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Yay: our TransLink Twitter service is now permanent!

Our TransLink Twitter customer service pilot has been approved as a permanent program!

Great news everyone—our TransLink Twitter pilot is now a permanent service!

For anyone who doesn’t know, the Twitter pilot was a test project to deliver ramped up customer service through the TransLink Twitter account (twitter.com/translink). Since November 1, 2010, call centre workleaders have sent out system updates and answered customer questions from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. every day — and the results have been spectacular!

So today, we are happy to announce that the budget has been approved for continuing the Twitter pilot indefinitely. That means it’s now a permanent service you can rely on for the future, with permanent staff positions devoted to Twitter alerts, trip planner alerts and mobile updates, among other things!

A huge thanks to all the staff members involved with the Twitter pilot for making this project such a huge success and such a valuable tool for our customers. And another huge thanks to all the customers we are interacting with online, especially those who sent in such supportive notes for the pilot: we received more than a hundred formal commendations, and countless supportive tweets!

Also, if you haven’t seen it yet, check out the blog post that L.A. Metro wrote about our pilot—it’s lovely to hear them chat about our work!

And for those interested, keep on reading for a deep dive into the stats behind our first three months of Twitter service — we now have over 6,900 followers and climbing!

Twitter: a key distribution point for information when people need it!

A graph of the number of tweets sent by the TransLink Twitter account from November 1, 2010 to January 28, 2011.

After three months of service, you can see the TransLink Twitter account is generally sending an average of 40-50 tweets a day, alerting people of disruptions and answering incoming questions.

Except, of course, when a major service disruption occurs! That’s when the number of tweets spike to about 120 tweets a day!

But that’s actually a great sign, as it shows we’re delivering more information when people actually need minute-by-minute updates on the system’s status.

And we can really tell that people are finding the updates valuable because our follower counts spike after each major service disruption. A graph!

The TransLink Twitter account's followers from November 1, 2010 to January 28, 2011.

Again, the jumps in follower numbers after each service disruption really shows that people are gravitating to our Twitter service when they need to be informed. And since we’re not seeing enormous drop off, we can hopefully extrapolate that people find the service valuable and continue to subscribe. Which is great—we’re helping more people get quality information to help them with their journeys!

Also, the TransLink account has seen a steady climb in its number of followers since November 2010 — in about three months, 2,900 more accounts are following @translink!

Retweets from the TransLink Twitter account, Oct 29, 2010 to January 28, 2011.

Last but not least, retweets of TransLink messages also see big spikes after major service disruptions—which again indicates that our information is valuable and is being spread out when people need it.

And according to the (sort of sketchy) statistics from TwitterAnalyzer.com, the “reach” of the TransLink account is 324,274 users—or that’s how many followers our followers have altogether. Which should be taken with a pretty big grain of salt, but still: it’s something!

Commendations pouring in

A comparison of commendations received on various TransLink initiatives.

I’m also quite proud to report that our Twitter pilot received 118 commendations in our formal feedback system from November 1, 2010 to January 31, 2011! (This is feedback sent in either through our online feedback form or called in to our call centre.)

This is in fact a HUGE accomplishment. For comparison’s sake, here’s how many commendations we received either

For comparison’s sake, here’s how many commendations we’ve received on other TransLink in initiatives, in our formal feedback system:

  • The IVR Next Bus automated service – 1 commendation
  • The Web Usability Trip Planner Enhancements – 12 commendations
  • The Main Street Passenger Information Displays – 2 commendations
  • The Next Bus Text Message Service to 33333 – 2 commendations.
  • Re-instating of Infotube Inserts – 3 commendations

Which of course is not to say that people don’t appreciate those projects—it’s just that they haven’t filled out the feedback form or called to say so! But the fact that the Twitter project inspired such love that 118 commendations showed up in our system… well. That means a lot.

Also, if you’re curious, there were also four complaints that came in during the beginning of this period, mostly around the number of tweets that were being sent out. However, I think this has mostly been resolved, as we were still getting our bearings in early November, and we haven’t heard any complaints about the number of tweets since.

Some of our favourite tweets…

And just for fun, I wanted to share some of the lovely commendations we’re hearing through Twitter itself — you can check out the TransLink Twitter account’s “favorites” for a big list of them!

 

@translink I’m thoroughly impressed. Awesome customer service today. Just thought you should know :)less than a minute ago via web

 

 

@translink Yay! I really, really appreciate the twitter feed from you guys. It’s made my commute so much better & I hope it sticks around.less than a minute ago via HootSuite

 

 

woohooo! so glad! love how positive and helpful you folks are :) RT @translink: Good news – our Twitter pilot is extended through Febless than a minute ago via TweetDeck

 

 

When snow dumped on Vancouver, @Translink did a remarkable job tweeting to update users. @TELUS, take note: Twitter’s the new alert system.less than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone

 

That’s it for me…

So I really want to say thanks again to our amazing call centre workleaders who have been doing the amazing work of keeping the region updated and answering any and all questions that pop up on the fly—all in 140 character bursts!

And here are few past posts about the pilot, including results from the first month and comments from our call centre staff working on the team.


26 Comments

  • By Ben K, February 11, 2011 @ 4:37 pm

    That’s great news!

    On the subject, though, here’s a reply I gave a couple days ago when @translink announced the news: http://twitter.com/zygoat/status/35409247357501440

    For awhile I’ve been on the verge of un-following @translink after getting tired of the tedious junk messages that pad out the real news and alerts. Examples include: reminders about backpacks on buses, reminders that a valid fare is required, re-tweets of people saying vapid congratulatory things, solicitations to look at job postings, etc.

    The problem is that these things keep repeating ad nauseam, and sometimes are more frequent than substantive news items themselves. The reason I’m following @translink is for quick news delivery, not to be told over and over about things I already know.

    On one occasion @translink replied to me explaining that the tedium is deliberate and for the benefit of new followers. While I understand that reasoning, in my opinion it’s tenuous — as your readership increases, that junk becomes less and less valuable to an increasing number of people.

    I guess if my Twitter feed were light enough and I had nothing better to do with my time, this wouldn’t bother me so much. But keeping my information feed succinct and focused is already enough of a challenge — junk tweets that clutter up the real content don’t help!

    I’m curious how many others share my view.

    b

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, February 11, 2011 @ 4:45 pm

    Ben K: Yep, I hear you. I think the point is to try to add “value-add service” — but definitely, if you’re an experienced rider, you don’t need to be told a million times. I would definitely be interested in hearing if others feel the same way—thus far we haven’t heard many protests of a similar nature from others. Others? Are you out there? Speak up!

  • By Hilary, February 11, 2011 @ 11:02 pm

    I think it’d be a good idea for TransLink to separate pure service information from… basically, every other thing. Have a twitter feed where all you post is the tweets about transit conditions. I had @translink tweet to my phone at one point so I’d know if I was going to run into a disruption, but I shut it off within days because of the excessive fluff messages. I don’t mind them when I’m reading my whole Twitter feed, but it’s annoying to get all that extra stuff in text message format when it’s the only thing and I only want the service information.

    So, yeah. Make a feed for pure service information. It seems like a better idea to make it a new account (I thought of the name “@translink_express” for it) than to repurpose the current one, because I think plenty of people like the current shape of @translink and they’re already following it. But I still feel obligated to make the alternative suggestion of moving all the non-transit-condition stuff to @thebuzzer or @SkyTrainLady.

  • By Hilary, February 11, 2011 @ 11:08 pm

    Addendum: With my @translink_express idea, you would still post the stuff on it to @translink. The idea there is that people would choose whether they want to follow @translink_express or @translink. (No reason you couldn’t follow both, but it would be redundant, and the TransLink Twitter family already has a lot of redundant tweets.)

  • By Eugene T.S. Wong, February 12, 2011 @ 2:11 am

    Please put the fluff on another Twitter account, and don’t retweet it, as Hilary suggests. If they want the fluff and the stuff, then let them sign up for both. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please.

    I don’t like my phone getting my attention just to tell me something meaningless.

    Some people pay to receive messages, and here you are sending them fluff. Please don’t. I get them for free, but those messages are extremely offensive to me, and I’m saying this as a supporter of ads on monthly passes. Please remove the fluff.

    Here are a few good examples of fluff.
    “our TransLink Twitter service is now permanent! (Plus stats on our first three months!)”
    “Another ‘sweet’ deal! RT @ethicalbean: Just announced:2 for 1 doughnuts w @MobioID. Give 1 to your sweetheart or take 2 for yourself! ;)”
    “signing on for the rush hour & into the evening”
    “Let’s give a warm welcome to @travelsmart on Twitter! Follow for tips on travel choices and more!”
    “Great deal! RT @ethicalbean: Hey #skytrain @translink riders. Get 20% off @EthicalBean cafes when u order with @MobioID by Smartphone”
    “RT @vancouversun: Miss our SkyTrain dos and don’ts video with @VanTheatreSport yesterday? Check it out here: http://bit.ly/fxjyXI .Funny”
    “RT @thebuzzer: TravelSmart: join the movement! – We’re proud to launch a new program called TravelSmart today!”
    “RT @thebuzzer A look back at the 2010 Olympics after one year on, from a transit perspective!”

    Those are so inconsiderate. People have to pay to receive text messages for some unjust reason. They decide to receive important updates, and you all go advertise for that coffee place?? Really? You guys dare to ask people to bother to turn their music down or take their backpacks off, and then you send them advertisements that they have to pay their phone companies for.

    I love you all to bits, but sometimes you all seem so heartless and uncompassionate. It seems so unTranslink. Why are you having this discussion? Shouldn’t you be asking, “I would definitely be interested in hearing if anybody wants ads and unnecessary messages—thus far we haven’t heard *any* requests. Are you out there? Speak up!”? ;^) You should require half + 1 of the entire ridership to vote in favour of this. Even then, I would still complain, ;^p but at least you’d have some kind of support.

    Please remove it. Please. Seriously, it would make Translink look so responsive and considerate.

  • By Sally, February 12, 2011 @ 3:20 pm

    I agree with Ben. I will tweet info to TransLink, but I don’t follow them for the reasons he stated. I do follow Ken Hardie as I like his mix of TransLink and non-Translink info, same as with SkyTrain Lady. For me, the best thing that works is the rider alert specific to my bus routes. However, well done for getting this pilot project approved!

  • By Steven, February 12, 2011 @ 11:27 pm

    It seems that many companies have difficulties separating “information” and “customer service” on Twitter.

    On your main @translink account today there have been many posts which are superfluous to what most people probably needs to know i.e. reply to people with transit problems (not knowing what the context of the question is and I don’t really want to be see customers rants), retweeting “that’s a good idea”, tweeting just a “thanks”, tweets just saying “good morning” etc. I don’t think I really need to know who in your company is sending out the tweet either, ie the signature at the end of the message, maybe you think its good customer service, or portrays translink to be more cuddly but I don’t think its necessary.

    I am not sure what the purpose of @skytrainlady account is, I see a lot of service alerts that is already on @translink – do we need to hear stuff about Cairo on it (?), there were even retweets of a sunset the other day; it seems to be a cross between service alerts, customer service, personal stuff.

    What is also confusing you have 2 other people’s twitter accounts on the background of the @translink page. Ken’s account seems to be official but Drew’s one looks personal. I would suggest to keep it all official. What I want from my relationship with Translink is information to get me from A to B, the ability to ask your advice where necessary and now & again some interesting history/facts about your service (buzzer’s remit). When I went to Drew’s account I see this has absolutely nothing to do with what I want to see from your company. When I am working for a company I wouldn’t want to use them to promote my personal stuff and frankly I don’t want clients to know!

    My recommendations:
    1) I think you should have 1 channel for travel alerts only.
    2) Create a new channel for customer service i.e. questions, promotions, hints and tips
    3) Keep the buzzer for news and PR orientated messages (fun stuff, history, facts, interaction with clients)

    Any more than this just confuses customers and gives them useless information to wade through.

    Sorry if I sound negative, it wasn’t my intention!!

  • By Gennifer, February 13, 2011 @ 3:34 pm

    I agree with most of what’s being said above. With my current phone (I’m getting a new one ASAP), each tweet comes in as a text message and while I don’t pay for them, the phone’s battery is nearly dead every single day because each text message means the phone has to light up for at least a minute. And I don’t mean that Translink is the only one doing this, I also follow News1130traffic and EVERY single night after 10 PM, most of the tweets I get from them are also terribly redundant, like all the construction spots around the Lower Mainland and the fact that the Pattullo’s centre lanes are closed every night.

  • By Eugene T.S. Wong, February 13, 2011 @ 8:01 pm

    I just wanted to make a quick comment on the nature of the technology.

    With Twitter, the message is recorded, and then sent in a recorded format, so that the receiver can look at it any time, literally. Therefore sending a repeat of a message just ensures that most people read it more than once unnecessarily.

    Whereas with phoning without a recorder on the receiving end, or with broadcast radio, you don’t have a guarantee that the receiver will be available at the same time as the broadcast. Therefore it makes sense that you announce redundant messages. Also, with broadcast radio, you have people receiving for extended periods of time, and repeated messages are necessary, according to what I’ve been told.

    Tweeting the same old message is the same as putting a reminder on a sticky note, and then putting that sticky note right next to the previous note that you left for a person. You’re assuming that another person will come in and read the second note, and not the first note, or that the first person reads each note, and then quickly disposes of them, as opposed to saving the note for a later reminder.

    Most people who use the service probably already know what Twitter is, so when they sign up, they will probably instinctively look at old tweets to see what is happening.

    Please don’t repeat messages.

  • By Ben K, February 13, 2011 @ 11:52 pm

    Today there were some great examples of classic garbage tweets from Translink, including:

    - “Hi everyone, I’m someone named Julie K, and I have nothing useful to say!”
    - “Miss604 says congratulations, and we feel everyone needs to hear about it!”
    - “CustInfo is closed again, and will reopen tomorrow! Just like every night and every day!”

    It seems as though the people issuing these tweets have no regard for how real humans (who are not Translink employees) actually use Twitter as readers.

    It is encouraging to see some of the great feedback posted here so far, and also interesting that there has been none in favour (or defense) of the status quo.

    b

  • By Steven, February 14, 2011 @ 7:31 am

    If you are paying @fcv to design your websites it sounds like staff at Translink could take advantage of their services on social media awareness, maybe they can check out your social marketing plan within your communication strategy, consolidate your current services and delivery some training to your staff. It does appear that feedback above from customers is consistent in saying to you there is scope to make some positive changes.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, February 14, 2011 @ 10:10 am

    Well, thanks for the feedback, everyone! I’ll pass this along to the Twitter team. Definitely, if you’re sending tweets to your mobile phone, it would be both redundant and annoying to receive non-service tweets. Steven especially, you have great points about the clarification of our social media streams and how to organize them.

    The social media side is still very new and I’d urge everyone keep the discussion going on this, as your feedback is really important to help shape how we do this kind of work. If anyone else wants to chime in to agree/disagree/expand on these issues, please feel free!

  • By Eugene T.S. Wong, February 14, 2011 @ 6:46 pm

    I think that we made our point, but I’m concerned that it might not get across, because it appears that Translink is still leaving room for discussion. I’d like to add 1 more illustration.

    How would customer service feel, if I kept sending them a copy of each tweet that they send us, using the form on the web site? After all, they might not know about all the information available. Maybe they could benefit knowing that Miss604 exists. Maybe they could benefit from the knowledge that they close at 11:30p [or was it 11:00p? who cares?]. Would customer service like me to send them a message, every time I see a woman in a funny hat?

    The understanding is that that form is to be used for only certain things. Yes, go ahead and voice our opinions, but it’s not as if we are only limited to using 1 Twitter account, so there is absolutely no need to shove all this unnecessary information down the pipe.

    I’m not trying to be rude. I’m just eager to see this discussion over and done with.


    Eugene

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, February 15, 2011 @ 12:03 pm

    Eugene et al: Thanks again for the feedback.

    While we take steps to look at this situation, I do want to offer a bit of context from what we see going on in the Twittersphere so far.

    - While indeed the “fluff” tweets are a key issue for you guys (which of course makes it important for us to address!), so far this hasn’t arisen as an overwhelming organic complaint from everyone following our account. Some “fluff” items even receive a great many retweets, indicating that there is some value there and others want to redistribute those messages! So while we are going to definitely try to pull back on the fluff, there will obviously still need to be a bit of a balance struck: it probably won’t be as much fluff as you see now, but there will still likely be some non-service tweets as reminders etc. As well, when we have our own promotional items that need to be shared (service changes, public consultations, etc), that will occupy some space as needed. Hopefully that can be understood.

    - At the moment we’re loath to move everyone to separate Twitter accounts for service/non-service tweets, if only to simplify the workflow for staff and ensure that one consolidated audience is being reached. Obviously as we fine-tune the level of fluff tweets going out we can see how this evolves though.

    - Eugene: as far as I know, no one has been telling us that they are being overcharged for incoming text messages coming from the TransLink account! Hopefully people are managing their text-message plans accordingly and avoiding large charges if they want @translink updates delivered to their phones. (The other option is to use our subscription alerts service that sends to e-mail instead, which could be a solution for those with smartphones on the go.)

    That’s what I have for you so far—I just wanted to offer the situation we’re in right now while we are working on dialing back the fluff! :D

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, February 15, 2011 @ 2:29 pm

    Another couple things that might be helpful:

    - Can you tell us HOW you receive your twitter alerts from @translink? Are you using the web interface, or a third-party service, or Twitter on a mobile phone app, etc? This will hopefully help us figure out what you’re seeing/not seeing in our stream, as the API can show the tweets differently if you’re using a third-party app.

    - Perhaps a way to ask this more generally is: do you see all the RTs made by the @translink account, and all the @replies to customers when you view the TransLink twitter stream? Or do you just see the messages that we broadcast publicly?

  • By Ben K, February 15, 2011 @ 4:46 pm

    I use the Twitter.app desktop client on Mac OS X. It shows the RT’s, but it looks like it suppresses replies to other users that begin with an @ username.

    There was a time when I had a handful of “important” users’ tweets sent to my phone as text messages, but not so much recently (@translink wouldn’t be a candidate for that in its current style).

  • By ???, February 15, 2011 @ 6:02 pm

    What if we just double up on the messages? That is to describe the service incident first and what remain characters, put in the fluff.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DnVLrZX0HY

  • By Eugene T.S. Wong, March 14, 2011 @ 9:34 am

    I’m so glad that I came back here and checked. I either didn’t get your reply, Jhenifer, or I forgot about it. Thanks for taking the time to reply.

    Bear in mind that this is directed to Translink, not you personally.

    That being said, I’m very disappointed in the response, since you really are wasting our time. Your attitude of saving time like that is just passing on the wasted time to people who shouldn’t have to deal with it. There are applications out there that allow a person to post in 2 accounts. You could have 2 different web browsers, for example.

    As for me, Twitter literally sends the message to me via SMS. All of this app stuff is irrelevant to me. I deliberately turned off your @replies, because your customer service has worn out its welcome. Your useful messages have probably dropped down to less than 50%. That’s shameful. I have really tried to hard to hold on to the account, but I find myself skimming through your messages, and giving up. I refuse to waste so much time, and typing this has convinced me that Translink doesn’t care enough about my time and attention span.

    You mention email. Well, how is that supposed to work, when some phones can’t receive email?

    If Translink doesn’t like typing out to 2 accounts, then think about how troublesome it is for us to read 2 messages, just to get to the meat. This is so evil. Time is the only thing that some us have, and you are forcing it out of our hands just to get good transit information.

  • By Tyler, March 23, 2011 @ 6:55 am

    Glad you guys have jumped all over Twitter and had it approved! I’ve been able to figure out where my Bus is when it’s not where it should be at a particular time!

    Also to give translink updates on conditions enroute to school etc!

    I’ve been using Hootsuite (both desktop and iphone) to keep track of all my twitter followers/followings.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, March 23, 2011 @ 9:06 am

    Tyler: Thanks for the kind words! Glad to hear the service is of help to you :)

Other Links to this Post

  1. The Buzzer blog » Our Twitter pilot: a great success so far! — February 11, 2011 @ 3:54 pm

  2. The Buzzer blog » Heads up: TransLink’s Twitter pilot project for November 2010 — February 11, 2011 @ 3:59 pm

  3. Tweets that mention The Buzzer blog » Yay: our TransLink Twitter service is now permanent! -- Topsy.com — February 11, 2011 @ 4:11 pm

  4. The Buzzer blog » The March 2011 Buzzer is now out! — March 4, 2011 @ 9:50 am

  5. How @translink can make its social media strategy even more awesome - EAT, PLAY, TWEET! EAT, PLAY, TWEET! — June 7, 2011 @ 5:57 pm

  6. The Buzzer blog » #TL40K Twitter contest. What are you grateful for? — December 13, 2013 @ 11:38 am

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