How New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority Keep Customer Communications Moving

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Why CRM? The MTA provides transportation to more than 8 million customers across 5,000 square miles in the New York City area every day. We operate five major agencies, including the two largest commuter rail services in the Western Hemisphere. So we need an efficient, effective, and timely way to communicate with our customers. When did you first implement CRM? We had been planning to move forward with CRM for some time, but we had a major budget crunch towards the end of 2003, and that prompted us to solicit input from our customers in a major way. That's when we deployed RightNow Service as our CRM platform. The MTA has a long-established practice of actively seeking customer input on all proposed changes in fares and reductions in transit services. Historically, we have solicited this input by holding multiple public hearings, and asking the public to send us their opinions via correspondence. The launch of the email/FAQ feature was intended to supplement this menu of options.
What were your key criteria for selecting a CRM vendor? RightNow came out on top of our RFP process, because it offered a straightforward, customer-friendly system. It had a good track record with other public agencies, including the New York Department of Motor Vehicles, and it kept a clear focus on our core needs. We were also attracted to its hosting model, which would ease implementation and accelerate time-to-benefit. How did you gain executive and user buy-in? Senior management was behind the CRM push, so we started off with strong support. One of the things RightNow was able to do because of its hosting model was quickly build a pilot system that we could use as a proof-of-concept. That demo made it immediately obvious to everyone what the system could do for us, and they got very excited about it. We also got the individual agency heads or their designees together as a team so we could see how to best work together to ensure a successful and timely implementation. What were the key challenges or obstacles and how did you overcome them? We launched the RightNow CRM system at the height of a budget crisis and fare increase, when there was a lot of customer interest in our proposed solutions. We used the RightNow system to facilitate the presentation of three alternatives to balance the MTA's budget shortfall. The RightNow feature enabled customers to "cast their votes" on which option they preferred, and these comments became a central component of our decision-making process. Once they saw that we were sincerely trying not to be an opaque, impersonal bureaucracy, they began to embrace the system and sent us 4,000 emails in less than a month. What were the main rewards and results of using CRM? We made FAQs and correspondence available to customers online 24 hours a day. As a result, call volume has been significantly reduced, email response times now average less than 24 hours, and we have gained greater insight into customers' top concerns. Additionally, we have enhanced our organizational transparency to the riding public. What are your future plans? We want to start using RightNow Metrics to more aggressively gather actionable information about customer satisfaction and issues. Lessons Learned
  • Consistency of policies and procedures across the organization is important for an enterprisewide CRM rollout. That standardization has benefits for our individual agencies, as well as for the MTA as a whole.
  • By having a Web-based information and communication system, we were able to link an email form to the budget option descriptions customers could vote on. Consequently, they could craft comments while reading the option descriptions. Because I read every comment, we were then able to publish additional FAQs to further explain our financial plan.
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