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Straight Talk

Today's consumers have a healthy dose of skepticism. They look warily at claims made by private and public institutions. They question what they hear. In that context, if transit agencies gloss over their customer experience challenges, and engage in "happy talk" about their systems, it rings untrue and fuels mistrust and suspicion.


Given this reality, the best way to talk about transit customer experience is honestly and openly. When riders tweet out sincere complaints, for example, respond by briefly acknowledging the issue, expressing empathy, and indicating what you will or will not do to resolve the issue. Or when disclosing rider survey results at a Board meeting, provide an honest assessment and outline the process that will be used to consider remedies to top pain points. Riders do not want empty or syrupy platitudes about "our commitment to our customers." To earn their brand loyalty, you need to communicate honestly and transparently.

quote: Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.

The benefits of CX straight talk are two-fold.

  1. Firstly, straight talk enhances rider loyalty to your organization. Riders will be more likely to trust and support you when you need funding, and more likely to defend you when they hear others criticize your transit system.

  2. Secondly, straight talk enables you to collaborate openly and honestly to deliver CX improvements without those efforts being distorted by worries about how things appear. In former US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis's words: “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” Transparency helps institutions address issues with greater speed and intentionality.

Just dabbling in straight talk is not effective. It takes consistent straight talk to win consumer trust.


Straight talk is an essential element of every CX program. Without it, people will view the CX work as just "spin." Make it an explicit part of your CX program from the very beginning.

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