March 23, 2011

Web Extra: Maryland launches interactive voice response option for paratransit service


Courtesy MTA Mobility Services


The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) recently launched Mobility Direct, an interactive voice response (IVR) telephone option designed to help MTA Mobility Services patrons, among other things, manage their accounts, receive reminder calls and cancel scheduled pickups. The service is available by touch-tone telephone 24 hours a day and is being offered by the MTA in addition to live operator assistance from Mobility call center agents.

The IVR system offers a myriad of benefits to the Mobility customer base as well as the Mobility management team, with customers afforded a level of flexibility never held before, explained Sharon Smith, director of Mobility Services for MTA.

"For example, customers can dial in and access the IVR to get information regarding pre-scheduled trips. Some of our current calls are from customers who forgot some of the details regarding their trip — pick-up window, return time, etc. With the implementation of the IVR, customers can access that information quickly and with ease," she said. "IVR will also play a huge role in assisting in the reduction of no-shows. When the Mobility vehicle arrives, the operator will push the arrival button, which triggers a telephone call to the customer to say that the Mobility vehicle is outside — please make your way to the vehicle. The IVR will also assist with late cancellations."

Additionally, each night customers receive reminder calls about trips scheduled for the next day. If the customer no longer needs that ride, they can then simply cancel the service. The early cancellation helps Mobility Services better manage the service, thus saving time and money as well as increasing efficiency, according to Smith.

Access to Mobility Direct is limited to registered MTA Mobility customers, who need to enter their Mobility ID number and their date of birth. While Mobility Direct can handle a variety of functions that used to be available only by speaking to a call center agent, callers are not limited to automated features and a live operator is available at any time for assistance.

In the next few months, the MTA will launch the companion piece to the IVR — Pass Web, which will allow customers to book their trips online.

"Rather than call into the Mobility Call Center to schedule trips, the customer will be able to do that independently. No more waiting for someone to assist," said Smith. "The affect will be the same as if the customer called into the call center and spoke with a call center agent. Customers will always maintain the ability to speak with a call center agent. For those individuals who are not interested in scheduling their own trips, they will continue to schedule as they do currently."

Both the Mobility Direct and upcoming Pass Web initiatives are part of MTA Mobility Service's goal to provide greater access and flexibility to customers and increase efficiencies. It will also reduce wait times in the call center as becomes more comfortable using the IVR and Web systems.

"Technology allows us to do far more than we've ever been able to achieve, however, we will always believe in a strong customer-centric focus as we move forward. We will ensure that Mobility customers will maintain strong access and interaction with the Mobility team," said Smith. "We know that there will be customers who choose not to use the technology and, as such, Mobility remains committed to maintaining a strong force of agents dedicated to meeting the customers' needs."

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