Muni customer service needs improvement, report finds

Any Muni rider who’s filed a complaint with the transportation agency knows it can be a daunting, confusing task — however, that may soon change.

Last Tuesday, the City Controller’s Office released a report with 41 recommendations on how Muni can expedite their customer care. The report said the agency currently spends thousands of hours processing its passenger service requests (PSRs) annually:

“The SFMTA spends over 10,000 hours per year processing and investigating PSRs…”

The report was presented to the SFMTA’s Policy and Governance Committee last Friday by staff from the controller’s office.

The controller’s office interviewed 23 SFMTA employees from 16 departments, received feedback from six transit divisions and surveyed 15 customers. The office also surveyed other transit agencies in the Bay Area and throughout the country.

According to the report, most passenger service requests related to Muni come from The City’s 311 system either online or by phone. Of the million or so requests SF311 receives yearly, 20,000 of those are Muni-related.

Of these tickets, about 60 percent of requests are about operator conduct, while 40 percent have been about Muni service.

The transit agency also handles complaints or inquiries from its Twitter handle @sfmta_muni.

After a rider files a complaint to SF311, the request transfers to Muni Customer Service for review. If the request cannot be resolved, it’s transferred to another SFMTA group who further investigates the ticket.

The transit agency’s communications department has been handling the complaints since July 1, 2015.

Candace Sue, director of communications and marketing for the SFMTA, said the process has been unsatisfying for everyone, from customers to the transit agency staff.

Some of the improvement recommendations include using customized scripts for frequently asked questions, integrating Muni-related complaints to the SF311 mobile app, and having passenger service requests closed by Muni Customer Service first before moving the request to other SFMTA groups.

The report suggests Muni Customer Service should increase its rate of resolving requests, which currently sits at 32 percent.

One example the report gave was how transit division only closed 39 percent of forwarded passenger service requests because an operator could not be identified or the complaint did not violate any Muni rules.

According to the report, Muni Customer Service could have been first — and only — point of contact, without having to forward these tickets to other agency groups.

Another recommendation from the report is to improve how the staff pulls video footage from the Video Surveillance Unit. The report indicated that there was no way to check the status of the footage:

“The availability of video footage is critical information for multiple process participants, but there is currently no way to check the status of a video pull or verify whether a PSR has already had a video pull requested.”

The report recommends the transit agency track its passenger service requests, including the number of customers who receive a response within five days, the percent of operator-related requests with vehicle or employee ID number, the percent of passenger service requested closed by Muni Customer Service and overall customer satisfaction.

SFMTA spokesperson Kristen Holland gave a presentation on what the transit agency is already doing to improve the passenger service process.

Holland said the transit agency has made improvements on investigation notes by Muni Customer Service staff members, closed incomplete passenger service requests and is launching a new tool for the Video Surveillance Unit to track requests and availability of videos.

Transit officials have also started a public campaign inside Muni buses and trains.

Muni riders may have noticed pamphlets and posters inside Muni buses and trains informing riders what information riders should note when filing a SF311 complaint. This includes the bus or train number, date, time location and route.

Transit agency officials have also has begun making the hearing process for American Disabilities Act complaints more efficient and creating a schedule to regularly train employees on Trapeze, the system that contains the passenger service requests.

San Francisco resident Edward Mason said during public comment that the vehicle ID numbers were difficult to read both inside and outside of Muni buses and light rail vehicles, specifically at night.

Read the full report on the City Controller’s website.