When Maureen Heath, as the manager of service delivery at London Transit in Ontario, volunteered to be the chair of the Canadian Urban Transit Association Transit Ambassador Redevelopment Task Force in 2006, she wasn’t thinking about the long video shoot days and she most definitely wasn’t prepared for the disruption that weeks of filming would have on her work schedule. “It was a lot of fun though, and I’m really proud of the training program we have created. We set out to make something that was flexible, affordable and modern — and we did.”
The original Transit Ambassador Customer Service Training Program was developed by a task force of CUTA 20 years ago in response to the growing demand for customer service in the industry. By 2006, it had become evident that the standards of customer service excellence in all industries had been raised over the past two decades and the riding public expected more. The 41-member Transit Ambassador Redevelopment Task Force, lead by Heath, accepted the challenge to modernize the original program in content and context, as well as in training methodology, while still maintaining the principals that made the program an industry standard.
The result is a 13-module program comprised of four core modules that are recommended for all agencies and nine supporting modules that can be added depending on the current training and organizational needs of the transit system. Supporting modules include “Special Needs Situations,” “Customer Service: Inside and Out” for non-frontline employees, and “The Customer Focused Organization” for supervisory and management staff. Each module can be delivered in an extended three-and-a-half-hour version or the two-hour condensed version. Transit system trainers participate in a five-day intensive Train-the-Trainer program to learn about the new Transit Ambassador program and to hone their facilitation skills.
Since its launch in 2007, the program has been taken up by new and existing subscribers across North America. They are all taking advantage of the flexibility aspect of the program in their implementation strategies. The following are four examples of how transit systems are using the program to meet their own unique situations and requirements.
Andy Hynes is the director of human resources at London Transit, a 190-bus, 350-operator system. It decided to use the Transit Ambassador program to meet a specific need companywide and spent significant time preparing for implementation. Hynes explains, “We identified the need for broader diversity training at London Transit — historically we have done specific in-house
training on policies and procedures. So we first created a diversity committee comprised of various sections of the workforce, representing different groups.
“Coincidentally, the ‘Diversity in Transit’ module of Transit Ambassador was being developed at the same time. London Transit was one of the first groups to bring the diversity module on board. We had our diversity committee and our senior management team look at it and have a run through the program with a CUTA Master Trainer. Both groups were excited about the training because it really fit the bill. We looked at other diversity training, and there are a lot of products on the market, but Transit Ambassador had the transit link that we didn’t see in other programs.”
After London Transit settled on Transit Ambassador, it was time to roll it out. Hynes explains, “We started delivery of the ‘Diversity in Transit’ module with all employees, from long-time operators to employees in administration and from the garage. The training is broad enough so that it’s accessible to all staff.
“The feedback has been very positive. It gets the point across in a way people can relate to. Our trainer really likes the module, especially the flexibility. We had the option and went with the two-hour version. It covers all our occupational groups, not just focusing on operators.”