Paratransit services play a significant role in society. They provide America’s elderly and disabled populations with the mobility services they need to live their best lives possible. This responsibility extends to the call centers they employ to handle customer service duties.
Passenger expectations are changing. Technology is empowering riders more than ever, so much so that companies are putting more resources into becoming truly customer-centric.
According to Microsoft’s 2017 State of Global Customer Service report, 96% of consumers consider customer service a primary factor in determining which brands win their loyalty. That’s good news for the customer service industry in general.
For companies that rely on their fleet of vehicles to stay in business (e.g., transport agencies, car rental companies, shipping and delivery services, public transportation organizations, utility companies, food distributors, etc.), fleet-related costs are mostly their largest business expense, which makes effective fleet management vital to keeping a healthy bottom line.
For some people, getting to and from their medical appointments can be a challenge because they don't (or shouldn't) drive or they don't have close family or friends who can transport them to the doctor's office. Regardless of whether those conditions are only temporary or are permanent, it can be a serious roadblock to treatment or recovery if appointments, treatments, and follow-up visits can't be attended.
The emergence of autonomous vehicles as a viable means of transport in the real world – and not just some concept car on a closed track – is set to radically change the way people and goods get around in the very near future. And although the benefits to individuals who may eventually own or share an autonomous vehicle tend to get the most play in the news, there are many underplayed areas of potential impact. A big area is the transit industry – on top of the eventual possibility of autonomous fleet operation, there is also massive integration potential in taxi and rideshare services like Uber and Lyft.
At the heart of every successful customer service experience is a well-trained and efficient call center, which can answer incoming calls in a timely manner, route them to the most appropriate person or department, and otherwise enable a quick and effective solution to customers' and clients' calls. We previously introduced training tips for improving call center productivity, so now let’s dive into how to measure success.
Dial-a-ride, also known as paratransit, is a valuable transportation service for seniors, people with disabilities, and those who can't use the standard fixed route transit systems to travel to medical appointments, employment, school, or even just buying groceries. For those not familiar with the dial-a-ride concept, it is generally implemented as an on-demand, door-to-door, or curb-to-curb transportation service. Although the vehicles employed in dial-a-ride services could be as simple as a car or small minivan, many of the vehicles in use are wheelchair-compatible and able to accommodate riders with different physical needs for boarding and unloading. And although many of the paratransit and demand-responsive transport services have an element of qualification for their riders, in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), others may offer services to a broader spectrum of disadvantaged individuals.
For businesses, agencies, and organizations which rely on vehicles for moving people or cargo, making service calls, or delivering and picking up cargo, fleet management is a key element for effective and cost-efficient operations. Fleet management services, which can be handled in-house or contracted to a fleet and asset management company, can include a number of different functions, including vehicle maintenance, vehicle financing and acquisition, optimizing fuel efficiency, managing driver behavior, and heading up safety efforts and legal compliance.
For many transit riders, knowing that their bus or light rail will arrive on time both at the beginning of their trip and at their destination can be a huge factor in choosing their mode of transportation, as school classes, work, sports practice, and games, as well as social gatherings all have scheduling expectations. Nobody wants to be late for their commitments, nor do they want to wait overly long for their return trip, so improving on-time performance in a transit service is one way to improve rider satisfaction and potentially increase ridership. Here are a few general directions to head in for improving on-time performance.
Paratransit services are a vital element of modern mobility for many people, who rely on them to get to work, to school, or to medical appointments and more. However, like other areas in public transit today, the paratransit sector is also facing a number of challenges that will need to be met with creative and effective responses in order to remain useful and relevant in 2018 and beyond.
One of the key elements of any successful operation is a great training program, because with the proper training, employees will have the right skills to allow them to do their jobs well, while also knowing what to do (or not to do) in any given situation. A good training program also gives those individuals the confidence to take care of customers quickly and efficiently, and when it comes to call center productivity, with potentially heavy call volumes and often short time constraints, having top-notch training for call center agents is vital to your transit company's operations. Here are a few training tips for improving call center productivity and efficiency.
In order to increase ridership on public transit in the age of the car, agencies need to be willing to explore a number of different approaches. Some of these tactics may be used on the back end of the operations, such as scheduling and route-setting, some on the customer-facing processes, some on the marketing and communications side, and some on the infrastructure and facilities end. Like many aspects of life and business, there is probably no one magic pill that will cure low ridership, but rather a mix of strategies and tactics that can all work together to boost ridership.
To those on the consumer side of transportation, it may seem like either a logistical nightmare or a wonderfully complex puzzle getting everybody and everything to their destinations on time and in good shape. While the truth may lie somewhere between those two extremes, the fact of the matter is that well-trained transportation planning professionals are working behind the scenes to make it all flow smoothly. Transportation planning professionals, also called Certified Transportation Planners, are some of the unsung heroes of the transit, freight, and passenger carrier industries, and these individuals are responsible for not only the current state of transport in and around our cities and states, but also for planning for the future.
As one popular saying goes, "You can't manage what you don't measure," and to go one step further, you can't improve what you don't measure. In order to get the most performance from a fleet, with the least amount of labor input and the lowest cost, tracking fleet data is imperative.
In order to run an efficient and productive rural public transit system and fleet asset management, and one that doesn't consistently overrun the budget, it's important to keep operating costs under control. Without adequate controls on operating costs, rural public transit systems are at risk of running with a high overhead, which can impact not only the current level of service, but also the future of these programs. Balancing the needs of the agency's customers with the costs for those services is one key aspect of effective transit agency management, and learning how to reduce or minimize those operating costs is a crucial skill.
Public transportation is not only a great way to get to work, to school, or to go shopping, it's also an environmentally friendly mode of getting around. Even though many public transit options include diesel-powered buses, which are not known for being the cleanest vehicles on the road, the difference is made up for in both the fuel efficiency (as measured in Person-Miles Per Gallon (PMPG)) and the fact that they take up far less space than the number of single-occupancy vehicles needed to transport the same amount of people.
Although the rapid pace of innovation in consumer technology is much more visible, especially when it comes to mobile devices and electronics in general, a great many tech advancements are also helping to shape the future of both transit and the transportation sector as a whole. Here's a look at some of these technologies that have had an influence on transit companies this past year.
Except to those in the transit or medical sectors, or those who have had personal or family experience with using paratransit services, the mention of the word paratransit in a conversation is likely met with a blank look. But for those who depend on this complementary transport option to get to medical appointments, to do their weekly shopping, or even to go to school and back, paratransit operations can be a lifeline.
The ever-quickening pace of technological development is bringing rapid changes to a wide variety of experiences, with everything from work to entertainment to healthcare to travel undergoing a transition toward more networked and automated systems. Although mobile and wireless technologies are nothing new, the speeds at which they operate are getting faster, and when coupled with 'smart' sensors and machine learning, better battery technology, and real-time geolocation systems, our phones, our vehicles, and our homes are now fast becoming a part of a hyper-connected future.
Although the average transit rider doesn't often have a need to think about it, unless they're wishing for a more convenient bus stop or route, transit agencies spend a lot of time and energy determining where and when their fixed-route buses run. Making decisions about scheduling frequency, route timing, and bus stop locations are all part of the transit planning process, which takes into account not only short-term forecasts but also long-term predictions, while combining current ridership statistics, route performance, and geographic and demographic data in order to optimize existing routes and identify the need for new routes or stops.
National Express Transit’s mission is providing the safest, highest-quality transportation services – on time, every time. Our operations focus on five core values: safety, customers, people, community, and excellence.
As an organization, we’ve been focused on initiatives that truly embody these five core values and will help us achieve our mission. One of those initiatives is automotive service excellence certifications. We encourage employees across the organization to become ASE-certified and are also encouraging entire shops to become ASE Blue Shield shops.
Although both customers and employees alike tend to notice the obvious and prominent features of a transport system, such as the look and feel of the vehicles, sometimes it's the invisible things that make all the difference. Even the newest or best-looking vehicle relies on myriad other elements in order to travel its routes safely and on-time, which would be incredibly challenging without a good transportation management solution.
A good fleet management company can make all the difference in the success of the businesses that retain them, by keeping fleet vehicles and assets in peak condition, routes and services on time and under budget, and customers and stakeholders happy. The best fleet management professionals are also capable of keen analysis, and are able to learn from the past in order to plan for the future, in order to limit costs while increasing efficiency and satisfaction.
What would be an easy and straightforward task for many people, such as going to a doctor's visit or to pick up groceries, can be a huge ordeal for the elderly and disabled members of our population. Without a car of their own, and the ability and resources to drive it, getting from one location to another within a city without hiring a driver will most likely require public transportation. However, a regular city bus may not work for some disabled or elderly, due to first-mile and last-mile transport issues with getting to or from a stop, or scheduling limitations, or other factors, in which case paratransit services can step in to fill that important need.
Behind every successful transportation company, field service business, and transit agency lies a good fleet management system. Being able to track drivers and their performance, along with the routes themselves and the current position of a given vehicle on them, as well as all the vehicles and other assets along the way from acquisition to repair to retirement, is a key part of an efficient operation.
In many rural communities, getting from one location to another without having a vehicle is a really big deal, and getting everything from food to medicine can be a trial in itself. With low population densities and the tendency for small towns to have some distance between them, rural areas aren't very conducive to the types of transit operations present in cities. However, there is a very real need for new rural transit options, and the need for existing transportation systems in rural areas to step up their game to meet the needs of more riders.
When it comes time to find a transit service company with which to partner, it's important to first hammer out details of what exactly is needed, the timeline of when and how long the contract will run, and the budget for acquiring those services. It's also imperative that an evaluation process be in place for considering proposals and potential partners, in order to accurately appraise each proposal to not only ensure that the agency is getting the most value for its money, but to also avoid entering into partnerships and agreements with companies that may not be a good fit for helping the agency meet its goals.
The Trump Administration is expected to present a major infrastructure package this fall, and although many of the details have yet to be revealed, some information has surfaced about the scope and focus of the plan, which is said to include work across 16 federal agencies. According to the White House website, the $200 billion infrastructure package will include some $25 billion for rural infrastructure and $100 billion for "local prioritization of infrastructure needs," and the intent is to leverage this spending to create at least $1 trillion of total investments in infrastructure over the next 10 years.
"America's infrastructure has fallen to 12th in the world and that is unacceptable. Every American depends on our roads, rails, ports, and airports, and the President is committed to fixing this problem, not just pushing more liabilities onto future generations." - White House
Good training systems and protocols are one of the key elements for operating most successful companies, and transit companies are no exception. Without adequate training, anyone from the manager on down might be able to muddle through their daily responsibilities, but they won't be doing the type and quality of work that will help the company rise above their competition, and at the worst, they may magnify, or even cause, issues that have financial, operational, or health risks to them.
On the other hand, companies that have up-to-date training methods and materials, and a process for not just providing the training but also to evaluate its effectiveness, will have employees and managers that both fully understand their jobs and have the skills to carry them out well. Transit companies that have strong protocols and resources in place for fleet management training can be assured that everyone, from management to maintenance to operations to finance, is in possession of the most current skillsets to meet the demands and responsibilities of their departments
Whether you know them as driverless cars or autonomous vehicles, these high-tech mobility options are set to become the next big trend in transportation. However, there are lot of hurdles to overcome, not the least of which is gaining the trust of not just regulators, but also the general public. With some of the big names in technology and auto manufacturing getting into the driverless car game, the number of autonomous car projects that are either under development or are being actively tested on city streets is growing, but are vehicles equipped with autonomous driving technology really safe enough to put the lives of humans in their virtual hands?
In contrast with the antics of the cast of Taxi, fleet management is so much more than simply dispatching vehicles and drivers when needed, and filling them up with gas when empty, and it requires a wide range of skills to keep all of the various facets of a fleet's operation running smoothly.
Public transport, and transportation in general, is a challenging endeavor in urban areas. As certain city populations grow, and as their economic bases shift and evolve and their housing sector adjusts, even more vehicles are entering the roads each day. One of the effective solutions to decreasing the pressure on city streets and highways is maintaining a robust public transportation system, but modern urban areas bring a host of challenges to the table for transit agencies, some of which can be mitigated by proper and forward-thinking transit management, and others which will need to come from the municipal level on down.
Do you find yourself asking, “Why is technology so important today?” The answer is simple: technology is everywhere and it’s integrated into everything that we do.
So why is technology especially important in the public transportation industry?
The most successful transit agencies across the country place large emphasis on safety, people, and rider experience. In order to achieve this and truly take a customer-centric approach to your transit operations, it is necessary to leverage technology and use transportation management software to help better serve customers and make transit more accessible to the community.
Public transportation systems bring many benefits to individuals, communities, and the local economy, but all too often, they don't get near the amount of attention that they should. While much of the media's attention is focused on higher profile stories such as autonomous vehicles and the launch of the latest Tesla electric car model, public transportation and fixed route transit services continue to be much more efficient and beneficial systems of getting people from one place to another, which often gets overlooked in the news cycle's desire for shiny new things.
As a national transportation company, we know how important safety is. Our entire purpose is to better connect and serve the communities in which we operate and ensure we can get our passengers from point A to point B safely, every time they ride with us.
Public transportation connects people to their communities and can produce a better quality of life. Every segment of society can benefit from public transportation and it is a crucial part of the solution to the nation’s economic, energy, and environmental challenges.
The terms transit and transportation can sometimes get mixed up. In certain contexts, they are used to mean the same thing (getting people from one place to another), and although they may be interchangeable on those occasions, there are other times when the two words make a distinction between the ways that people get around. For example, there is a difference between riding a bike for transportation and taking the bus to work. The bus is both transportation and transit, whereas a bicycle wouldn't qualify as transit, but is certainly a popular mode of transportation. However, taking a bike on a bus or train would be a bicycle transit trip, and even walking to and from a transit station run by a national transportation company makes it so most trips are multimodal journeys.
Public transportation is widely used in cities, which offer an array of bus and rail systems. For many older adults who have disabilities, public transit may not be accessible for travel. Paratransit travel options help people who have barriers to using public transportation. Transportation is a necessity and without access, older adults have difficulty doing important tasks such as grocery shopping and going to doctor appointments. This article will discuss how paratransit is a crucial aspect of transportation, how it makes life better for seniors, and what this means for paratransit industry professionals.
Warrenville, Ill. –National Express Transit (NEXT), a leading provider of transit services in North America, will begin operating Modesto Area Transit (MAX) in July, 2017. Modesto Area Transit is the fourth area of operations in California for the organization, including the cities of Vallejo, Kern County and Merced.
This article originally appeared on the BABC Thought Leadership Platform on April 27th, 2017.
Mass transit aims to offer convenience and value for its riders. A key concern for transit managers is how to improve customer experience. When transit agencies integrate newer technologies, riders are happier and ridership grows. In this era of rapid technological discovery, transit agencies have more opportunities to evolve and please passengers.
Public transportation is critical in keeping our communities connected and is a crucial part of the solution to the economic, energy, and environmental challenges that are becoming prevalent today. Not only is public transportation convenient for riders, but it also has been proven to be safer than driving individual vehicles and areas that have accessible public transit are also shown to have better overall security and reduced crime rates. Not to mention, paratransit is especially important for people with disabilities or for aging members of our community to get around and have a better quality of life.
Transit agencies are responsible for providing safe and reliable transportation, and because of this, proper transportation management is critical to the success of any transit agency. Good management improves service and lowers cost, which ensures transit is sustainable for cities and pleasing to passengers. Transit operations contractors can help transit agencies achieve the best service possible through optimized operations.
The rapid pace of technological innovation, when coupled with a changing culture and customer expectations, is beginning to bring a wave of changes to the way that both people and goods are transported. Accounting for and adapting to these transportation trends in both agency operations as well as where the rubber meets the road will be an important part of the strategy and planning processes of a national transportation company. Here are five trends to watch.
The simple fact about today's business climate is that technology and innovation are driving the future of many industries. That includes the public transportation industry. Many agencies are starting to integrate transit management software and modern technology into their transit operations in order to keep up with rider demand and create a more customer-centric approach to operations. The advantages of making this transition can lead to positive change that can take operational efficiency to the next level. Our experts have outlined 4 main advantages that transit agencies are seeing from technology integration today.
Careers in public transportation offer variety and opportunities for advancement. If you like solving problems and helping passengers get around, this career might be right for you. National Express Transit, a growing provider of transit services in the U.S., is hiring and offers some advice to find and get the job of your dreams.
This article originally appeared on the BABC Thought Leadership Platform on April 19th, 2017.
With the largest generation of Americans (baby boomers) reaching the age of retirement and leaving the workforce, transit agencies, amongst many other companies that provide service to the elderly, have had to make some key changes to keep up. The main focus of this shift in thinking has hinged on the idea of creating a community environment that will allow baby boomers to age in place. Changes in the housing and transit industries have already been put into motion over the last few years to start the development of the modern community environment for retirees.
When a transit contract is coming to its end, and it's time to entertain proposals from potential transit contractors, it's often considered less risky to choose the incumbent contractor for the new period, due to familiarity with that company's personnel, processes, and past history of performance. But switching from the current contractor to a new one can offer some benefits to the transit agency, which can range from cost savings, increased efficiency and performance, and improved technology, along with the potential for a new contractor to overdeliver in order to retain the new contract.
Labor unions have represented the rank and file in the United States for well over a century, emerging quickly as an authoritative voice to protect the shared interests of workers. Although the workplace has evolved through the intervening years and union membership has declined nationally, union representation continues to be prevalent in some industries, including the transit industry.
Public transportation is the lifeblood of most U.S. cities and metropolitan areas. Tens of millions of people rely on buses, trains, and light rail to travel.
Transit agencies have always been at the mercy of market forces, balancing viable transportation technologies with rider demand and, of course, successful business practices. One way that this balance has been addressed has been through the adoption of economical propulsion technologies, such as CNG (compressed natural gas).
Public transit agencies, in a bid to increase their performance, safety, and customer satisfaction levels, while also reducing costs, may opt to use transit contractors, such as National Express Transit, to provide vehicles, drivers, managers, and other employees, and additional critical resources. The use of transit contractors can offer a range of benefits to transit agencies, and these public/private arrangements may help increase the overall agency performance.
- 5 Ways to Improve Transit Call Center Productivity
- How to Improve Your Call Center Customer Experience Strategy
- How to Manage a Call Center Efficiently
- How to Improve Fleet Management Challenges and Solutions
- What Do Non-Emergency Medical Transportation Brokers Do?
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