A few days ago a report was issued from the Toronto Transit Commission Customer Service Advisory Panel. This panel was commissioned in March in a reactive measure to incidents that forced the TTC to review its practices. A report, fantastic. I’m glad it was completed with a total of 78 recommendations. The problem as I see it, is the word “forced” to review. To me that has several negative connotations. Every business is built on its reputation, and the backbone of any reputation is a company’s ability to satisfy customer needs in a way that leaves the customer feeling good about the product or service.
Forced, to me indicates that customer service was not in fact a priority in the hierarchy of the TTC, and if it wasn’t, other than safety, what was the main concern? The article states that there were several incidents that led to the creation of the Panel which found a whopping 78 areas that can be improved.
As a business person, I can tell you that there are always areas where a business can improve, and for every improvement you make, another new area for potential improvement may emerge. We need to focus on customer satisfaction in everything we do in the competitive marketplace or we quickly find ourselves out of business. All it takes is for your competitor to do one small thing better than you, and the value of their product or service appears more enhanced.
When I work with companies to improve satisfaction levels among their clients, the first thing we do is to set standards, targets, goals, something measurable, since if you can’t measure it you can’t correct it. Funny enough, Recommendation 5C of the TTC report is: “TTC management needs to establish clear metrics on customer service. These metrics should be shared with TTC employees on an ongoing basis. A Secret Shopper Program may be a component of this initiative.” The wording of the recommendation says a lot. Establish, clear, shared, ongoing. These are all words that I use when working with companies who are just setting up a program, who are trying to improve already good levels to excellent levels or who have received a few documented complaints. It is beyond my comprehension that the third most heavily used mass transit system in North America, that has been in existence for over 50 years is just now starting to pay close attention to what customers are saying to them or maybe more to the point what customers have been trying to say to them.
Customer response mechanisms need to be put in place for every business from the outset. You may not necessarily like what they are telling you sometimes, but it will help you to better understand their expectations and move to improve the way you do business.
As a great teacher of mine in high school used to say “A word to the wise is sufficient.”