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Private-sector experts to improve TTC customer service?

Everyone’s taking a kick at the TTC these days.

A fare increase, shortages of tokens, major subway disruptions — and web photos of TTC employees apparently sleeping on the job — have all contributed to a growing atmosphere of dissatisfaction with the TTC.

Now, according to the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail and other local media, the Toronto Transit Commission approved a plan to appoint a “blue-ribbon panel of private-sector experts to help improve customer service” at its meeting on Wednesday, January 20.

TTC staff received about 31,000 complaints between January 1 and November 30, 2009 — about 15 percent more than in 2008. Many of those complaints resulted from the TTC’s plans to increase fares on January 3.

The Star reports that, although the chair of the Toronto Transit Commission, Councillor Adam Giambrone, wouldn’t say who would be on the panel, he suggested at least one airline-industry representative might be among those appointed in the coming weeks.

Riders and other city councillors on the Toronto Transit Commission will likely also play an advisory role, he said.

The Star also quoted from a memo that Giambrone and TTC chief general manager Gary Webster had signed: “The TTC has technology in place to inform its customers, directly, of service disruptions. Managing the face-to-face interactions with customers, however, is more challenging and we believe requires a thorough review.”

The memo also refers to customer complaints “regarding the attitude and behaviour of some employees that are inconsistent with the expectations we all have.”

The TTC would likely also hire an outside consultant to review customer-service training, customer interaction, complaints and technology.