Providing Public Transportation
Alternatives for the Greater
Phoenix Metro Area
Inside the Ride

On the Line

“Valley Metro. This is Lenora. How may I help you?”

And so begins one of the more than 100,000 calls Valley Metro customer service representatives respond to each month on average.

Many of the calls are similar in nature yet each question is as unique as the rider on the other end of the line.

“I’m sitting at the bus stop. When does the 67 south arrive?”

“What is the next bus time for Route 10?”

“What is the earliest time I can catch the 56?

“What is the last bus tonight that will get me to 83rd Avenue and McDowell?

“How do I get from Gilbert Road to Hibbert and Main in Mesa?”

In just 30 minutes, on a recent Wednesday morning, Lenora answers 18 calls. Most of the calls were from riders wanting to know when the next bus arrives. Others ask which routes would get them to their destination around a certain time. A few inquire about Dial-a-Ride reservations and eligibility.

Diana Kebbekus, Valley Metro Customer Service Manager, says the most frequently asked question is simply “When will the bus arrive?”

“Nearly 90 percent of our calls fall into the categories of where is the next bus and how to get to their destination,” said Kebbekus.

To prepare for the intensity of being a Valley Metro Customer Service rep, they are trained to learn details of 100 bus routes that cover 512 square miles in the Valley. They must also master multiple software programs that includes route scheduling, ever-changing detours and comment tracking.

Thanks to Transportation 2050, many buses in the region will be arriving more often. The city of Phoenix will roll out the first major bus service improvements as a result of T2050, the 35-year transportation plan approved by voters. For riders, this means that routes will have expanded service hours on weekdays and increased frequency on weekends and longer hours for Customer Service reps.

To support additional hours, Valley Metro hired additional customer service reps, bringing the total number of staff to 58. All new reps have six weeks of intensive training, which includes shadowing experienced reps as they field various types of calls. Reps are also required to ride bus and light rail to better understand what passengers experience.

“The biggest challenge for our customer service representatives is the expectation that they know where everything is in the Valley,” said Kebbekus.

On average, calls are answered within 32 seconds. Some questions, like the arrival of the next bus, allows for a fast answer. Others are more complex, such as those inquiring about Dial-a-Ride eligibility. Representatives spend an average of two minutes on the phone with each caller.

Willie Marks is a Customer Service Supervisor who’s been with Valley Metro for 16 years. She believes the representatives understand and empathize with customers.

“Callers will say, ‘You’re in your office with nice air-conditioning. You don’t understand what it is like to wait for a bus.’ However, many of our representatives use the bus or rail to get to work,” said Marks. “They understand what riders go through.”

In fact, an estimated 70 percent of the customer service staff, like Lenora, use bus or rail to get to work. Kebbekus said representatives often base their schedule choice around the transit options available to them.

The customer service representatives also have experience on their side. On average, reps have been with Valley Metro for eight-and-a–half years. Kebbekus states most call center workers average just two years in the same job.

Because of the longevity, many reps know what’s going on in the system. They are familiar with what routes are the busiest and the most frequently asked questions. For nearly any inquiry the representatives are trained to ask lots of questions to address rider need.

So, it’s fitting that just as Lenora begins each call with a question, she also closes each call with the question of “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

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