The key to transit technology satisfaction—effective communication, reliable hardware

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In the realm of mass transit technology, it is a rare occurrence to encounter a potential customer who enthusiastically praises their current CAD/AVL (Computer-Aided Dispatch/Automatic Vehicle Location) vendor. To put it simply, transit operators are often dissatisfied with their CAD/AVL vendor. According to our annual surveys of transit agencies, more than two-thirds express their discontent.

It is imperative to underscore that while this blog focuses on the communication dynamics between the vendor and client, we cannot ignore the significant influence of hardware-related issues on customer satisfaction. Often, beneath the surface-level discussions, you’ll find that inadequate hardware design or poor implementation are substantial contributors to the problems at hand. These hardware challenges inevitably trigger a higher demand for technical support. Thus, it is crucial to recognize the vital role that well-designed and properly implemented hardware plays in streamlining communication and enhancing overall customer service.

So, what exactly frustrates transit agencies about the quality of support they receive? In general, the complaints we frequently hear can be categorized into three main areas:

  1. Responsiveness: Transit operators desire prompt and timely responses from their vendors. They expect their concerns to be addressed without unnecessary delays or prolonged waiting periods.
  2. Time to resolution: Operators seek quick and efficient solutions to their problems. They expect their vendors to actively work towards resolving issues in a timely manner, minimizing disruptions to their operations.
  3. Frequency of interaction: The human factor plays a crucial role in the customer-vendor relationship. Operators often feel abandoned once the initial sales process is complete. They desire continued engagement and regular communication from their vendors beyond the implementation phase.

It is truly unfortunate when the decision to sever a partnership and introduce upheaval to operations, staff, and ridership is driven not by the technology’s performance but by the shortcomings of the vendor-client relationship. After all, technology should serve as a vehicle for enhancing this relationship, shouldn’t it?

So, what are the elements that constitute a quality support experience?

  1. A spirit of partnership: Both the vendor and the customer must commit themselves to the support process. It is a two-way street where the client’s active involvement is crucial. This includes performing routine maintenance, providing detailed information for troubleshooting, and proactively communicating and expressing concerns. Without the client’s participation, the support process can become protracted and frustrating for both parties. Similarly, the vendor must actively support their product, ensuring routine progress updates, delivering on promises made, and keeping customers well-informed and educated. Prompt and effective responses are essential; customers should not be left waiting for days or weeks for a reply, or worse, receive no response at all. The client and vendor must recognize that their partnership requires mutual support and commitment.
  2. Training and education: CAD/AVL systems are intricate, encompassing various hardware, software, configuration, and data components. While much of this complexity remains concealed from the customer, formalized and ongoing training is vital. Often, customers receive training only during the initial system launch. However, as systems evolve and employees transition, there is a knowledge gap that needs to be addressed. Vendors should incorporate continuous education into their project plans. This includes providing booster training and web-based instruction for new hires or when new features are introduced. Self-guided learning resources, such as online knowledge bases, can aid in this process. Additionally, role-based instruction ensures that each subset of transit staff receives focused, relevant education tailored to their specific needs. By providing precise training, participation and retention are encouraged.
  3. Responsive input and feedback: Responsiveness from both the customer and the vendor is essential. While clients may not possess intricate knowledge of the software, they expect the system to function as intended. From the vendor’s perspective, a responsive customer actively participates in the troubleshooting process, providing timely feedback and comprehensive information. Vendors must view questions and concerns from customers as opportunities to address their needs promptly.

Closing thoughts

In closing, it’s essential to highlight that, although our discourse frequently points towards the importance of after-sales support and vendor-client relationships, we cannot underestimate the role of hardware reliability in the customer service experience. Undeniably, technology plays a crucial part in transit systems, and any hardware glitches significantly contribute to the volume of customer service calls. Balancing the trio of hardware reliability, quality support, and effective communication is the recipe for cultivating satisfied, loyal customers. As transit operators navigate their partnerships with vendors, it’s this holistic understanding that will guide them towards more satisfying, productive experiences.

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