Staff Report #3 – Voice of the Customer

Staff Report #3

October 30, 2019

To All Commissioners

Re: Voice of the Customer


That the Commission APPROVE the deferral of the 2019 Voice of the Customer survey to 2020, subsequent to a review of the program including, but not limited to the timing and frequency of same.


One of the guiding principles set out in the 2015-2018 Business Plan, and carried over to the 2019-2022 Business Plan is to be customer-focused – striving every day to improve the customer experience. A fundamental step in this endeavour is to ensure that every decision made is viewed not only from a business perspective, but also from the customer’s perspective.

In an effort to gain a better understanding of the perspectives of London Transit customers, the Voice of the Customer survey program was launched in 2016, with two survey waves completed in July and December of that year. After reviewing the two waves of data, it was determined that the more appropriate time to conduct the annual surveys going forward would be in November, noting the ridership make-up and service conditions during this period would be the most reflective of service realities, and it provided the opportunity to assess customer satisfaction post the annual September service changes. The 2017 survey was completed in November and the 2018 survey was completed in January 2019 given a scheduling conflict with the contractor. The 2018 survey also marked the first year for the Voice of Customer survey to be conducted for Specialized Transit customers.

As indicated earlier, the Voice of the Customer surveys, which are conducted on-board buses, are intended to provide insight into the priorities and perspectives of the customer base. The table below sets out the priorities identified by London Transit’s conventional service customers over the three survey years.

Voice of the Customer Surveys – Conventional Service

Priority Ranking
Service Priority 2016 2017 2018
Buses arrive on time 1 1 1
Service Availability (hours) 5 2 2
Route Coverage 2 5 3
Travel Time 6 4 4
Safety on Buses 8 6 5

As indicated in the table, the top priorities of London Transit customers has remained relatively consistent over the three survey years, with on-time performance ranking first in all surveys undertaken. The following table sets out the level of customer satisfaction with the top five priorities in each of the survey waves.

Voice of the Customer Surveys – Conventional Service

Level of Satisfaction
Service Priority 2016 2017 2018 Trend
Buses arrive on time 59% 52% 49% Decrease
Service Availability (hours) 80% 78% 83% Increase
Route Coverage 81% 79% 77% Decrease
Travel Time 74% 78% 76%
Safety on Buses 85% 88% 86%

Over the period of 2016 through 2018, the annual service changes put in place each September were focussed on the top four priorities. With approximately 18,000 additional service hours added each year, overall system improvements to service availability, route coverage and travel time were accomplished; however, the improvements over the period are not reflected in the customer perceptions captured in the surveys. Improvements were also targeted each year to address on-time performance issues; however, the number and nature of construction projects over this period, focussed primarily in/near the downtown core and extending from April through December each year, have severely impacted the ability to keep the service on time. The 2019 construction season was similar in nature, and coupled with the new bike lane on King Street, resulted in severe impacts to the overall transit service.

As indicated earlier, the 2018 Voice of the Customer program was extended to include the specialized service for the first time. While the overall intent of the survey was to determine customer priorities and levels of satisfaction with each, this survey also included a number of specific questions regarding various service policies intended to gauge the customer’s understanding and/or satisfaction with each. The service priorities identified by the respondents and levels of satisfaction with each are set out in the table below.

2018 Voice of the Customer – Specialized Service

Service Priority Survey Ranking Level of Satisfaction
Trip Availability 1 72%
Buses arrive on time 2 84%
Availability of booking agents 3 51%
Friendly Drivers 4 93%
Safety on buses 5 94%

The additional questions with respect to awareness of programs or policies specific to the specialized service revealed that 88% of customers were aware of the no-show policy, 66% were aware of the off-peak pass program, and only 36% had ever utilized the accessible conventional service in London. The information will be utilized for planning policy reviews on the specialized service as part of the work program creation.

The 2018 surveys for both the conventional and specialized services were utilized as key input into the 2019-2022 Business Plan, which includes being customer-focussed as a guiding principle. One of the key takeaways from the survey assessment was the continued negative trends in customer perception on service priorities that had been identified and addressed in whole or in part, over multiple service plans. While it is recognized that service adjustments will never be able to make every customer happy, many of the changes made in 2017 and 2018 were wide-ranging enough that they should have made positive impacts to the broader customer base. This further reinforced the concern that appropriate resources had not been directed at stakeholder communications and needed to be included in the plan going forward, it further supported the need for a review of the Voice of the Customer program, and that simply making changes is not enough to shift customer perception.

The report recommendation calls for a deferral of the 2019 Voice of the Customer Survey as well as a review of the Voice of the Customer program. The review of the program is intended to assess the following:

  • the most appropriate timing for the survey to be undertaken, noting concern has been raised that the November timing is too close to the September service changes
  • the most appropriate frequency for the survey to be undertaken
  • the most appropriate manner for the survey to be undertaken (i.e. continue with third party or move in-house)
  • the manner in which programs are identified in an effort to shift customer perceptions
  • where the program fits into longer-term plans for enhanced corporate communications including increased options for stakeholder consultation

During the Business Plan development process, a number of key initiatives that span the period of 2019-2022 were identified in support of the customer-focus principle. The continued growth of both the conventional and specialized services in terms of available resources to serve the customer base are two of the primary initiatives that will address this principle; however, what also became clear was the general lack of awareness by all stakeholder groups, of the value that a quality public transit system brings to the community and of the many improvements that have been made to the services over the past number of years. As such, another initiative included in the 2019-2022 Business Plan is an increased marketing and awareness campaign. The first phase of this initiative was launched in the fall of 2019 with the “Your Transit” campaign that is currently in bus shelters across the City and utilized on corporate social media accounts. This is intended to be an extended campaign that will continue over the period of the Business Plan.

In addition to the enhanced marketing campaign, an initiative to enhance overall corporate communications is also included in the Business Plan. 2018 saw the rollout of corporate social media accounts which provided a mechanism to reach a specific demographic; however, it is recognized that in order to effectively reach all demographics, additional methods and strategies around communications will need to be explored and implemented. Focus during this business planning period will be assessing and implementing new and different ways of engagement both externally (customers and stakeholders) as well as internally (with employees).

In addition to the Voice of the Customer program review, 2020 will see a focus on alternative methods of customer engagement/feedback and assessment of same, which may impact the decisions with respect to the Voice of the Customer program going forward.

Recommended by:

Kelly S. Paleczny, General Manager