She adds, “We didn’t want to block him; we didn’t want to get into that.” IndyGo hasn’t blocked anyone and continues to contact those necessary directly and to deal with them one on one. “At that point they’re pretty desperate to be heard and we want to give that to them, but we don’t want to have a public exchange over Facebook or Twitter. We won’t go back and forth 10 times with somebody.”
BART Senior Web Producer Melissa Jordan says that having been engaged with riders early and having lines of communication open helps to be humanized and people to have trust that it’s not just a spin control sort-of-thing.
At the time of writing this, BART was dealing with a major service delay event in the system. “As we worked it to communicate through all our channels — not just social but email channels, on the website and through our SMS texting — as we worked to communicate this, we passed the 10,000 threshold of our Twitter followers,” says Jordan. “Even in times when you’re communicating negative information or information that’s not favorable for customers, they are seeing value in the channel and it just seems like a bit of an ironic way to pass 10,000.”
From Complainer to Champion
BART further explains that the negative commentators can turn into advocates for the system. One example it’s seen this is with the issue of 24-hour service, to which it has a place on the website where it explains the reasons why there isn’t 24-hour service available.
As Moore is explaining how customers create a network of people who inform their friends, Jordan pulls up a recent Facebook post where someone was asking again for 24-hour service. She says one of the recent comments was “24-hour service is impossible with only two tracks, they have to do maintenance.
“So just as he [Moore] says, customers are carrying the message for us and it has a little more credibility when it’s coming from non people-like-us.”
“I hate to say it, we’re borrowing influence from our customers and they can carry our message for us and it is so much more valuable,” says Moore.
Jordan adds, “And they’re real people; it’s authentic.”
“Our experience has been that even people who are critical, sometimes turn into an advocate or at least they’ll say they appreciated getting the answer or having their concerns listened to,” says Moore. “So being there, the negative feelings are going to be happening anyways. If you’re out there dealing with them and acknowledging them from your customers, you’re better off than just a wall of silence.”
Moving Past the Fear
“I think we experienced what other transit agencies experienced, too much of the hesitancy comes from the legal side, afraid of things like public disclosure and how you’re going to retain comments and do they become official public comment when somebody Tweets,” says Tim Healy, Sound Transit marketing & creative services manager.
He stresses, “Jaime is very confident about it and understanding it and that policy, so there’s a level of confidence in that she understands it, but they don’t have to.” Another way to raise the agency’s comfort level, Vogt says, is that up front on the platform, being clear about what the conversation means. “We try to do that on the front pages of our Facebook and Twitter pages, plus what level of service this interaction means.
“It’s not official public comment, that it’s a conversation and that goes into directing them to the right channels when they do want to say things more officially.”
TriMet’s Blevins says, “The old paradigm of just pushing information out is no longer acceptable to customers. They want, and expect, bilateral communication. They want to have a voice. They want to be heard.”