Driver says: The TTC's Problem Is Not Customer Service: It's Customers

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Sky Captain Sky Captain's picture
Driver says: The TTC's Problem Is Not Customer Service: It's Customers

 

Quote:
This article, "Why the TTC should get liquored up" is just as moot as every other article I've been reading about the problems with the TTC. The problem lies not with the system, but with the public who use it and ABUSE IT! I should know, I ride the TTC everyday, as does my spouse (as a paying customer). However, I have a chance to see things from a slightly different angle as well. You see, I'm a TTC bus operator as well (hides under table to prevent getting hit by thrown rocks).

Comparing the TTC to the LCBO is just another of many ridiculous "solutions" to the problem. Last time I checked, I've never read a story in the paper about an LCBO clerk getting spit in the face because the price of Merlot went up 25 cents. Happens on the TTC more times than you read in papers, and that is already too often. Last time I was at the LCBO, one of my favourite bottles of red was $13.95. I paid the exact amount to buy it. Imagine if I tried to purchase it though I was short a dollar! Not gonna happen.

Yet everyday, thousands of people try to get away with this on the TTC. Even worse, they expect to be given such a break and when denied, then I'm the "f*#king moron who takes his job too seriously"! Happens all the time, and I mean EACH and EVERY shift I work. Ever walk onto a dirty TTC vehicle with trash all over the place, empty beer bottles with sticky floors, coffee soiled seats, stinky half-eaten lunches rotting away in the summer heat of a non-air-conditioned streetcar, offensive graffiti and scratchiti (graffiti etched into the windows and panels), etc? Well let me tell you, it wasn't the operator of that vehicle that did it. It was the public. That vehicle was cleaned and inspected before being put into service that day (it is the law and is done every shift) and yet somewhere, somehow, during the course of the workday, that vehicle became unsuitable for a farm animal to ride in. Here's the kicker: you may have to ride in that vehicle for a few minutes (maybe more), but certainly not 8-9 hours straight, without breaks or lunchtime. I DO! That vehicle is my office which i cannot escape for 8-plus hours. How about showing some respect for my workplace.

Yet, what happens when people board my vehicle and notice the mess and foul conditions? Well, of course, it's my fault that they have to pay to ride in filthy conditions. I'd be more than happy to put the vehicle "Out of Service," offload my passengers, drive back to the TTC garage, sign-in the vehicle to get cleaned, obtain a new, freshly cleaned vehicle, perform my mandatory safety inspection of the vehicle, drive back to my route location, and THEN continue back in service. Not a problem for me, huge problem for the ridership. But wait a moment, I'm part of the ridership as well! That means that I may get stuck out there on a cold night waiting endlessly for a nightbus that seems to never come. And I do. Happens more often than I would like, but i know 99 per cent of the time it has nothing to do with a TTC employee not doing his/her job. More often than not, it is a spoiled public that feels that it is OK to abuse the system and other times it is the fault of conditions outside anyone's control, such as congestion, weather, construction, road conditions, etc.

I, along with other TTC employees, am human, with human problems, human desires, human needs (umm, washroom breaks anyone?) and that other human aspect: friendship and family. More and more, it has become unsettling for my friends and family, let alone myself, knowing that I have to go to work everyday and face a disrespectful and unruly public. Unless people start showing respect for each other as fellow humans, no amount of "Blue Ribbon Panel" research will matter. The day I can feel comfortable going to work knowing that I will be respected as a human, and not a spit-receptacle in uniform, is the day the public will get the improvement it feels it deserves. Your choice.

Alex C., human being most of the time/TTC operator 8-9 hours a day

[url=http://www.eyeweekly.com/ttccentral/article/83897] Driver says: The TTC's Problem Is Not Customer Service: It's Customers[/url]

(Rebuttal to [url=http://www.eyeweekly.com/city/city/article/83311]this really stupid article about how to improve the TTC[/url])

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Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Wow. That "Liquored Up" article (the second in the OP) reads like Homer Simpson's campaign platform when he decides to run for Waste Disposal Councillor or whatever ("Can't Someone Else Do It? The Garbage Man Can!") Of course, Homer runs out of the annual budget within the first month. A system straining to transport the population with out-of-date subways, streetcars and budgets, no money for infrastructure upgrades, and the usual problems plaguing the TTC, yet the workforce are supposed to buck up and, quote, "strive to provide the best goddamn rider experience of any public transit provider in the world." With what? Smiles and how d'you dos? How about with modern tramways and car-less thoroughfares? Newer, cleaner  buses? What a ridiculous article.

Bacchus

" but certainly not 8-9 hours straight, without breaks or lunchtime. I DO! That vehicle is my office which i cannot escape for 8-plus hours. How about showing some respect for my workplace."

 

Neither do you. Split shifts mean you get some 3-5 hours in the middle off before resuming. Which personally would piss me off

Michelle

Depends on what shift you're working. Some people get split shifts, which suck. Other people get straight shifts, but because of poor scheduling or traffic problems, no lunch break or breaks. Which also sucks.

Excellent article, thanks for posting!

Sky Captain Sky Captain's picture

 

Here's another stupid article/interview on how the TTC must improve itself:

Quote:
“I was in my minivan with my wife and kids, and we drove up next to a bus shelter in Toronto in February. And the bus shelter was a glass box with a woman in it huddled against the cold,” says the world-famous Toronto designer Bruce Mau, on the phone from Chicago. “And I turned to my wife and said, ‘In a million years, I’m not getting out of this minivan.’

“I mean, I’m an environmentalist and I absolutely know what to do. But that bus shelter is a big fat loser. And I’m not getting out of this van, and no one else who has a choice is either. If we use the same bus shelters as they use in Los Angeles, that ought to tip you off to something. Guys, it’s freezing here! How about we put the shelter in the bus shelter. Design it as an experience. My minivan has 17 cup-holders. What does that say? It says, ‘we understand you.’ The bus shelter has a metal bench. That says, ‘we don’t understand you.’”

Mau is explaining to me the evidence of the Toronto Transit Commission’s complete lack of “design thinking.” We’re on the subject because the Toronto writer and activist Joe Clark suggested to me that almost all the TTC’s problems could be traced to a an inability to employ or understand design thinking.

Before we get too far along, let’s clear up any confusion about the terminology. As Clark points out, design thinking is not about what font you use on the walls or the fabric of the uniforms or any of the other decorative elements one might think of when they hear the word “design.” It is, instead, a holistic way of viewing the organization in such a way that the customer’s interaction with it is designed as an experience.

Those old enough to remember the pre–Microsoft Windows world of computers might find the concept illustrated by Apple’s entry into the market. Once upon a time, computers were built for hobbyists and professionals, and the standard DOS operating system showed a plain monochrome screen and required memorizing a series of codes and key sequences to operate. As a result, the only non-computer-geek people using personal computers were those who had to do so for their jobs.

But when Apple came along with a graphical interface, whereby a user could manipulate a mouse to intuitively navigate the environment, in which the interface looked like something people could understand, the whole enterprise had broad appeal. So much so that Microsoft wrote its own graphic, mouse-based interface to compete. That’s the way we all experience computers now, and what Apple introduced was design thinking.

An example that might relate more directly to the TTC, as they are in the transportation business, is that of Porter Airlines. When Porter was preparing to launch, they hired celebrated magazine creator (of *Wallpaper and Monocle) and design thinking guru Tyler Brûlé to build their brand.

He and Porter created every element of the airline’s operation to reinforce the experience of hip, urbane luxury. From the make-your-own-lattes in the departures lounge and the free booze during the flight to the wide leather seats on the plane, from the retro-chic uniforms of the flight attendants to the contemporary modernist in-flight magazine, every aspect of a passenger’s trip wih the airline reinforces the idea of a comfortable, fun experience. The result helped create 300 per cent revenue growth at Porter last year (while the industry as a whole suffered in the recession) and articles about how New Yorkers consider flying Porter a trendy, upscale thing to do.

So as the TTC gets its emergency Blue Ribbon Panel on customer service up and running, now seems like an appropriate time to examine how design thinking might help them. Where to start?

Clark points out that the city of Manchester has made designer Peter Saville creative director, to celebrated results. He suggests that the TTC appoint a creative director and give that person complete authority. Someone like… Bruce Mau, perhaps the leading design thinker in the world.

So here’s Mau on the phone, talking about the concept. “The creative director concept is brilliant. That is a great idea. Hire a creative director who is oriented towards customer experience.” That in itself, he explains, would change almost everything.

“In some ways, the challenge that the TTC has is an almost universal challenge — it’s not unique to Toronto. The transit systems around the world are run from the perspective of the model that they’re working with, and they’re working with a train-kit model… they think a great system is one that performs like a train kit, on time. And what’s on the train is irrelevant to them. And the experience that people have in getting to the train, waiting for the train, riding on the train, getting off the train — it’s secondary, it’s not even on their radar screen of concern.”

And yet it is the cargo that is the whole system’s reason for being. A creative director would turn the perspective around. “You ask, ‘what actually happens here on a human level?’ And that would radically change the perspective on the system. Because, actually, the principal objective is experience. The principal objective is getting someone to work in a way that isn’t abrasive and offensive.”

Abrasive or offensive in the way that standing in an open-walled bus shelter in February is offensive. “If you look at it from a competitive standpoint, ask ‘are we designing it to compete?’ The slogan for the TTC is ‘The Better Way,’ but for that to be true, you’d have to find something that you could put next to it that was worse. So, if it’s going to be compared to other experiences that I could have between my home and my work, it’s probably not going to hit the level of the better way. That’s the reality of people’s decision-making. If you design it to lose, it’s a big loser. And currently that’s what it is. A better slogan might be ‘You Have No Choice.’ I guess it is the better way if the alternative is walking.”

Mau has recently been conducting a comprehensive plan for the future of Mecca, the holy city of Islam, and says in that project, he and colleagues at Northwestern University are studying the future of transportation. And, surprise surprise, it involves technology: “What you see is that all over the world there are people working on aspects of this problem. If you were the creative director of the TTC — aside from the slogan problem — you might look at integrating these new possibilities. So, for instance, there’s a project at Northwestern that looks at superimposing technology on the experience interface for transit. So when I wake up in the morning, instead of hoping that the streetcar is going to be there, I can see that the streetcar is going to be there. I can interact with it and understand what is going on in the system that I’m part of. All the way through — from what’s the technology on the car itself to knowing how many people we have on board and what are they doing and what’s going on? You can imagine a much greater knowledge base in the system itself.”

This is a key point, because the TTC, Mau points out, is not exactly building on the knowledge it has access to right now. “So if you design the system as a big fat negative, then it’s no wonder people are making video of you. Because they’re pissed. They’re having a terrible experience. Like, people don’t make those kinds of videos when they’re having a great time. The videos tell you something about your customers, and you should not be responding negatively to them. You should be saying thank you so much, because this is valuable information for us to understand your experience.”

Asked for some specific examples of things to change, Mau offers a few ideas — better bus shelters, introducing retail to subway stations on a bigger level, better technology. But really, he says he has a hard time thinking of examples of things he wouldn’t change.
“I think it’s so holistic you could practically put everything in that category of creating a negative experience. The only thing that is in the other category — and it’s not to be discounted, because it’s an incredible accomplishment — is efficiency and cleanliness. That in itself is a positive. But everything else, from the sound of the experience to the variety — we buy one bus and lots of them. Every streetcar and train is going to be the same. Can you imagine any other business that would make everything they do exactly the same? It’s like you have no hope for an exciting experience.”

And while Torontonians might groan in agreement, Mau sees that as an exciting opportunity. “Thinking about it from the experience standpoint — once you start to take that perspective, you just end up in a totally different place. You’re not going to build the buses and streetcars that you build, you’re not going to build the bus shelters that you build, you’re not going to run them in the same way that you do, you’re not going to design the interface in the way that you do, you’re not going to constrain people in the way that you do… you’re going to actually design it to win, and that’s a radically different model that, so far, no one has achieved. So it’s a big, big opportunity. If you did it, you would export it to the rest of the world and be famous.”

[url=http://www.eyeweekly.com/city/city/article/83312]A creative director for the TTC?[/url]

 

Snert Snert's picture

Quote:

Here's another stupid article/interview on how the TTC must improve itself:

 

Are you sure you didn't quote the wrong article? Because this article is excellent. If the TTC wants to be the transportation choice for anyone other than those too poor to afford a car it's going to have to start competing with cars. Do we really think that the people who still insist on driving, even though they live within range of the TTC, are doing so out of some deeply entrenched hatred of the environment? I think that it's high time the TTC started to consider the experience it offers riders, and start to try to earn the slogan they've been claiming -- dishonestly, IMHO -- for years.

Sky Captain Sky Captain's picture

Snert wrote:

Quote:

Here's another stupid article/interview on how the TTC must improve itself:

 

Are you sure you didn't quote the wrong article? Because this article is excellent. If the TTC wants to be the transportation choice for anyone other than those too poor to afford a car it's going to have to start competing with cars. Do we really think that the people who still insist on driving, even though they live within range of the TTC, are doing so out of some deeply entrenched hatred of the environment? I think that it's high time the TTC started to consider the experience it offers riders, and start to try to earn the slogan they've been claiming -- dishonestly, IMHO -- for years.

No, I didn't quote from the wrong article, this one is as full of shit as the other one saying the TTC should be like the LCBO. If Bruce Mau wants the TTC to be better (in his bullshit opinion) then he could start by voting in a better provincial government that will respect the TTC and give it full funding, and not by voting in neocon lite morons like Dalton McGuinty. Also, he and others can do as the driver suggested. But that would take a willingness to see beyond their own bullshit and the fairy tales they've all been told by the media and see the truth-which they're not willing to do.

The TTC's 'earning dishonestly', huh? Not in my book, buddy and not as half as much as a lot of people in this world. It's just doing its job.

Snert Snert's picture

To be clear, I said they're claiming dishonestly.  Claiming to be "the Better Way".  Better than what?  A transit system where you have to stand on one leg instead of two?  A transit system that gets you to work 20 minutes late instead of 10?  A transit system that tries to cram 60 riders into a space for 30 instread of only 50?

Sky Captain Sky Captain's picture

Snert wrote:

To be clear, I said they're claiming dishonestly.

Sorry about that last one.  But I still stick with what I said before that.