A call center agent at Metro.
How do they do that? is a series for The Source that explores the technology that helps keep Metro running and passengers and other commuters moving. Some of it applies directly to the trains, buses and freeways and some of it runs in the background — invisible to nearly everyone but essential to mobility in our region.
How do Metro’s call center agents find all the right trip planning answers for 8,000 customers per day?
The men and women of Metro’s call center at 323-GOMETRO (323-466-3876) always seem to have the right answers. The weird thing is that they are using the Metro Trip Planner — the same tool that we use — and coming up with much better routes.
Each day, Metro’s 20 to 55 (depending on the time of day) customer information agents answer about 8,000 calls, plus 200 texts from riders seeking assistance with bus and rail trip planning. The most common question, not surprisingly, is how to get from point A to point B. The second most common: When will the next bus arrive … the same information available on Metro’s Nextrip tool.
Questions are answered in English and Spanish but there also are staff members who speak German, French and Tagolin and the call center is currently working to increase the number of languages spoken to help additional customers.
Monday through Friday the call center is open from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The best times to call are generally midday, since peak question periods generally run 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Text message queries are answered between 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
The call center staff is located at Metro Headquarters in downtown Los Angeles but handles calls from all over the region. Not only do they answer questions about Metro’s 183 bus routes and five rail lines, but call center agents provide route, schedule and fare information for approximately 70 transit agencies in and around Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. These include the Big Blue Bus, Foothill Transit, Santa Clarita Transit, Orange County Transit, San Bernardino Omnitrans, Riverside Transit Authority and Simi Valley Transit.
And they do all this in less than 2 minutes and 30 seconds — the average length of each phone call.
How do they find great routes we can’t seem to find on our own? The answer is education, plus a handy tool that lets them override the Trip Planner computer’s answer if they want to try something creative or that integrates a particular customer route request.
Agents also undergo an extensive four- to six-week training period, both in class and on the job. And — not a small thing — they are searching and studying the streets and pathways of L.A. County all day, every day, and in the process learning the easiest and best travel routes. The good news for the rest of us is that they are happy to share.