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Surprise and Delight

Once you achieve service that is reliable, safe, on-time, clean, and user-friendly, you have the opportunity to go the extra mile to WOW your customers. Here are ten fun Surprise and Delight ideas to get started:


1) Shadow Play - Are you designing a new pedestrian overpass, bus stop shelter, or other facility? Consider incorporating a design that casts an interesting shadow. Piano keys? Zoo animals? Geometric patterns? Invite local art students to submit ideas?

fence casting piano key shadow

2) Pop-up Music - There's nothing like music to create a festive feeling. Occasionally invite musicians to serenade your customers at major activity centers.

reggae singers

3) Party Bus - What if you pick a random bus or train every Friday and transform it into a party bus? Let your imagination run wild: festive decorations, music, flight attendants serving snacks? What a surprise that would be!


4) Beat the Heat - On hot summer days, hand out water bottles at stations or stops? Environmental Tip: Some suppliers provide spring water in reusable bottles...

man drinking from reusable water bottle, with bus in background

5) Rescue Ride - There's nothing worse than getting stranded at a bus stop due to buses getting canceled. What if transit could combine real time data on bus dispatches and GPS data on customer location to quickly identify customers in that situation and offer them a free taxi or rideshare ride from the bus stop directly to their destination? This is a challenging one, but several transit agencies are working on it so stay tuned!


6) A Rewards Program That Doesn't Require Earning Points - Tired of frequent flyer programs where your points expire before you get a chance to use them? How about a transit rewards program that offers rewards to all members ... just for the heck of it ... to build community and loyal ridership? To get your juices flowing, check out: bart.gov/bartable or dart.org/dartable.


7) Rider Thank You's - There's nothing revolutionary about Rider Thank You events, but keep in mind you don't always have to announce it in advance. Here's a chance to surprise your riders with a free giveaway like chocolates on Valentines Day, seed packets on Earth Day, or coffee cards on any old day! Often, a sponsor may step up to provide the freebies. Thank people as you pass it out and package the giveaway with collateral that thanks people for taking transit.


8) Operation Welcome - Front Line employees often take pride in being able to recognize first-time riders, so why not provide those employees with gift bags they can offer to first-time riders to welcome them to your brand? What to put in the bag? A free ride card? Info about selected products and services? Discount offer to the company store? Other goodies?


9) Participatory Design - Prototypes are a fun way to refine your products before they launch, and a great chance to build loyalty to boot. Whether it's a new train or bus, a ticket vending machine, digital signs, apps, or websites, invite your riders to try it and tell you what they think before you finalize the design. For the Fleet of the Future, BART put on over 50 events, engaged over 40,000 people, and refined the design. The result has been rave reviews of the new train cars!

People waiting to board a Fleet of the Future prototype
People waiting to board a BART Fleet of the Future prototype

10) Operator Appreciation - Don't forget to surprise and delight your employees too! They are the cornerstone of building a CX Culture, and it's essential that they feel valued. Wouldn't it be nice to show up at the division to find a buffet of yummy food and drink to enjoy before your shift, along with a big thank you from leaders? Tip: provide to-go containers so they can take some with them and enjoy it when they have time.


In Closure

Will you encounter nay-sayers to your surprise and delight program? Probably. Some people may say it's not an appropriate use of public funds, or it will create a mess, or a liability. There are always good reasons not to do good things ... but push back in a respectful way. How we overcome objections is the true test for CX. This is a great opportunity to educate co-workers that we have to start going the extra mile to get citizens excited about transit if we want transit to survive and thrive in the future. If you need to compromise, maybe suggest a short-term pilot. That's a great way to see whether worries materialize before deciding whether or not to keep the effort going.


Tip: timing is everything. Be careful not to introduce what might be perceived as "fluff" until service fundamentals are good.

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