I have finally received a reply from the TTC to my query about the Customer Liaison Panel. My original query went out on November 14, and I sent a follow-up on November 27. Here, slightly edited, is a reply from Chris Upfold.
I don’t think you’ll be surprised that I don’t think they need to meet in public / have a web presence / etc. to be an effective consultative and steering body.
The model for ACAT is quite different. They are representing a particular part of society that, by their very nature, can have higher instances of social exclusion. For that very reason of social exclusion it is critical that a body like ACAT (for which I’m also responsible) have a public voice that can ensure they are heard above the general demands / wants of customers. The majority of our customers don’t need that same voice given they have the ability to feed back to us on a plethora of items in a multitude of ways – not least of which are our Town Halls and Meet the Managers.
The CLP meet on at least a monthly basis and have broad authority to ask the TTC to present to them on any initiatives or services. They’ve looked at route management for surface and subway, our complaints procedure, our communications plans, PRESTO plans, wayfinding, fare policies etc. etc. We also use them to give strategic and tactical feedback into options that we are looking at. They review some TTC Board papers at an early consultative stage so that the recommendations we are making are strong and supportable for customers.
Given that they do these things before they reach the public eye (or indeed are ready for the public eye) I think it’s absolutely necessary that they happen in private. As I say there is plenty of opportunity for customers to feed back in public. All of the members have signed NDA’s [Non-disclosure agreements] specifically for this reason.
I don’t think they need to “earn their keep in public” to have huge value for the TTC.
That’s all very nice, but the operative word in this group’s title is “Liaison”, and they can’t do much of that by meeting in private and reviewing management proposals, a privilege that may exceed even what is extended to some members of the TTC Board. Without any public presence, they certainly cannot be spoken of as “representing” anyone.
When the Customer Service Advisory Panel proposed the formation of a liaison group, their recommendation was very heavily weighted to TTC management, unsurprising considering that the whole CSAP exercise was a big cheerleading session highjacked by management. This is the same process that gave us more things riders had to do for the TTC, than the TTC had to do for its riders.
The site on which it was originally posted (ttcpanel.ca) no longer exists, but the report is available through an archive site.
Recommendation 1C: Customer Service Advisory Group
The TTC should institute a governance structure in order to ensure that the recommendations made by the CSAP, as well as future initiatives, are considered, implemented, and followed through to completion.
It is recommended that a Customer Service Advisory Group be created, consisting of:
- 2-3 TTC Commissioners
- 1-2 outside customer service specialists
- The Chief General Manager of the TTC [now styled as the CEO]
- The new Chief Customer Service Officer
Plus other appropriate members of the senior management staff.
In addition, this committee could include TTC employees and members of the public.
Quite clearly, the intent was for an internal panel to monitor and support the rollout of customer service improvements, and the public was very much an afterthought.
By the time the CLP was actually constituted, the balance was completely changed with the majority of members coming from the public through an appointment process. This might suggest a more public presence, but that’s not what we actually see.
The original article from November 29 follows the break below.
With much fanfare, the TTC launched its Customer Liaison Panel (CLP) as part of its corporate plan and goals for 2013-2015. According to the TTC’s website, this group, headed by TTC Chair Karen Stintz,
has been offering valuable advice for close to six months, and that ultimately will result in better decisions for all our customers.
I am thrilled and delighted that the CLP has been so productive, but would have more faith in them if there were notices of meetings, minutes and the occasional appearance by a panel member (who is not a member of TTC management) at a Board meeting offering comment on what the TTC is doing.
An excellent point of comparison is ACAT (Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit) which has existed for many years. Their meetings are public with agendas and minutes sitting on the TTC’s website for anyone wanting to see what they are doing. ACAT members are always at Board meetings, they depute on issues of interest, and there is a real sense that they have some input in the TTC’s consideration of matters affecting the disabled community. I have yet to see one member of the CLP at a Board meeting unless they attend incognito, let alone hear a deputation or read correspondence commenting on the panel’s behalf of TTC affairs.
What does this panel do? How often does it meet? Why doesn’t it tell the public via a website what it’s up to and invite participation?
Or, like the Customer Service Advisory Panel that spawned it, is the CLP one of those things done for show, not for substance? An item on a “to do” list that can be ticked off and bragged about?
I have asked the TTC twice for information about the CLP’s activities – a deafening silence ensued.
It is not enough for an organization to claim an interest in “customer service” – it must be seen to do so. If a “customer” panel is so low-key that it never makes a public appearance or contributes to the debate about transit in Toronto, who is it representing? Why, indeed, does the TTC partner with the advocacy group TTCriders when they could be using their own liaison panel?
“Service” touches on much more than clean washrooms, polite operators, and signage that provides somewhat accurate information. It is a matter of corporate attitude, and of the political will to demand, not ask, demand better transit. This means routes that run on some semblance of reliable headways with room for passengers to board, and better funding from City Council who have been such pikers under the Ford administration with the open support of Chair Stintz.
The Customer Liaison Panel is missing in action, and I will presume that it is defunct in the absence of evidence to the contrary.