What the CTA is doing to demand better Ventra customer service

After my rant yesterday about how the Ventra customer service team can’t even deliver on a promise to call back its customers, I got a note from a CTA spokesperson who wanted me to remind me that CTA President Forrest Claypool wasn’t happy with the quality of the calls being answered either.

So Claypool directed that Cubic Transportation Systems bring in Convergys, a leading national call center company, to monitor call center performance and recommend quick improvements to enhance the quality of the call centers. Cubic is paying for these services.

And remember, the CTA is paying Cubic $454 million to implement the Ventra payment system over 10 years, including the rollout and customer service agents. So to be clear, it’s not CTA agents answering (or not answering) those calls for Ventra help. It’s a company that Cubic hired.

“Convergys is a nationally known customer service management company with major clients including AT&T, Macy’s, Cisco and DirectTV,” the CTA spokesperson said in an email. “Convergys has dispatched its staff on site at Cubic call centers, where the company is monitoring all aspects of its call center operations and suggesting improvements to ensure that Cubic is following call center industry best practices – and, most importantly, provide all callers with top-notch service.”

Convergys just started work today and is providing daily updates to both Cubic and CTA.

UPDATE on the problem that forced me to call Ventra customer service in the first place:

After calling three straight days starting last Tuesday and being promised three different call-backs, I finally did get a call-back at 9:30 p.m. Sunday. But I was asleep.

When I called back tonight, I noticed for the first time I was given the opportunity to take a customer service survey at the end of the call. Not sure if that’s new with Convergys, but it’s the first time I was offered the survey in four calls to the call center.

I then talked to a very polite and knowledgeable service rep who helped me right away. She said she had been working Ventra customer service since the beginning of the project a few months ago. I told her I wish I had gotten her on the phone the first time!


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  • Hiring a company that's involved with AT&T's wretched phone in system that sends you to India & people that can't understand Americans is nothing to be proud of!
    AT&T is the company that tells you while you're on hold forever to resolve a lack of internet connection, that you can probably find the answers at att.net!
    Yeah, that's really gonna work when you have no internet!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Scooter, you can bitch all you want about AT&T, but the fact is that I've always spoken to an American when I've called Ventra. And tonight I finally got the answers I needed from a polite rep - on the day that Convergys just happens to start working with Cubic. Probably just a coincidence, right?

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    Don't be so cocksure.
    I guarantee you, that within 2 years, Ventra customer service will be outsourced to India or the Philippines.

  • Forrest Claypool needs to be fired yesterday.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    I said he was never qualified for the job. If nothing else, his stance, whether real or not, gives him a career comeback.

  • Oh, so we're supposed to remember that he's not happy either? Poor Forrest Claypool!

    Only thing is, Kevin, YOU were never in a position to prevent such problems from happening in the first place (at least directly, not counting your influence through the Tattler, and I'd say you did just fine at that).

    But Forrest Claypool is paid to be in charge of the whole show, which makes him the person who is supposed to see problems coming and prevent them. We hear about all the "directing" he is doing after the Ventra train wreck. What about before?

    Oh, and once again we see the attempt to narrow down the whole fiasco to call center issues, when we all know that the scope of the Ventra introduction problems was far wider, even if you look just at the communications piece.

    Are you on board yet with my cream pie idea, Kevin? Might being woken up by a phone call have been the last straw? (Another reason why I will never give them my phone number.) How about you, Cheryl--do you like this better than firing? Note, I do NOT propose to be a vigilante and ambush anyone--merely have the CTA brass duly arraigned, tried, convicted and sentenced to an hour in the stocks in Daley Plaza.

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    I suggest you go below and click on the Gaper's Block I just posted.

    Also, since the contract was awarded during the Rodriguez administration, maybe the blame starts there.

    The only thing I figure is that someone named the Rahmfather lit a fire under Claypool's butt.

    Your point is well taken that the rest of us don't get briefings from CTA PR. I also note that suddenly the names Tammy Chase and Brian Steele are no longer mentioned in articles about Ventra. Maybe someone took my suggestion and silenced them.

  • In reply to jack:

    I'm not sure what you meant by "Your point is well taken that the rest of us don't get briefings from CTA PR" but I wasn't criticizing Kevin--I was giving him credit for providing us a forum where these issues could be exposed early, whether or not the people who should have picked up on it did so.

    Bit if you mean the PR people are good at CYA after the fact and this shows that in theory, somewhere at the CTA is some talent that could have/should have been focused on keeping actual customers properly informed to begin with--well, yeah!

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    Neither of the above, although maybe the last clause of your post above. But I might have read too much into your initial post, too.

    My reaction was more to Kevin's statement " I got a note from a CTA spokesperson," like anyone else who had trouble with "customer service" would get any such response.

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack wrote: "My reaction was more to Kevin's statement " I got a note from a CTA spokesperson," like anyone else who had trouble with "customer service" would get any such response."

    I suspect that anyone who had such trouble AND had a popular 9-year-old blog about the CTA would indeed get such response. Get real Jack. They responded to me because of this blog and the work I've been doing to keep you all informed.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    1. I was explaining what I thought ccwriter said, but maybe didn't.

    2. But my point is that they wouldn't respond to anyone else similarly situated but for the blog, of which CTA PR has also gotten free use. Maybe the other thousands of dissatisfied customers should have received a better response than "the problems are minor or your fault," which was the official company line until Claypool was forced to intervene.

    For instance, let's see if CTA steps up to settle the class action suit and minimize its exposure to an attorney fee award, or continue to deny that there is any problem.

  • 1. You have an inconsistency in your post if Claypool said that Convergys was just put on the case, but the lady said she was there for a few months. That lady apparently let it be screwed up for a couple of months.

    2. Someone found a Gaper's Block showing that Cubic has had a history of making a mess of these conversions, including even bigger problems in London. Maybe the British passengers can accept that it is all their fault, but the Chicago ones finally wised up.

    In fact, I seem to remember that the London experience came up before. But maybe it is just my imagination.

  • In reply to jack:

    I just read the Gaper's Block post. Yikes!
    The only possible response is that Cubic must have the best bribery operation in the world to keep getting fare collection contracts even though they're totally incompetent at it!

    Richie Daley should've hired Cubic to get the 2016 Olympics for Chicago, it would've been a lock!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Xerox got the contract in Philadelphia. New York had several trials (one sponsored by Citibank).

    The difference between CTA and those two is that the Philadelphia one is to be phased in into 2015, and New York has never proceeded past mag stripe cards.

    This one is starting to sound like healthcare.gov, where, when the first "glitches" were announced in early October, people quickly posted that a contractor on that job, CGI had screwed up prior jobs.

    So, the question that results from the Gaper's Block is whether CTA should have known earlier that Cubic was a mess up, or the one you pose. And, of course, Pace signing on without any due diligence, and the state legislature and O'Halloran thinking that this could be shoved down Metra's throat. Note the reference there to London's system not really working for distance based fares.

  • In reply to jack:

    New York's MTA is actually scared of the Straphanger Authority, which will rip into them for any mistakes they make.
    We have nothing comparable & our politicians don't give a damn whether the CTA works or not.
    Even though the inconvenience would hit me hard, I'd love to see a two week strike on the CTA. That might convince the downstate & exurban pols just how necessary it really is!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    The first thing to remember is that CTA doesn't get anything legislatively unless the suburban politicians push it through, like the 2008 tax increase. Also, every episode of RTA legislation involved dragging the suburban bus and train systems into bankruptcy first; first the private companies, and then the RTA subsidized services.

    The problem is that you have to convince city pols that it is necessary other than as a patronage center for unqualified politicians such as Claypool. If you got your strike, the reaction downstate and in the suburbs will be "the hell with all of you."

    In that the Fitzgerald task force apparently is getting nowhere tells you what the political climate really is.

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack, I didn't say the rep who helped me works for Convergys. Sorry if you thought that was implied. In fact, as far as I know (and what I wrote) Convergys' job is to "monitor call center performance and recommend quick improvements."

    So I don't think the rep is complicit in any conspiracy to "let it be screwed up for a couple of months."

    Great find on the Gapers Block story.

  • Convergys sets up their call centers in obscure locations around the U.S. so they can offer minimum wage jobs to hard hit areas where all the once living wage manufacturing jobs were outsourced by Wall Street and our 401K's. So the quality is hit and miss because they are generally high turn over and high stress call center positions. But the fact that they are throwing more warm bodies in as phone fodder will at least get the calls answered for people who are internet challenged.

  • In reply to Petrd1:

    One thing I noted was that the Cubic call center jobs are in Tennessee and California. I don't know if Quinn cares that out of the potential $454 million, jobs were not created here.

    Again, I might be reading something that isn't there, but this doesn't involve Convergys call centers, but Cubic calling in Convergys to straighten out their own call centers.

  • In reply to jack:

    If the call centers were here in Chicago they knew the locals would be outside the doors with pitch forks and torches. You can't take the C.T.A. to California.

  • In reply to Petrd1:

    CTA could have done in this instance the same thing it did when it told WTTW that the control center was in a highly secret location, and WTTW bought that, even though Tracy Swartz later published that it was where we knew it to be, at 120 N. Racine.

    But, as mglski's post reminds us, the crowd with pitchforks should have been at either CTA headquarters or the Ventra office around the corner.

    I figure that if community groups made a stink that there wasn't any provision for local jobs in the procurement for 7000s, I'm surprised they didn't make a similar stink about the 300 "customer service" jobs. I guess one can't be overwrought over too many things at once.

  • Forrest Claypool needs to be fired. Now.

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    Sure—The Ventra people did an inadequate job. Forrest Claypool's indignation is totally FALSE: The responsibility for this whole transitioning mess falls squarely on the CTA's handling of the transition. CTA's website offers conflicting information regarding CTA-card to Ventra, and completely outdated information is still there. If you set up automatic payment, you're still being charged, and you cannot cancel your payment method. As chief-in-charge it appears Mr. Claypool fails to ensure/enforce something as pertinent as an accurate website. He should therefore directly be held responsible for and owe up to mismanagement, costing the CTA sorely needed goodwill, and wasting countless hours of its loyal customers.

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