A simple first step to improving Bay Area transit

No transit agency in the Bay Area has a Chief Customer Officer of customer experience department, and it shows.

No transit agency in the Bay Area has a Chief Customer Officer of customer experience department, and it shows.

What if transit agencies approached customer experience the way that successful customer-focused companies, like Southwest Airlines or Trader Joe’s, do?

Following the lead of the corporate world, an increasing number of North American transit agencies have a “Chief Customer Officer” and customer experience departments to improve how customers are treated and make transit more customer-focused.

We compiled a list of the North American transit agencies we’re aware of that have a Chief Customer Officer or an equivalent role.* New Jersey Transit and The ATL (Atlanta) are the most recent additions to the list, having created the positions in 2019.

Not surprisingly, we found that none of the Bay Area’s 27+ transit agencies have this position or even staff dedicated to strategically improving overall customer experience. Contrast this to emerging “new mobility” and ridesharing companies that have armies of user experience designers seeking to optimize their products to be as pleasant and hassle-free as possible.

Chief Customer Officers create senior level accountability for customer experience and ensure that all the divisions of a large organization are strategically working toward the same customer objectives. Large, bureaucratic organizations can easily lose touch with the customer perspective, and increasingly operate based on internal considerations that have nothing to do with serving customers well.

This is often the case for public transit agencies, which can at times appear completely immune to rider complaints and frustratingly slow to change practices and adapt to change. While lack of funding is clearly an obstacle for transit agencies, lack of an adaptive, strategic, and customer-oriented business culture also to blame.

Seamless Bay Area believes establishing senior level accountability for customer experience at Bay Area transit agencies, starting with creating the role of Chief Customer Officer, is an important first step to reorienting business practices and making transit agencies more responsive to riders’ needs.

What Bay Area transit agency will lead the way and be the first to be added to our list?

* Please let us know at info@seamlessbayarea.org if we missed any and we will update our list.