Transit agencies need a positive image in the eyes of the community to provide better service to their customers. A variety of tactics are used alone and in combinations to meet these objectives. Many agencies have done some amazing things and four share success stories that may stir your own ideas.
WEB SITE DESIGN IMPROVES COMMUNICATION
The Web site reflects the image of the agency to your riders, it delivers information, and it provides effective communication. Doran Barnes, executive director, and Felicia Friesema, marketing and communications manager, share their recent experience of Web site redesign for Foothill Transit in West Covina, Calif.
It's not just about creating a prettier site. The Web site can provide a wealth of information for the riders, vendors, customers, media and, in return, it can provide the agency with information. The success of the Web site can be looked at as an investment in terms of improving communication with a variety of audiences. Barnes explains, "It's both a communication enhancement tool and it's a way to manage costs. Given the resource challenges we all face in the industry, we've got to be looking to do both of those things."
With resources from capital funding Foothill Transit hired a private firm to help redesign the site for the 2005 launch. It took between six and nine months of intense planning to create the more interactive site. Friesema explains, "We looked at hundreds of Web sites to look at some of the latest technologies that would make it a more interactive experience and a more accessible experience for all our customers. It wasn't so much that the content changed but how it was presented."
A key feature was the backend system that allows multiple people to update various parts of the site. "Planning has control over updating the schedules, the HR department has direct control over updating job descriptions and our community outreach coordinator has control over the calendar functions that announce local events," Friesema says. With multiple users logging in to the Web site to make the necessary changes, no one person is responsible for monitoring all of the necessary changes so information stays up-to-date.
Barnes explains how the new site has features that help both vendors and riders. "By having our vendors enter information through the Web site and identify where they can be of service to us, having that all automated really saves a lot of time in terms of the staff work that has to happen in our procurement department," he states.
"From a customer standpoint, the thing I like about it is customers can access system information 24 hours a day, seven days a week no matter where they are." Barnes adds, "It doesn't cost us anything in terms of having a staff member provide that information."
Communication, planning and involving everyone in the process were the three key strategies that proved the most benefi cial in this process. "As with any project where you are working with many people, trying to come up with a single vision of how you want something to come out, there are always communication challenges in making sure that what is actually created is what you talked about," Friesema stresses.
A good working relationship with the outside firm assured things ran smoothly. Friesema says, "They understood both the technical terminology and our laymen interpretation of that particular technology enough that when we said one thing we actually meant another."
Having all departments of the staff involved ensures better communication about the project. "It's important to make sure as you're going through the process… you bring in the people that are going to be working on it to see that it does everything that they want it to do," Friesema says.