How the London Public Transport Service Manages Social Customer Service

By: Sofie De Beule

April 7, 2016

Transport For London, the UK capital’s transport network, deals with 24 million daily journeys of commuters and tourists. Many customers reach out via social media with questions and complaints while travelling across the city. Steven Gutierrez, Lead Social Media and Content Editor at Transport For London (TfL), coordinates the teams which provide news, customer service and disruption updates for London’s commuters and tourists across a range of social media platforms.

Steven will be taking the stage with us at the 2016 Social Customer Service Summit in London, April 13, hosted by Our Social Times. We chatted with him in the build-up to his session:

TfL handles a large volume of social customer service enquires. What is the scale of the challenge you face each month?

Gutierrez: A day at TfL is packed with queries from customers about travel options, fares and complaints. During planned closures or service disruption the amount of queries increases on top of the norm. On social media we get around 130,000 interactions a month mainly on Twitter and Facebook.

One of the most obvious challenges for transport providers is the volume of queries at peak times or when things go wrong. Do you have special processes or additional resources to help you cope at such times?

Gutierrez: Our service on Twitter is constant: various teams support customers with queries day and night. While many of us head home around 6pm most teams have shifts that continue up until 10pm so they can help customers during rush hour. The overnight shifts finish very early in the morning. The time of the crossover is designed so staff are available for commuters.

Are you integrating social media into a broader, omni-channel service strategy? If so, in which ways?

Gutierrez: Most feedback is passed on to the business in “themes”: we don’t tend to have “social media feedback, instead we use “fares feedback” or “bus driver feedback” about the different aspects of our business. A lot of social media feedback is analyzed holistically, so in that sense it’s multi-channel. The customer issue is the most important thing, not how the customer chooses to communicate it. Social media can be an excellent way of learning what customers are feeling. Monitoring what people are saying is really important to us, so that’s what we focus on.

What’s the most interesting new development or innovation you’re seeing in social customer service that could improve the customer experience?

Gutierrez: I think it’s really important that the industry develops tools to help organisations understand huge volumes of images and videos. The prominence of platforms like Instagram and photos on Facebook and Twitter means visual analysis is going to be very important.

We are doing an okay job with analysing text, but need more help with the huge amount of visual feedback – images and videos – customers share daily. It would be great if we could direct visual feedback straight to the relevant team. At the moment we have to watch the whole video or look at the photos and then send it through to the right department. The quicker we can do this task the faster we can help customers.

The interview previously appeared on the 2016 social Customer Service Summit.