McKim was pleased with her decision to bring in a CUTA Master Trainer to directly facilitate the training with Sound Transit staff. “The Master Trainer who delivered the program was a superb facilitator. The depth and breadth of experience was evident and he was able to deliver the customer service training that we didn’t have the experience to provide in-house.
“The program is very professional, very useful; I was very impressed. We used it with our station attendants, but the program is easily transferable to any position. The quality and development of the program make it transferable.”
McKim summarizes, “Providing the customer service piece brings new customers and keeps existing customers coming back.” She’s planning to take the Transit Ambassador Train-the-Trainer course herself later this year.
West Coast Express
Kyla Daman-Willems is the marketing and customer service supervisor at West Coast Express, a commuter rail service in Vancouver, B.C. Daman-Willems has experience with the original program and is also trained as a facilitator in the new Transit Ambassador.
She explains, “West Coast Express opened in 1995 using the Transit Ambassador program and we’ve seen the benefits over the years. It has excellent key core values that are easy to understand. They are not designed to intimidate — they are written in plain English so it ‘travels’ well. We’ve trained train crews, frontline staff, cleaners and maintenance crew — there’s something for everyone.
“We now use the four core modules in a two-day program for a mix of experienced staff and new hires. Because with the Transit Ambassador program the trainer is facilitating rather than instructing, the experienced staff have an opportunity to contribute in a genuine way what they have experienced and it gives credibility to the training session.”
Daman-Willems has had the benefit of attending a Train-the-Trainer program and knows the new program well. She says, “I love the new materials — it’s important that they look current. It’s well set-up and we can pick what we need to focus on. For example, we don’t have policy issues here, so we pull that section out. The flexibility of the program lets us start and stop when we need to. Plus, the new materials are so much more portable, more adaptable. The master participants’ workbook included with each module makes it easy for us to print our own booklets so we don’t have to worry about ordering materials. I was amazed how easy the materials were to use and how little time it took me to become confident using them. I was good-to-go the very first time.”
West Coast Express is starting to see the results of the new program. Daman-Willems says, “The day after one of our Transit Ambassador training sessions, we had major delays in our service. Subsequently, one of our experienced rail staff phoned me to thank me for the training. He admitted, ‘I was suddenly more aware of our passengers. I remembered to make announcements to keep them informed and to look them in the eye, smile and say I’m sorry. It made the situation so much easier.’”
Formulating an Implementation Plan
When making decisions about your customer service training implementation, there are many factors to consider:
How much time can we budget for this training?
What are our most pressing organizational needs?
Who needs training?
Are there any compliance issues that need to be addressed with this program?
Are we introducing totally new customer service training topics or are we replacing all existing material?
Will the new training complement our existing materials or will it overlap?
Do we have the skills in-house to deliver this training, or should we bring the expertise in?
Does anything need to be added to or removed from the new material to make it more appropriate for our system?
How does it link to our recruitment process and performance management system?
What are the financial and operational costs of running this program and of not running it?
Don’t forget to look to other transit systems for suggestions. It’s immensely useful to see other implementation plans to help shape your own. When you have the answers to these questions, you’ll be ready to start customizing your own customer service training program.