Our table brainstormed how social media is used and could be used and looked at challenges, including understanding educating vs. advocating. There were a number of people at the table that have used social media to find people to tell our story: riders that love, support and rely on public transportation. And an easy time-saver for spreading transit's message via social media? "Sharing" or "retweeting" general transit-supportive messages from other agencies or suppliers. And while our table wanted an easy-to-access listing of elected officials, APTA Vice-President-Communications and Marketing Rosemary Sheridan pointed out to me after the session, APTA's website Public Transportation Takes Us There already has that resource! (So to everyone that was at my table, check out: http://napta.capwiz.com/election/home/!)
Providing for the Military
Something else new that's exciting to mention is an initiative that Parsons Brinckerhoff's Alice Wiggins-Tolbert, director, project development, has been passionate about is the Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative (VTCLI).
The Marketing & Communications Committee has created a VTCLI Task Force to help spread this message and Wiggins-Tolbert invited Erik Weber, member of the United We Ride team, to come and speak to the committee about this initiative.
Last summer the DOT joined with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Labor, Defense and Health and Human Services to establish this initiative to improve transportation options and mobility for America's veterans, service members and their families. Weber said meeting their needs is extremely important and the first round of funding for $30M was announced last year around Veterans Day and there will be a second round and more information can be found on the FTA's website.
Recognizing the Front Line
While the Call Center Challenge is not new, seeing the APTA president and APTA chair attending the entire event was. John Metzinger, marketing/development manager with CityBus in Lafayette, Ind., is chair of the Customer Service Challenge Task Force and explained that the Call Center Challenge was first initiated about five years ago at the Marketing Workshop in Orlando, Fla.
"The Call Center Challenge highlights the value and importance by recognizing customer service and it allows front-line employees to demonstrate their skills and shine," he said.
"The call center people – they're my heros," said APTA Chair and Dallas Area Rapid Transit President/Executive Director Gary Thomas. "When people call DART, these people are the voice of the agency; the operators are the face and these folks are the voice.
"They know how to help an upset person, to know how to solve their concern or to help them with a question." He stressed, "It amazes me they can do it hundreds of times a day and they always do it with enthusiasm."
And it's more than one challenge/event a year for these folks. Metzinger said that at the first challenge, "some participants made contact and shared best practices and they started a monthly conference call." And, it continues today through the National Transit Call Center Peer Group.
The National Transit Call Center Peer Group is open to any call center managers or supervisors who want to share best practices and get advice for challenges. If you or a staff member is interested, contact me and I'll get you in touch with the right person so you can be a part of this active group.
And congratulations to this year's Call Center Challenge winner: Gabrielle Rodriguez from MTA Long Island Rail Road!
Marketing: Something that Touches Every Department
Virginia Miller stressed about the workshop, "Not only are you learning from your peers, you get to meet people that understand the world you live." And it is a unique world for transit marketers and public information officers. As one PIO said with a smile, "W-T-F was created for PIOs."
A first-time attendee, and a new face in the transit industry is Kristy Torbik of Commuter Advertising who said she was happy to see how open and personable everyone in our industry is. "They're open to share ideas and wanting to share their ideas." And when it comes to finding solutions to transit marketing challenges, she said, "This all is so much better than anything you can Google."
Aaron Weinstein, BART department manager, marketing and research, said, "This is a great place for networking and being able to get information about what your peers are doing at their agencies." And with this industry having plenty of unique challenges, he said, " Let's use this advantage to its fullest."
"You don't have to recreate the wheel," Maxwell said. "Come here, get the tools that are available. Learn about the trade, meet people; we've all be through your problems."
Kalczuk agreed, adding, "We share challenges and have the same opportunities. We all benefit from our peers."