NEWARK, NJ — NJ TRANSIT saw a slight uptick in its customer satisfaction survey ratings for the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2012 compared to the baseline results, which are part of the agency’s “Scorecard” initiative to provide the public with a clear measurement of how the corporation is performing. However, at today’s regularly scheduled Board of Directors meeting, NJ TRANSIT Executive Director James Weinstein said that more needs to be done to improve overall customer satisfaction and highlighted some of the steps the agency is taking to that end.
“The customer satisfaction survey results are driving NJ TRANSIT’s understanding of what really matters to customers, enabling us to better respond to their needs and demands,” said Weinstein. “While these results show that overall we’re moving in the right direction, we need to continue to work to make meaningful changes and improvements that increase customer satisfaction.”
The first quarter surveys, which were conducted online at njtransit.com and in the field in August, asked bus, rail, light rail and Access Link customers to rate NJ TRANSIT on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is unacceptable, 5 is acceptable and 10 is excellent. Customers considered 39 attributes of the system related to facilities, service, vehicles, communications and the overall experience using NJ TRANSIT. In addition, customers were asked to identify the most important aspects of NJ TRANSIT service among the items they rated.
Of the approximately 417,000 customers who use NJ TRANSIT service on a typical weekday, NJ TRANSIT received nearly 15,000 responses to the online and field survey.
Regarding customer loyalty, approximately 68 percent of the customers surveyed said they would recommend NJ TRANSIT to a friend or relative (up from 67 percent from the baseline survey), and 60 percent choose to use NJ TRANSIT even though they have a personal vehicle available to make their trip, acknowledging that they make a conscious decision to use NJ TRANSIT service as their preferred method of transportation.
The latest survey also included new questions about customers’ cell phone and smart phone use, to help determine how NJ TRANSIT can best communicate with customers, and explore new ticket purchasing options. Of the customers surveyed, the overwhelming majority own cell phones, while more than half of them use smart phones.
Moving the Needle
Customers have identified communications during service disruptions as one of the most significant areas NJ TRANSIT needs to improve, according to feedback gathered from the surveys as well as from customer focus groups NJ TRANSIT recently conducted.
“As I’ve previously said, the Scorecard and customer surveys will put the spotlight on the areas we most need to improve,” said Weinstein. “We want customers to know that we are listening, and we want to do better, so we are developing and implementing improvements to address some of the issues customers have brought to our attention.”
To address this issue, NJ TRANSIT has convened a cross-functional working group of employees from various departments to develop recommendations for improvements that can be implemented in the short term, mid term and long term to better communicate with customers during service disruptions.
Below are some of the immediate steps NJ TRANSIT is taking to improve customer communications:
- Streamlining Internal Communications – NJ TRANSIT is streamlining internal communications processes to help ensure that key travel information is relayed to customers as quickly as possible, meaning that My Transit alerts and website updates will occur more immediately.
- Improving On-Board Announcements – NJ TRANSIT will begin tapping into new technology available on multilevel trains that enable onboard announcements to be made directly from the Rail Operations Center to customers on the train. Issuing announcements directly from the source helps to ensure that customers are receiving the most accurate, timely information possible.
- Introducing DepartureVision Countdown – Last week, NJ TRANSIT implemented an improvement to DepartureVision, a free service from njtransit.com that displays train departure screens on your desktop computer or web-enabled mobile device. Now, DepartureVision features a countdown to train arrival/departure under “Status” starting at 30 minutes, so customers can see at a glance exactly how much time they have to catch their train. The status field previously displayed the number of minutes a train was delayed.
- Conducting Post-Incident Customer Surveys – NJ TRANSIT will conduct e-mail surveys immediately following major service disruptions, asking customers specific questions about how well the agency did or did not communicate during the incident. This will enable NJ TRANSIT to target the specific areas that need improvement, whether they include station or onboard announcements, My Transit alerts, website updates or other areas.
“Our customers may not have gotten clear and consistent messages from NJ TRANSIT, but I assure you, we have gotten clear and consistent message from them,” said Weinstein. “We need to do a better job providing information when things go wrong.”
Customers rated their overall satisfaction with NJ TRANSIT service as “acceptable” or “satisfactory,” with a score of 5.3, a slight increase compared to the baseline survey’s overall rating of 5.2.
Customer satisfaction ratings on NJ TRANSIT’s four service modes are as follows:
- Bus customers rated their overall satisfaction with service at a 5.6, slightly higher than the 5.5 rating from the first survey. The most important areas for NJ TRANSIT to improve again included on-time performance, fares and the weekday PM peak and evening schedules. About 250,000 people use NJ TRANSIT’s interstate and local bus system on a typical weekday, representing 60 percent of all NJ TRANSIT customers.
- Rail customers gave NJ TRANSIT an overall score of 4.2, a slight decline from the baseline score of 4.5. Customers ranked on-time performance, fares, mechanical reliability, the handling of service disruptions and information during service disruptions as the most important attributes that need improvement. Approximately 130,000 customers ride NJ TRANSIT trains on a typical weekday, comprising about 31 percent of all NJ TRANSIT customers.
- Light Rail customers gave NJ TRANSIT an overall satisfaction rating of 6.7, an improvement over the baseline rating of 6.5. Customers indicated that fares, security, seating availability, safety and weekday evening schedules are the most important aspects of service to improve. About 31,000 customers use NJ TRANSIT’s three light rail lines on a typical weekday, making up about eight percent of total NJ TRANSIT customers.
- Access Link, NJ TRANSIT’s paratransit service for customers with disabilities, was given an overall rating of 8.1, higher than the previous score of 7.5. Access Link serves approximately 3,000 customers on a typical weekday.
Detailed survey results are available at njtransit.com/surveyresults.
NJ TRANSIT is using the survey results to target specific improvements needed to boost customer satisfaction. Surveys are being conducted quarterly so NJ TRANSIT can track results, with the next survey scheduled to launch in November.
“While we saw a slight increase in customer satisfaction overall compared to last quarter, we want to be more than simply ‘acceptable’ in the eyes of our customers,” said Weinstein. “In the areas where our scores declined, such as overall rail customer satisfaction, we need to zero in on what our customers are bringing to our attention so that we can move the needle and improve their experience on our system. We also encourage the continued participation of our customers in these surveys to let us know how we are doing.”
About NJ TRANSIT
NJ TRANSIT is the nation's largest statewide public transportation system providing more than 895,000 weekday trips on 240 bus routes, three light rail lines and 12 commuter rail lines. It is the third largest transit system in the country with 165 rail stations, 60 light rail stations and more than 18,000 bus stops linking major points in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia.