WASHINGTON — Metro will finally respond to riders’ concerns on social media on a regular basis starting this summer, and a separate new hire beginning this week will lead the round-the-clock track work program that began this month.
Laura Mason, formerly a Bechtel executive, is now the leader of Metro’s special track work program. She has an engineering degree and MBA. Bechtel was a key player in construction of the first phase of the Silver Line.
On social media, four new people who begin training at Metro this week will work out of Metro’s call center in Hyattsville, Maryland, to respond to riders’ concerns about detours, delays or other issues.
Each of the four has experience dealing with online interactions for businesses, said Lynn Bowersox, Metro’s customer service head.
“This is a new job description at WMATA. These folks are coming from the private sector, they have special skills and experience that nobody else in our call center has had,” she said.
Although Metro has been more engaging on Twitter lately than in the recent past, the actual launch of the 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. customer service initiative will not begin until a software upgrade is finally completed on Metro computers.
“Implementing the technology this summer that will allow us to not only engage in social media channels, but receive pictures from customers when they see something going on in the system, engage in chats with multiple customers at once, and then track those communications and be able to develop trends from them,” Bowersox said.
That could lead to more immediate fixes for any consistent issues that riders encounter each day.
“I think that it has taken more time than we hoped to get to this point, but we’re very optimistic that we’re on schedule now for this summer, and being able to start supporting that level of support for customers online before Labor Day,” Bowersox said.
Despite hundreds of tweets with #WMATA each day, based on surveys taken by some of the few thousand riders who have signed up for Metro’s internal system known as Amplify, Metro does not believe its Twitter accounts are the most important form of communication.
“We’re doing our best, but we also have many many other channels of communication that we support,” Bowersox said.
She cited the Metro website, emails and phone calls as other forms of communications that Metro emphasizes.
“But this is a Twitter town to be sure,” she said.
“We have to use our resources wisely, I think, to make sure that we’ve positioned our communicators where the customers are. The majority of them are not on Twitter,” she added.
For example, many phone calls to Metro’s service center come from bus riders, Bowersox said.