Sometimes the best laid plans don’t work out right. There are lessons to be learned, especially from failures.
In a previous article on my blog called How to Handle Customer Satisfaction Issues – Public Forums, the opportunity for an organization to dialogue with its customers was highlighted. The Toronto Transit commission in Toronto, Canada, was struggling with customer dissatisfaction over fare hikes and service quality problems. Customers reacted by publicizing pictures and videos of transit workers asleep on the job or taking long unscheduled breaks.
The transit workers complained to their union because they felt like they were working in a ‘fish bowl’, constantly on display and at the mercy of customers with cell phone cameras. A Facebook fan page was created and transit workers posted pictures of consumers exhibiting poor behavior. For a time, the Facebook fan page was public and further enraged the conflict between transit workers and transit riders.
In an effort to appease the consumers, the union announced that they would hold 3 public forums across the city where the transit workers would answer questions from and listen to dissatisfaction from the public. Ample space was provided in the meeting room and an overflow room was available.
The first meeting of the Toronto Transit workers with Transit riders took place recently. The idea was good but the execution failed.
The union and transit workers were at the meeting but the parent organization, the Toronto Transit Commission were permitted to attend as observers but not able to respond to the questions from the public.. The union organized the meeting and was unwilling to share the ‘stage’ with Transit officials. This was clearly a mistake. Without the organization responsible for the decisions being made, the public was left to talk to workers, who were unable to address many policy issues and decisions that transit workers would not be able to account for. The Chairman of the Toronto Transit Commission told reporters that that the public would have the opportunity to ask management questions at a later time. What a waste!
This lack of teamwork between the transit union and transit management is one of the key root causes of the problems transit riders are experiencing.
The questions asked during the conciliatory session demonstrate why the union and management need to work together.
1. Why buses and streetcars arrived late and then, after a long wait, arrive in bunches.
2. Who made the decision to order new buses with a step up to the back seating causing problems for people with strollers, who then blocked access to the rear?
3. Why don’t the TTC drivers ask people to take off bulky backpacks?
4. Why don’t fare machines work?
Clearly some of these questions could not be answered by the transit union.
Two more town halls are planned by the Union at various locations around the city but it is doubtful that they will be more constructive than the first one without active participation by both union and management.
Having a public forum to discuss consumer issues was a good idea but the execution failed.
What is your opinion? Leave your comments below.