Customer service training coming for New Jersey toll collectors

Customers have spoken and the New Jersey Turnpike Authority (NJTA) has listened. The NJTA claims to have very few customer complaints, 1 for every 540,000 transactions. But a public din arose recently when several dozen of these complaints were posted on the website of a local news organization.

The outcome is, the NJTA has developed an action plan to improve customer service. Isn’t it wonderful what a little transparency will do for an organization?

I applaud the NJTA for taking this bull by the horns and committing to improvement. Here are some of their specific plans with my comments and suggestions to be even more successful.

1. Annual customer service training

“Greatly increasing the frequency of customer service training for toll collectors. An annual training program will be instituted over the next six weeks. Previously, employees received training when they were hired and were retrained only if there were specific complaints about their performance.”

My comments:

Annual training is a step in the right direction but it’s often not enough.It depends on what else they do to help employees remain focused and motivated on providing better service.

2. Supervisor training

“Retraining toll supervisors about their role in ensuring quality customer service. Their effectiveness at enforcing customer service policies and procedures will be given added weight in their evaluations.”

My comments:

Great idea! Customer service starts at the top. It’s everyone’s job, including supervisors.

I would ask, what is upper management adding to their responsibilities to ensure this effort is successful Don’t put the whole burden on staff and supervisors.

3. Tracking complaints

“Tracking complaints monthly to determine if a disproportionate number come from any particular location or any particular time of day or day of the week. Those results will be posted on employee bulletin boards at all tolls facilities.”

My comments:

Excellent plan! The more transparent you can be in communicating customer feedback, the better. Employees need to know what their customers are saying. Keep the information flowing and open.

4. Surprise inspections

“Creating an “Integrity Compliance Team” to perform random, surprise inspections at all toll plazas.”

My comments:

Surprise inspections might work for some employees but they are short term. They are based on the “stick” method of management. Employees will deliver better customer service, for the long term, if they are motivated to and if they have specific skills to do so.

5. Recognition

“Recognizing individual toll collectors and entire toll plazas for exemplary customer service.”

My comments:

It’s always a good idea to recognize people for outstanding performance. Make sure the recognition is more than just once a year. And make it relevant and meaningful to those being recognized. Not everyone wants their face in the company newsletter.

6. Employee professionalism

“Exploring ideas for creating a greater sense of professionalism among toll collectors.”

My comments:

I like this if it means helping employees want to deliver better customer service. Internal motivation will always beat external. So this plan should look for ways to help employees see the personal value in helping others.

Some suggestions:

  • Make it personal by having them discuss what good customer service means to them
  • Use stories that have high emotional content, so they are memorable
  • Share positive examples of customer service.
  • Help employees catch each other in the act of deliver great customer service
  • Have employees participate in creating a picture of what good service is for their role
  • Post reminders of that picture
  • Use daily motivators like quotes or examples of great service

The NJTA has done the right thing and they are moving in the direction they should. Because this is being driven by top management, it has a strong chance of succeeding. But top management needs to continue to make it a priority, They cannot just implement and forget.

An they need to make sure their employees learn to be motivated internally to deliver better customer service.  This will help ensure a lasting and successful customer service improvement effort.

What suggestions would YOU offer to the NJTA to improve their customer service?

The article was written by Kevin Stirtz