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Reducing Contact Centers, Phone Numbers to Help Cut New York's MTA Costs

January 19, 2010

A new report by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, based in New York City, Making Every Dollar Count, has identified customer service including contact centers and phone numbers as several areas to target for streamlining and cost reduction.

The report pointed to the MTA having 92 different phone numbers for customer information, and five separate contact centers. Also, almost 20 percent of the MTA’s administrative workforce is devoted to information services/technology.
The MTA is North America’s largest transit agency, carrying over 8.7 million customers each weekday on 422 subway, commuter rail and bus routes, is facing a budget crunch resulting from the economic downturn that has slashed incomes from tax revenues and from lowered state aid. The MTA board approved a budget in December 2009 that spanned a $383 million gap by service reductions, slashing student transit discounts and administrative savings.
New York City and the region have been hit hard from the economic storm which has especially whipsawed the financial services and media industries located there, the latter also being restructured with the shift from print to the Internet. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the region’s jobless rate jumped to 8.9 percent in November 2009 from 6.0 percent in November 2008, and to 9.9 percent in New York City alone from 6.6 percent there a year earlier.
The new MTA report is a self-assessment and plans for improvement by agency chair Jay Walder of his 100 days on the job. Included in it are plans that could help the agency shrink contact centers and supporting communications infrastructure and staff, say observers, by reducing call volumes. These include:
  • Customer Information Signs will be activated in 75 subway stations in 2010. In 2011, this same information system will be operational at all of the stations on the 1-6 subway lines
  • By March 2010, next commuter train information will be available online – via smartphone and web – for service to and from all LIRR and mainline Metro-North stations
  • Pilot testing bus arrival information systems from several vendors, to enable rollout of a system beginning in mid-2011. The full system will ultimately include on-board bus announcements and signs, display signs at bus stops and hubs (in partnership with New York City Department of Transportation) and a web application for desktops, handheld devices and smartphones.
“When I started in October [2209], I expected this report to talk about plans for finally starting to catch up with the rest of the world, and it does,” said Walder. “But I barely had my feet on the ground when the state’s economic crisis hit the MTA hard. It’s clear that my first priority right now must be to attack the MTA’s cost structure and ensure we are using every dollar effectively. At the same time, we must find affordable ways to improve service for customers who have been waiting far too long. Making every dollar count – that’s the only way we can restore the MTA’s credibility and continue improving service in difficult times.”

Brendan B. Read is ContactCenterSolutions’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan