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Operation Welcome

Some of the best Customer Experience ideas start with insights from front-line employees. When I oversaw the rollout of a BART brand update 15 years ago, I assembled a team of Station Agents and Operations Supervisors to explore ways to improve the rider and employee experience. In our monthly meetings, one recurring theme surfaced - Station Agents taking pride in being able to spot "Newbies" (i.e., new riders) when the Newbies enter a station. At the same time, our surveys told us that on any given day, about 2,000 new riders used our system for the first time. We decided to build on this research and our Station Agents' penchant for spotting Newbies by giving Agents a welcome kit to offer Newbies. This tended to draw Agents out of the booth to approach new riders and help new riders feel welcome on our system. We called the program "Operation Welcome."

To make Operation Welcome a reality I partnered with the president of the Station Agents' union and our Chief Transportation Officer to invite Station Agents to apply to participate in the program. We asked applicants to tell us why they were interested in the program and why their station would be a good location, and we picked 30 Station Agents to participate. High school summer interns assembled the Welcome kits and delivered them to the Station Agents. The kits included a BART branded cloth bag, tips for new riders, a BART Basics brochure, information about contests and offers, and giveaway items.

We provided the Agents with a "New to BART? I Can Help!" button. We also gave Agents newly designed trip-planning tear-off pads that Agents could fill out and give new riders, detailing wayfinding instructions for their trip: how to get to the platform, what train to catch, how to transfer, and what exit to use at their destination. Our goal was to help Station Agents experience positive connections with BART customers.

Another program we introduced was one called "Operation Ask Me." We provided Station Agents with buttons that said things like "Ask Me About Fare Discounts" or "Ask Me About Reserved Parking" and rotated the topic from time to time. We asked Station Agents to position themselves near faregates during slow periods when they had extra time. The purpose of the buttons was to invite customers to approach the Station Agent to ask about a program that might benefit the customer. The Station Agents would greet customers with a “Good morning,” “Good afternoon,” or “Good evening” greeting, but would otherwise only talk with customers that approached them. The purpose of this was to respect customer’s personal space and let them decide whether to take time to talk. If a customer asked for information, then the Station Agent would provide them with a brochure, answer any questions, and tell the customer how they can obtain additional information.

Operation Welcome and Operation Ask Me are examples of how employees across the organization can work together to improve the Customer Experience. To get started, just open a dialogue with your colleagues and see what ideas emerge.


  1. When you develop CX initiatives like these, be prepared to hear pain points that employees currently experience and become their ally in trying to resolve them. You can't walk in and impose your agenda on colleagues. It has to be a two-way street!

  2. Try new ideas as pilot programs and make them voluntary. This helps all parties feel comfortable trying something new without making a long-term commitment or having to negotiate changes in job descriptions right away.


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