The TTC Needs a Marketing Makeover

If you live in or near Toronto you've undoubtedly heard about the Toronto Transit Commission's (TTC) recent blunders: sleeping employees, rude drivers stopping traffic and commuters for a coffee break, leadership problems, and raise hikes. The public is angry, and rightly so. It's hard to find anyone who speaks highly of the service they receive in any capacity from the TTC. As public sentiment reaches an all time low, the TTC marcomm team and the newly formed Customer Service Advisory Panel have a serious uphill hike ahead of them. While the climb may be an arduous one, it is not impossible, and the rewards at the top are well worth the ongoing efforts. Think of how much the commission would stand to earn if the public actually believed in, and wanted to use, its services. Below are some ideas that the TTC (and the panel) should consider as they strap on their climbing gear:

1. Take advantage of the public's desire to communicate their frustrations. Tap into the channels they are using, listen to what they are saying, and actually respond, taking their ideas, comments and frustrations into account. Showing a little bit of genuine empathy can go a long way.

2. Be more transparent. Give an honest and ongoing account of where the TTC fees are going. Be honest about hikes, wages, and time lines for improvements. I don't mind paying a little bit more or being slightly inconvenienced if I understand the reason behind it. Include a section on the website that shows what is going on—think graphics and visuals. I don't want to read heavy text. Seeing is believing.

3. Use mobile communication applications and programs to highlight and reward the best drivers and penalize the worst. With the popularity of smartphones and location-based apps, it is easy for riders to weigh in on their drivers and experiences in real time. I have had some amazing drivers who absolutely deserve to be rewarded, and others who really shouldn't be allowed to deal with people at all. Why not set up a public system to track this?

4. Nominate someone to be the official "Face of the TTC". This figure should be someone the public trusts as a liaison between public needs and the inner workings of the commission. The customer service advisory panel is a great start, but there is a need for something longer term.

5. Make your marketing programs cost-effective. Use social media platforms and online sites to distribute communications and facilitate marketing programs. I want to know that my money is going in large part to improving the service, not the image.

These are just a few ideas; other cities like New York have set up multiple social media platforms and actually respond to questions and interact with their audience—check out New York City Transit's Twitter feed and Facebook page, which actually has discussion and feedback. They have also opened up their data so that community members can design apps. They host contests for best apps each year and feature different ones on their website regularly. In contrast, I can't even find the TTC social sites on their website (@TTCnotices and @bradTTC - Director of Communications).

What do you think? How would you change the TTC if you were given the ability to do so?