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Will The Transit CX Trend Fizzle?

Increasingly, transit leaders are customer experience (CX) champions. Listen to recent interviews with Mayors, Board members, and Transit CEO's, and you will hear about improvements they are making to the Customer Experience (and often Employee Experience!). Transit leaders feel pressure to deliver CX and EX improvements from not only employees, riders and journalists, but also from funding agencies that want shorter headways, user-friendly fare payment, and improvements to cleanliness, passenger information, and safety and security, just to name a few common pain points. And there is pressure to grow transit ridership so that the public gets good value from their investment in transit.

While the growing interest in CX (now encompassing over two dozen transit agencies in the US and Canada) is exciting, will this trend have staying power? Will it continue as leaders come and go over time? Or is CX just the "flavor of the month," destined to fizzle out as current leaders retire or move on to other priorities?

The answer depends on whether transit agencies institutionalize CX into their policies, procedures, and culture. That means:

  • Adopting a CX Survey and CX Plan Policy: Create robust customer experience surveys, put them on a fixed schedule, and adopt a formal process for follow-up on pain points that are surfaced. For example, an agency might conduct CX Surveys every two years in the Spring, use the results to develop a CX Plan in the Summer and Fall, then secure resources to fund CX Plan Action Items through the budget process in the Fall or Winter.

  • Adopting KEIs: Adopt Key Experience Indicators (KEIs), monitor them on a fixed schedule (e.g. quarterly), and take action to remedy issues.

  • Live Listening: Set up a process to quickly detect and respond to emerging customer sentiment detected through social media and other channels.

  • Adopting Policies to Ensure Alignment: Establish policies that ensure a CX perspective is incorporated into Budgets, Plans, decision processes, Service and Facility standards, and labor contract work rules. These key business processes can benefit from a CX perspective. Moreover, alignment across all of these processes will create a more powerful and coherent CX program.

  • Adopting a User Experience Testing Policy: Adopt a policy to ensure new products and services incorporate customer input into specifications and design. Incorporate into the User Experience (UX) policy: unified UX testing methods (so that results can be compared across products over time), minimum standards for product launch, and thresholds to earn a CX Seal of Excellence to recognize and celebrate superior products.

  • Adopting a CX Culture Initiative: Formally adopt one or more customer centric Attitudes or Behaviors to guide and unify hiring, training, coaching, and employee recognition. Incorporate these Attitudes or Behaviors into frequent communication with employees to make CX ubiquitous inside your organization, and create affinity groups to support CX champions.

  • Establishing an Employee Experience (EX) Process: Conduct employee surveys to monitor alignment with CX Culture Attitudes and Behaviors, and to identify obstacles employees face when trying to improve customer experience. Adopt a formal process to address issues that surface from the EX surveys.

  • Establishing CX Incentives: Incorporate CX objectives into your employee performance appraisal and compensation system to incentivize CX outcomes. Also set aside funds for agency-wide, year-end bonuses, contingent on achieving predefined CX improvements.

  • Creating a CX Spotlight: Set aside time every month for top leaders to meet about CX and keep a spotlight on the voice of the customer and accountability for CX improvements.

The more an agency adopts these policies, procedures, and culture changes, the more likely the CX Program will be transformative and stand the test of time.


Why institutionalize CX?:

There are many reasons to institutionalize CX. First of all, leaders who are messianic CX champions often feel like they have to constantly oversee and correct a lack of CX focus. When staff report on products or services and do not take the time to understand customer requirements or give lip service to them, it falls on leadership to direct changes to ensure that customer needs get addressed. That can be frustrating and inefficient. In contrast, with institutionalization of CX, policies, procedures, and culture are transformed to ensure that customer centricity is ubiquitous in everything the agency does, without top leadership always having to "catch" failures.

Secondly, it is impossible for leaders, no matter how passionate, to see all pain points and oversee all improvements. A CX effort that is exclusively top down will miss many pain points. It is essential to have leadership ensure focus on top pain points and achieve some "Early Wins", but also important to institutionalize changes and create many pockets of CX champions throughout the agency that allow more CX improvements to happen, more quickly.

Finally, by institutionalizing CX, leaders can make an enduring impact that outlasts their tenure and avert "CX fizzle" after they retire or move on to other priorities or endeavors.

For all of these reasons, institutionalization of CX is essential, and should be part of every CX Program.


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