New York City Transit Keeps Customer Service Costs on Track

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Customer Service
Customer Service

Getting around New York isn't always easy, so the MTA New York City Transit devised a way to improve the customer experience-and reduce live agent customer service calls in the process.

Visitors and commuters riding New York City's subways and buses no longer need to wait on hold to speak to a customer service representative when they call in for advice on getting around the city. Instead they can opt to use an interactive voice response system, accessible by landline or mobile device. "The Trip Planner Voice system acts as a virtual customer service agent," says Greg Bullock, senior director of systems administration for customer services at MTA New York City Transit.

Initially offered online, Trip Planner (www.tripplanner.mta.info) accesses New York City Transit's Automated Travel Information Service to provide directions via train and bus, fare information, walking distances, scheduled connections, route schedule information, and notification of planned service changes. Trip Planner Voice operates by synthesizing a triad of informational technologies: voice recognition by Nuance Communications, traveler information provided by Trapeze Group, and unified communications from Aspect. The technologies work together to identify callers' voice commands and then return an itinerary planner that offers the same information available online.

According to Nuance Communications Senior Project Manager Bobbi Manian, Trip Planner Voice has increased customer satisfaction among callers to New York City Transit. "It allows people to self-serve. Rather than waiting in a queue to talk to an agent, they can talk anytime, from anywhere, plan a trip, or plan multiple trips," says Manian, adding that that customers are more comfortable using all of Trip Planner's capabilities via the automated system because they don't feel as if they're inconveniencing a person.

Currently, about 20 percent of the 4,000 to 5,000 calls New York City Transit receives per day access Trip Planner Voice. The MTA expects that percentage to increase as the system's effectiveness improves. At present, callers speaking to the system are recorded so the voice system can be adjusted to recognize common synonyms, slang, and popular phrasing. Additionally, although the service is available only in English at this time, a Spanish version is in the works.

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