OC Transpo must modernize customer service in time for LRT, report cautions

When it comes to customer service, OC Transpo is "ill-prepared" for the launch of its new light rail transit system, according to a new report commissioned by Ottawa's transit authority.

30 per cent of customer calls dropped in 2015, report found

Ottawa's Confederation Line is set to open in 2018. (City of Ottawa)

When it comes to customer service, OC Transpo is "ill-prepared" for the launch of its new light rail transit system, according to a new report commissioned by Ottawa's transit authority. 

OC Transpo hired Janet LeBlanc + Associates in 2015 to help pinpoint key challenges in its effort to modernize its service ahead of the massive change in 2018. 

The report, which cost $83,933, was submitted to the Transit Commission earlier this year but wasn't made public. It was provided upon request to CBC Ottawa Friday. 

The report examines everything from telephone response times to staffing and training. 

It found a high rate of customers who hung up before their calls to OC Transpo could be answered — 30 per cent at its peak in 2015, far higher than the seven or eight per cent rate at which customer satisfaction typically declines, and well above the industry average for dropped calls.

The report also concluded that OC Transpo's documentation around response times, web forms, emails and complaints was limited, and that data regarding staff performance was not readily available to managers.

'Customer-focused culture'

The report suggests OC Transpo develop a "customer-focused culture" to protect itself during the changeover to light rail. To achieve that, it recommends tracking customer feedback in real time, training staff adequately around their roles and recognizing employees — formally and informally — who improve the customer service experience.

Although the report recognized OC Transpo's highly tenured employee base as being preferable to high staff turnover, it highlighted the fact that existing staff will face a great deal of change requiring new skills.

In an email to CBC, OC Transpo's assistant general manager Pat Scrimgeour said the agency recognizes the need to deliver excellent customer service, which is why it is modernizing its customer service approach prior to the launch of the O-Train Confederation Line in 2018.

"Customer service structure has already undergone a number of changes since last year and will continue to change over the coming years," Scrimgeour said.

OC Transpo is also "creating more ways for customers to help themselves through self-serve means, such as using, the OC Transpo iPhone app, the ParaPay system under development, and coming next year, the new fare vending machines at Trillium Line stations," Scrimgeour said.