Transit agency’s cloud-based customer service boosts efficiency, visibility
New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s new system better manages passenger feedback, giving MTA more insight into its riders’ needs.
With between 7 and 8 million people a day traveling on its subways, buses and commuter rail service, New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) gets plenty of customer feedback—positive and negative.
Keeping track of rider comments on its legacy technology was tricky, however. Implemented in 2001, the Oracle system required a lot of “manual manipulation,” said Chris Papandreou, MTA’s senior director for customer services. And the technology, while an upgrade to the prior system of tracking feedback by hand, did not indicate when the same issues were reported by passengers multiple times and needed updating whenever new categories for customer feedback emerged.
But since moving to a Salesforce cloud, MTA’s Customer Assistance System (dubbed Cassie), can now keep track of frequently reported issues, establish customer profiles to provide better assistance and quickly create reports on problem areas that may need extra attention, Papandreou said.
The new system uses Salesforce’s Experience Cloud to automatically create cases in Cassie when a customer submits feedback via the MTA’s online forms or through its contact center. The company’s Service Cloud software then routes those cases to specific queues based on fields completed by the customer. That means cases are handled faster, and staff can follow up with personalized status updates.
The platform has been in use since June 2022 and contains five years of data taken from MTA’s legacy customer service system, which Papandreou said helps for reporting purposes and gives staff at least some historical data to look at. He said it has produced a “two-way street” that benefits customers who can now track their feedback and any action they need to take, while for staff it creates better workflows.
“We’re working faster, and it's more efficient,” Papandreou said in an interview on the sidelines of the recent Salesforce World Tour in Washington, D.C. “And it's a lot more—let's face it—professional, in terms of how we deal with customers.”
On the back end, the software integrates with other departmental systems to share information through MuleSoft. That means, for example, that requests for equipment maintenance can be communicated from Service Cloud to MTA’s internal asset management system, with updates then sent back to the Service Cloud when equipment is fixed.
The Salesforce solution gives MTA increased visibility.
“We know who we're talking to, no matter what channel they use to connect with us. We have a much better sense of what is really going on in our system,” Papandreou said. “This helps us in so many different ways, especially [agency] leadership. When I need to make decisions that affect customer service, I'm able to leverage that data to help me make an educated choice, versus going with a gut feeling or with my experience.”
One upcoming initiative that will likely generate plenty of customer communication is MTA’s plan to phase out its paper MetroCards by 2024 and replace them with plastic OMNY cards and other electronic payment options. “Leveraging Cassie to help us gather all that feedback, gather what works for customers and what doesn't is going to be an important tool on how we move forward,” Papandreou said.
MTA already is planning on building out new capabilities for its customer service platform, even as the core components where passengers report late trains, safety issues and the like remain the same, Papandreou said. This initial phase of using the technology helps MTA in “getting to know our customers a lot better” and will ramp up.
“This … is only going to take us to a place where we're going to understand our customers and what they want, what their dreams and aspirations are for building one of the best transit systems in the world,” Papandreou said.
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