 Spadina cars at midday were 504 King cars in the AM peak). Also, as mentioned before, there is no place to put such a map within the new streetcars.
Other recommendations include exhorting customers to not block subway doorways and to respect the priority seating. This touches on the more general premise that customers are part of the problem. You can put up all the signs you like, but some people will just get in the way be it those who stand or sit inappropriately, those with backpacks, strollers and shopping carts. The people who block movement in vehicles like this are not going to react to yet another sign.
Short turns are a perennial complaint, and the panel suggests that operators make ongoing announcements advising that a short turn will occur, why and how soon the next vehicle/train will show up. This is a nice idea in theory, but in practice, many short turns are ordered only moments before they occur. The panel suggests that if passengers know why they are being kicked off a bus, streetcar or train, they will understand what is going on better. No, they will be annoyed that once again they have boarded a vehicle that advertised one destination, but didn’t actually go there.
People always complain about the public address system, but the TTC seems to forget that the “new” system installed in a previous burst of customer service activity was supposed to fix all of the then-existing problems. When it works, the system is quite adequate, but a common problem is that the volume is set too low and announcements are inaudible, or that the amplifier in a car or station distorts the signal. This is a maintenance issue, not a question of a wholesale replacement (again).
A number of proposals touch on information technology (IT) issues. We have already seen the glacial pace at which the TTC incorporates functionality in its website (they even got an “award of distinction” for it this week!), and there is no reason to believe that the organization will improve in its exploitation of IT generally. Of equal importance, however, is that old IT maxim “garbage in, garbage out”. You can have the most elegant systems to convey information to passengers, but if the information is not provided on a timely basis, all of the technology is useless. It is not uncommon, for example, for major delays not to be announced on weekends via existing channels. This speaks to a staffing and procedure problem, not one of technology.
Finally, the panel suggests that the TTC conduct a marketing campaign to explain “why they do what they do”. This relates to a concept, shown in full flower later in the report, that if only customers “understood” the TTC, they would not criticize it. That is self-serving junk akin to a florist expecting me to buy a wilted bouquet while hearing about the problems of keeping fresh stock.
Customers Communicating With The TTC
The advisory panel suggests regular “town hall” meetings where people could come to learn what’s new at the TTC, and to speak about their concerns. A useful idea, but one that like so many others will only work if there is ongoing review of complaints, suggestions and management actions to address them.
Several recommendations relate to the complaints process including the difficulty of use for the existing system, the prioritization and routing of comments/complaints, and the lack of thorough tracking and response.
The customer service centre is only open during business hours, a change made several years ago as a money-saving tactic. The panel notes that Toronto’s 311 service already operates 7×24, the same as the TTC network. From my own view, TTC information should be provided through the 311 centre, but I understand that such an amalgamation would overload the 311 operators. This suggests that there is a very large, and probably unmet demand for TTC phone information.
Despite attempts (some more successful than others) to shift requests to other media such as web and text message interfaces, many riders either do not know they exist (despite advertising), cannot use them, or find them difficult. The TTC has still not advertised the NextBus web interface which is vastly superior to the text message service because one does not need to know a stop’s index number to query service at the location.
A large group of recommendations involve training proposals for TTC staff. What is totally missing here is the sense that an organization responsibility exists to provide a supportive workplace. If operators don’t have access to up-to-date information, if their suggestions go into a black hole, if the best information they can give riders is “I don’t know what’s going on”, then there is a problem that no training exercise can repair. Indeed “staff development” programs that are out of sync with the day-to-day experience of employees will be mocked and ignored, seen, at best, as a chance for a few paid days without having to drive.
The panel recommends that the Station Collector position be revised so that competencies for it will ensure staffing with strongly customer-focussed staff. The problem here is that there are few actual qualifications required for admission to this group (compared to drivers), and it is also used as a place for staff who are unable due to short or long term disabilities to drive. The TTC itself fought against an upgrading of the pay category for collectors at arbitration (they lost) based on the duties and responsibilities defined for this job. It is not a place simply to “park” employees. Moreover, the role of “collector” will in time vanish or be severely curtailed as the system moves to self-service fares with smart cards, and the new Station Agents take on monitoring duties for stations. Any move to rethink a collector’s role and qualifications needs to occur in the context of future station operating strategies, not the current model.
More front-line supervision is recommended for TTC routes. Of course, years ago, the magic of IT was going to make the need for on-street monitoring obsolete, but this didn’t actually pan out. The big problem is finding supervisors who actually understand what they are doing and will actively manage the line. In that regard, I have yet to see any supervisor with a hand-held display showing the location of vehicles based on GPS data, even though this information is already available. Supervisors need to manage headways, not just scramble to keep cars on a schedule that is impractical under certain conditions.
Once again we see a recommendation for even more running time. This has been going on for years, and there are routes and operating periods where the length of terminal layovers is quite substantial. This is not a catch-all repair. Indeed, the biggest issue facing the TTC (and its operators’ union) is the development of headway-based rather than schedule-based line management. This has big implications for how operator shifts would be managed, and yet the provision of regularly spaced service is the single best way to get more even loading and better effective capacity out of the fleet.
Coming in Part III
In the last part of this series (coming later this week), I will turn to issues with Fare Systems, the TTC’s role in the community, and responsibilities for TTC staff and customers.
On the subject of the TTC Customer Service Panel’s report, is anyone else as disappointed with it as I am?
I find the whole report full of very generic recommendations, where it would be better to be much more specific. For example, 2J: Standardized Signage says “TTC management and staff need to find a way to both monitor and implement standardized signage.” That doesn’t tell me anything!
In other instances, they’ve completely bought into the TTC’s (wrong) arguments, for example 5O: Adding Time to Routes. The problem is not the schedules! The problem is trying to keep a schedule instead of a consistent headway.
Steve: Moreover, there are several overlapping recommendations about signage, for example, that are scattered throughout their section rather than being consolidated into a few, clear proposals. Bad editing is a sign of lack of attention to detail, the very essence of creating a good customer experience.
I was very disappointed by how vague it is. To my mind this sort of report needs to be very specific, with recommendations that can either be accepted or rejected. This report has many recommendations which are so open that they can be ‘accepted’ but implemented in such a way that nothing actually changes. The other problem I see is how often they have bought into the TTC’s (wrong) assumptions. For example suggesting extra time in the schedule so that operators would have opportunity to assist passengers. However passengers don’t care about the schedule on most routes, they care about the headway! A frequent service with some variability is better than a less frequent but consistent service.
I don’t want to look like I’m monopolising the comments, the comments above were actually posted to two different threads, the first was originally posted to “The TTC’s Visitor Centre”, before Steve moved it here. I thought that Steve had decided not to publish it in that thread, which is why it looks like I’m duplicating myself.
However, I cannot help but think that on the subject of the public address system, I’d have to disagree with “When it works, the system is quite adequate” and maintenance being the only problem.
There are plenty of times when the system has been working perfectly, yet I’ve not got the information I need out of it.
Firstly, when there is a problem which needs announcing, announce it frequently. There is nothing more frustrating than hearing the tail end of an announcement and knowing that there is a problem, but that you don’t know what it is. You then wait for a while, wondering if a trail will actually arrive, and if so, if it will take you to your destination. If the average wait time in a station is normally 2 minutes, then it needs to be announced more frequently than every 2 minutes.
Secondly, the announcers need to slow down, and have a format which is easily understood. For people who have good command of English, then a rushed announcement is easy to mishear, perhaps due to a transient noise such as the arrival of a train, or just a random crackle on the speakers. For someone who’s less comfortable with English, even an easily heard announcement is useless, because the announcements are too fast to understand.
Thirdly, the announcements need to tell the customers not just what the problem is, but also what they can do about it. It’s no good just telling us where the problem is,
unless you also tell us how to work around it. Remember that most people have very little familiarity with the system other than the routes that they normally take. Even something as simple as taking the University line instead can confuse people.
Fourthly, there should be announcements on the trains about the workarounds at the appropriate times. That means that all the B-D westbound trains should be announcing at Yonge that passengers wanting to go downtown should stay on the train, and all B-D trains should be announcing at St. George that passengers wanting to go downtown should change trains here. Again this is to help people unfamiliar with the system get around when there are problems.
None of these steps would cost much if any money to implement, but they would make the system much more user friendly.
Steve: As your comments show, the issue is with how the PA system is used at least as much if not more than the physical character of the equipment. They don’t need a wholesale replacement, but rather to (a) maintain what they’ve got and (b) make more, and more useful, announcements. That said, there are times when the announcements do detail problems and workarounds, but the staff responsible for this are inconsistent.
Sorry about the double comment. I felt that they actually belonged in one thread, and there were some differences between the two so I kept both.
Wonder if they are going to revive the old Paul Arthur signage system they paid for but summarily trashed many years ago.
Steve: First, I doubt it, and second, I am not sure that is the complete solution.
As far as communications are concerned, I, personally, do not want to communicate with the TTC. All I want is for the subway/bus/streetcar to consistently run at a decent headway so that I arrive on-time wherever I’m going. Not being packed in like a sardine would be nice also.
Like the overwhelming majority of TTC users, I am not a tourist nor a newcomer to Toronto.
I’ve got two customer service issues, neither one of which seems to have been addressed:
1. Whenever it is necessary to close a subway line and use shuttle busses, I want the Toronto police to keep all the cars off the street so that they do not obstruct TTC, bicycle and pedestrian traffic.
2. Multi-modal service stinks. There is inadequate secure bicycle parking, and bikes are banned from the subway at peak hours. So when people want to use the system is precisely the time they cannot do so. Madness.
Ummm, they don’t all have email? What is this the stone age?
I would be fairly dejected if my company hadn’t figured out how to give all their employees email by now. Seems like it’s not really a corporate culture that values communication at all (especially given the remote nature of their employees, I’m surprised they don’t all have blackberry’s).
There seems to be common issue with complains/comments/sugegstiosn not being acted upon. There needs to be some mechanism where problems are reported, and then a solution is devised, implemented and monitored to see if it was effective. So often it feels this chain gets broken. (e.g.: You complain about a broken light at subway station… and it’s there two weeks later, because no-one has implemented the solution.)
As you say, NextBus is not yet advertised by the TTC – in fact I cannot see ANY link to it from the TTC website. It should also surely be linked to from each page of the timetables. I admit it is still in Beta testing (after many months) and there are certainly still a few glitches but it DOES generally work very well.
One MAJOR glitch is that if a route is on diversion (as the 501 was a couple of weeks ago to get round the Parliament Street trackwork) NextBus still says a streetcar will arrive at ‘closed’ stops. However I heard from the TTC that the route maps on NextBus will be returning.
The new Streetcar stop numbers only appear on the actual stops – one would have thought they should also be on the online timetable for that stop.
Another communication problem is that the TTC timetables at stops are really not easy to read. It took me ages when I moved here to understand that FS meant ‘frequent service” . The format used on the TTC website is FAR better as is that in Montreal.
Steve wrote, “A new display “Bus Full” is proposed for the destination sign to explain to riders why the bus is not stopping for them. This is a nice touch, but it does not address cases where the real problem is with service bunching and uneven vehicle loads.”
I am not so sure this does not address the real problem at all. For sure, better line management is the main thing to deal with bunching in the first place, but when a bunching problem crops up, I believe that having leading buses, usually full, not stop unless for unloading, is a good way to readjust service combined with a limited use of short turning. It is certainly better than only using short turns.
Having a “bus full” indication is a good suggestion that fits in with the TTC’s policy that buses are not supposed to pass a stop they service if there are people waiting there. I claim this is policy from the words of a TTC operator I know who once passed a stop when full, and that stop had someone who filed a complaint. When he was called in regarding the complaint, he was told that he is supposed to make the stop, open the door, and tell the waiting people that he cannot take on more passengers. Who makes policy like that?!? Worse, where does one find a person who will sit with a straight face and tell someone that?!?
Steve: This is an example of the way TTC disciplinary procedures frustrate operators.
Regarding the PA system – one thing that irks me is the weird little sound that chirps before a general announcement on the platforms. I suppose it is meant to gently warn you that you’re about to get blasted by that loud voice, except they only use it for the pre-recorded announcements, such as reminders to not smoke, how great a day pass is, etc. In other words, that chirp tells you that you can ignore the following announcement, as you’ve heard it before. When there’s an actual notice, such as of a delay, there is no chirp first, and you still get blasted by the voice. A little thing, but it should get applied consistently.
I’m sure Joe Clark jumped up and down when the bit about wayfinding signage and hand-written notes came up. New York famously got Massimo Vignelli to put together a program for signage, including font choice and size, presentations for layout, a new map and as I recall, it tied into new line designations. (I don’t know if Toronto, with its 4 lines, really needs to start using route numbers for them, but anyway.) Almost immediately, the powers that be started rebelling against it; for example, Vignelli proposed black lettering on white, and someone started producing signs in the reverse, which became iconic and are now widely accepted as the look to mimic. And New Yorkers in general hated the diagram-style map, insisting on a return to a more geographic look. I personally would love to see a return to standardized lettering styles throughout the system, but I’m not holding my breath to see it be upheld.
This report seems to gloss over a lot of issues. 2 thoughts.
The stations are dirty. Really dirty and some are run down. Meanwhile the TTC posts ads saying don’t spit gum on the floor. The reality is when the larger picture is dirty then people loose respect for it. If the TTC can’t even keep the station floors, many which are almost black, then what is the point of this whole exercise?
Did somebody just catch on that being a TTC worker is a service industry/customer service job ? Holy smokes this would in theory be class 101.
Sometimes I think that one in two mangers should be retired and replaced with somebody from another system to break the institutional log jam that the TTC is stuck in.
Why does one have to ask (politely, please) the TTC collector in the subway for a Ride Guide? It delays other people behind, and sometimes they do run out. Better to have an outside slot holding a small number of Ride Guides near the collector, which could be refilled from inside. If they had an outside slot, I would also be able to check to see if I already have the printed edition, so I don’t have to get a duplicate.
The TTC communicates very effectively. Everything about it says “We couldn’t care less about you.” This whole exercise is typical — instead of taking steps to deal with the obvious problems, they struck a committee! Now they’ll strike another committee to review the results, and keep striking new committees until people give up in frustration.
I see my post from last night is still waiting approval. Oversight?
Steve: Held for completion of Part III to which it was attached as part of the discussion of fare structure.
On Staff: Maybe, just maybe, if the TTC can work WITH it’s frontline staff and not against it, we might see less labour disruptions… no?
I thought they took down the NextBus streetcar data? This is a great service, how hard would it be to add a link to it off its website? Honestly, the TTC makes me *facepalm* so hard that one day it is going to give me brain damage!
I think all gloss aside, the first thing they need to do to address customer service is to deal with poor employees. These people are the face of the TTC, and if they aren’t doing their job properly they need to be dealt with.
In fact, much of this “customer service controversy” could have been avoided if complaints were dealt with, rather than falling on deaf ears. If people called the TTC to complain instead of uploading videos to the internet, these issues would have been ignored by customer service reps and forgotten about. It’s pathetic that it took vigilante journalism for the TTC to even look at customer service.
A lot of the recommendations around communications seem to concentrate on the subway, and managing the impact of disruptions. This is certainly understandable, but it didn’t seem to me as though there was enough focus on the surface system — and not the major disruptions such as a diversion around a collision, but everyday variations in service. While they are inconvenient to riders, it’s not the occasional big things that drive us nuts: it’s the little things that happen every other day. Like a 20-minute gap followed by 3 streetcars in a bunch. Like a mysteriously disappearing trip that turns a 15-minute headway into a 30-minute headway. Like a bus that leaves a transfer point three minutes early, and if you had known you would have taken a different route.
If you can take care of the basics of providing good service (which, as you say, is the main concern of most riders), many of the problems of customer service will take care of themselves, as riders will be more willing to cut the TTC some slack. I’m sure a large part of the anger at that subway closure last autumn, for example, was that it was the straw that broke the camel’s back after a number of disruptions, even if outside of the TTC’s control. Other similar major delays have occurred in the past and, while there is grumbling, people suck it up and make the best of it.
Even if we accept that annoyances such as bunching will never fully go away, though, they can at least be mitigated through information; allow us to take control of the situation rather than feeling as though being held hostage to it. Not just for major events (“They’ve had to close the SRT for signal problems yet again… maybe I’ll try the Sheppard subway instead”), but for the little annoyances (“My bus home arrived early… I’ll stay in the office a little longer rather than stand around at the stop twiddling my thumbs;” “My transferring bus seems to have disappeared, so maybe I’ll take Route B instead;” “There seems to be a gap that’s long enough that it’ll be faster to walk.”)
A year ago I was on a bus in Kitchener-Waterloo which got to crush load at which point the driver got on the radio to Control and requested an okay to switch his sign to indicate a full bus and run setdown only. Didn’t seem like rocket science to me.
When the PCC cars were introduced in Brooklyn NY in 1936, they had a red indicator light on the dash above the headlight. This red light, when lit, was to inform potential passengers that this car was full and would not make the stop. I don’t know when or why its use was abandoned before the system was, but the use of this light was discontinued prior to the scrapping of the fleet. It would be interesting to know why they stopped this practice. Was the underlying reasoning for that decision one that says we shouldn’t even start doing it here. Should history repeat through lack of knowledge of the past?
Steve said …
“Indeed, the biggest issue facing the TTC (and its operators’ union) is the development of headway-based rather than schedule-based line management”.
I think what we want is schedule-based management until there’s a problem, at which point we switch to headway-based management.
This happened at the Museum diversion a couple of weeks ago. I spoke with the supervisor at Museum and she told me that they tossed the schedule out the window completely and started managing the system on the fly. Drivers were being swapped in and out of cabs as the destinations of trains changed, and at any one time, a pool of 5 drivers were waiting at the north end of the Museum platform to take a train either east, west, or north. It was strange … the supervisor kept asking the drivers, “who wants to go east?”, “can you go west?”. Trains were also interlacing on a first-come, first-serve basis. Would this type of dynamic operation work on the surface? … probably not, because drivers don’t want to be in the wrong place at the end of their shifts — hence, the reason for short turns. I suspect this is the reason why the supervisor was asking the pool of drivers who wanted to go east, west, north, etc.
I am not a fan of those low-floor buses because people who are standing do not move beyond the back doors to the higher part in the rear. As a result, so many buses pass by with room to spare.
Hi Steve and Sherman:-
I’m afraid that I’m one of those who won’t ride up on the upper portion of the low floors. I find the stairs unsafe especially with the extremely jerky operation that the straight diseasels give us riders. The hybrids are a bit better in the jerkiness regard but still, while the operator is braking and one is coming down the stairs, the feeling is quite uneasy. Too, you’ll find me one of those who treat the buss (it is a four letter word after all) as a muzzle loader since too frequently the back end of these curbliners, therefore their centre doors, will be away from the sidewalk at many stops due to either ineffective operation or more frequently illegally parked cars in the stop area, thus making the drop off from step to pavement higher than I find comfortable.
On the topic of route maps on streetcars, one interesting thing that I saw in Melbourne was that there were multiple route maps on certain trams – stickers placed vertically behind the driver’s cabs.
My guess is that these tram routes followed similar corridors or came out of the same carhouse. So why not have something similar in Toronto? Or at the very least, design a “streetcar system map” and stick it to the driver’s cab…maybe on a couple of windows as well?
As for subway maps, the north-south scale is confusing – I recall the first time I used the Yonge line up to Shepppard … didnt realize how long it was going to take. So I would similarly suggest that TTC place some maps of the subway system on the door behind the driver’s cab and on some windows. These maps would be accurate, closer to real scale and could also be updated to include Transit City lines in the future.
I would also suggest that the TTC place general timings on the map in between the stations so that people can look at the map and have a general idea of how long their trip will take.
The future electronic map will have arrows that flash in the direction of travel and the stations will light up – so how about a little “2min” indicator between the arrows?
I’ve heard it said that one of the strengths of the English language is its flexibility – including the speed with which it can change to embrace new concepts. The downside, however, is that the meaning of words can change rapidly enough that they become almost meaningless.
So I’m disappointed that so far no-one has commented on TTC’s use of the oft-abused ‘image management’ double-speak term “communication” – which has now become the modern-day version of yesteryear’s assertiveness training term “marshmallowing”.
Ideally communication is a two-way transaction, but is often abused so that information is transmitted without much care as to whether the message gets through. But of late, especially from the TTC, what we seem to be getting is more of the “double-speak” version I mentioned above, which is really the pretense of communication. Sort of a management double-speak version of “See, over here? Nothing up my sleeve! Oh my, what’s that empty space in your pocket where your wallet used to be?”
Or to use a more TTC-friendly example: “Please notice that we’re ‘The Better Way’ as you pay your fare. Oh, you paid your fare but there is no subway service? Well, please remember by-law #nnn and politely wait for the non-existant shuttle buses or we’ll take away your transit pass.” Or TTC’s recent ‘communication’ of their plans for a “Second entrance, no wait – that’s exit, no wait – entrance, no wait… Well, no matter; as long as you don’t notice (at least not until it’s too late) that what we’re really saying is that we’re expropriating your house &/or disrupting your community for the stupidest plans imaginable – because we can.”
We don’t need any more “communication” from the TTC. What we need is consultation and collaboration: communication that not only goes two ways, but actually cares about how the message is received, listens to and intelligently considers the communication that comes back, but more importantly modifies behaviour in the sender accordingly.