TransLink Podcast: We reveal a voice behind TransLink’s Twitter account

TransLink Podcast: We reveal a voice behind TransLink’s Twitter account

A Customer Information Work Leader at their desk

Come behind the scenes with us as What’s the T: the TransLink Podcast with Jawn Jang reveals the voices and stories that drive Metro Vancouver’s transit system forward. Subscribe and listen everywhere you get your podcasts, including SpotifyApple Podcasts, and Pocket Casts!

Our popular @TransLink X (Twitter) account is one of the most followed in Metro Vancouver and is known for delivering top-notch customer service to our riders. Meet one of the voices behind the keyboard answering your questions. Discover the role the Customer Information team plays in delivering up-to-date transit information to your fingertips.


HOST JAWN JANG: Hey, welcome to What’s the T: the TransLink Podcast. My name is Jawn Jang. Here’s what’s coming up on this episode.

PERSON 1: I want to ask you a bunch of questions, and I want to have them answered immediately.

JAWN: Who is answering all of your questions on the TransLink Twitter account? And why do we need to answer these questions anyway? Let’s find out and tap in to What’s the T.


VOICEOVER 1: The next station is…

VOICEOVER 2: Welcome to What’s the T: the TransLink Podcast.

JAWN: On paper, the idea of taking transit to get where you need to go is a simple one. You proceed to a specific location to get on a bus or train, and then it takes you to another location, either at or much closer to your final destination. But every step of this journey requires a certain level of planning, and every plan requires accurate and timely information.

For example, it’s extremely useful to know when the next bus will come to pick you up, and perhaps even more useful to know that this bus might be arriving late. And really, that’s just scratching the surface. From informing customers of potential service delays to answering questions about TransLink policy, customer information is exactly as their name says. It’s all about informing you, the customer, with all the answers you need to confidently navigate the transit system here in Metro Vancouver.

Now you can do this through email, on the phone, or more commonly in today’s age, you can do this on Twitter on the TransLink page. But enough out of me, let’s hear from someone from customer information, or CI, for short, who can properly explain the value they bring to your commuting experience.

JAWN: Alright, a very special guest joining us here on What’s the T: the TransLink Podcast, as we kind of pull back the curtain a little bit and learn more about the team that you, the listener, our customer probably deals with more commonly than anyone else within the entire company and enterprise.

So with that in mind, very pleased to welcome Tapestry Andrews. Tapestry, you’re a work leader with the customer information team. You’re part of the team that also operates on Twitter. So, very excited to have this conversation with you here today. Thanks for giving us some time.

TAPESTRY ANDREWS: Thank you for having us. And focusing on our department.

JAWN: Yeah! I mean, you do really important work. So with that in mind, let’s quickly start at the very beginning: If you were to describe your job and the work that your team does on a day to day basis, how do you describe it to someone who maybe has never heard of what CI is really all about?

TAPESTRY: I think the basis of it is, is communication, and we take information from every department in every subsidiary, and we take all of that information and we try to put it into a form that is easily understandable by the riding public.

So we don’t expect them to understand the jargon, the shorthand, the terms, we try to make that so that our customers can understand. And we also take what our customers tell us, and we try to put it into a form that certain departments understand. Some people are more technical, some people are more, you know, oriented for, you know, drivers or engineering communications.

Not so much with the public. So we go both ways with communication, trying to make it so that, you know, we can better serve our customers.

JAWN: You know, I think that’s a really great point because it is a two way street. And sometimes, you know, especially me working in the media relations side of things, we tend to only really think about the one way, like what is our message going out to the public, and how do we think it’s going to be received?

We don’t always think about, what about the public’s message to us and how we’re going to respond. So in the great sense of things, and Tapestry, I apologize because I always like to use silly examples, but you’re the Brita filter of information that goes in.

TAPESTRY: Yes, I like that.

JAWN: And also coming out. So I think it’s really important work again, what you guys are doing.

That’s not to say, of course, that like every day looks the same. So I’m wondering what is an average day for you inside the bullpen of customer information when you’ve got all these questions and concerns coming in from the public, what’s that usually like for you?

TAPESTRY: Well, it’s a lot. And there is a team of us. And we started out with just like one or two people that would handle this. And it’s just grown.

We cannot handle it alone. So there is a team of us for sure. And of course, timing. What’s happening right now? That’s the priority. And customers are the priority. So, you know, what does our customer need to know right now? And we try to focus on that and we try to get it out in as many ways as possible.

So whether that’s the website, Twitter, tweet according to our agents that people speak to on the phone, as well as if we are hearing of any hot button topics, like maybe we’re hearing of an accident, but our drivers haven’t recorded it in yet, so we will report that into, you know, our bus control or Skytrain control, whoever needs to know, hey, this might be an issue, keep an eye open for, you know.

That could impact our riders. So that is the number one priority, is getting the information to our customers as soon as possible.

JAWN: Right.

TAPESTRY: And then, on the other side of that is doing prep work for things that are upcoming that we do know about in advance. So events, detours, stop closures due to construction.

If we know that something’s coming up, like water main work and it’s going to impact our riders for a long time, doing stuff like that so that, you know, they still know in advance, but they might not need to know right at this moment on their commute.

JAWN: Makes sense.


JAWN: Going back to what you said about, you know, urgently giving customers information if it’s directly impacting their route on any given moment.

What is the challenge like to balance, like we need to get that information out quickly, but we also have to make sure the information is accurate? Because I’m sure like that requires a lot of communication, and to your point, staying on top of all the different things that, like all the different tools and resources that are available to you and your team just to make sure that the information you do give the public is, it makes sense, it’s accurate and it’s timely, right? Like that’s probably not as easy as we’re making it sound right now.

TAPESTRY: Yeah, exactly. I think one of the things that we deal with is training. So, people that are talking on the phone, our agents. They have to go through six weeks of training before they even get to take calls to the public. In order to be a work leader, you have to have, you know, at least, you know, a year minimum in order to do that job.

And so we have had a lot of experience looking at things maybe from a customer’s perspective, so that when we’re getting bits of information, we piece it together and it’s like where we’ll have like, you know, we can look at the where the busses are on the GPS compared with what the bus driver who’s on the road, what they’re reporting back to control.

What control is telling us, plus past experience. When an accident happens here this is usually what happens. So there’s a bit of being able to anticipate how things are going to go. So, it is experience and communication.

JAWN: Fair. Let me ask you this, then: what are some of the more like common inquiries that your team might receive, like agents might receive on the phone or via Twitter or email, or however many different ways we have for customers to get in touch with your team?

What would you say is like maybe some of the more common things that you deal with?

TAPESTRY: A lot of it is, “why hasn’t my bus shown up?” “why is the Sky train delayed?”

JAWN: Not so much where, but it’s the why.

TAPESTRY: It’s why, yes. And part of it is tricky, and I hope that our agents are doing a good job, I think they are. And hopefully our customers feel that, too, that it’s difficult sometimes to explain to somebody who’s waiting on one end of a bus route or one end of the SkyTrain line to understand, like there’s traffic or there’s an accident, like in another part of town, but there’s busses that don’t just do the same route. They, what we call interline.

They do different routes throughout the day. And same with SkyTrain. Maybe there’s an issue that’s on, you know, Coquitlam Centre, but we’ve had to hold trains because it’s automated. And so customers often want to know why? I have the alert I can see on the website it’s delayed or I’m checking the GPS, I can see that it’s been sitting there for quite some time.

Why, why is this happening? And that’s probably the most common reason. And I think our customers are usually pretty open when they find out our reasons. You know, we’re not just trying to pass you up on purpose or, you know, there’s a reason behind it. And we’re doing our best to work to get that service back to you. But that’s probably the most common.

JAWN: That’s totally fair. And I think, now that people have access to smartphones, they have Twitter and all this instant information. The “why” it really matters because they just want to know that there’s like a justified reason as to why it’s happening.

TAPESTRY: Exactly.

JAWN: So I think and the way your team handles that, I’m sure it’s again, not easy, but handled very well for what I can say.

TAPESTRY: Thank you, yeah.

JAWN: It’s not always concerns and complaints though, Tapestry, right? Like, do you ever get moments where people like, just tweet at your team and be like, “hey, I made it to my destination early, wanted to give you guys a shout out because I love the experience so much.” Like what is that like for you guys?

TAPESTRY: Yeah, you know what? We actually, we like engaging with people on Twitter. And we always kind of have this feeling of, you know, good or bad. Engaging in conversation is not always, you know, it’s usually not a bad thing, that’s a good thing. And so when we have the opportunity to engage with our customers and it might just be something like, “hey, I made it to my destination on time” or “I was able to get here, thank so much.” We love that.

And also, as much as sometimes you don’t want to hear, you know, people say, “oh, I didn’t make it because your service was late.” You know, when you work with customer information, we are a bunch of helpers. So, I mean, and we take transit ourselves. So we do have that empathy, like, oh, yeah, that’s happened to me.

Let’s see how we can turn it around. Can we find something else for you for next time or, you know, can we find you an alternate route? Can we have a backup for you? Or you know what, here’s other ways you can contact us in advance so that we can check to see if your bus is late so we can try to figure it out.

So, we like that. And when people are, you know, sometimes they’ll just tweet at us with a comment and you don’t want to be too intrusive with kind of jumping in on somebody’s conversation, but we really like to engage people and try to find solutions, and also celebrate wins, like it’s great!

JAWN: Of course.


JAWN: That’s exciting. And we love when people want to share, like maybe experiences with a really great operator.


JAWN: And they might not have gotten their name, so they might tweet your team and say like, “hey, can you please like say thanks to the operator who drove the 502” on any given morning or whatever it was, right?


JAWN: And does that happen with you?

TAPESTRY: It does. And I just wanted to say that when people tweet us with, you know, they might not know the driver’s name or the SkyTrain attendant’s name or the SeaBus’s name, or, you know, commissioner of the West Coast Express, but we can help them if they want, put in an official commendation so we can say here, you know, send us this information.

And usually, people in operations might be able to figure out who that person was. And I always look at it as it’s, you know, this person, this staff member has brightened your day or helped you out. And you know what? This is a way that you can brighten their day because, you know, when you’re seeing thousands of people a day and we do have people that say “thank you” a lot on our system, but when your supervisor calls you in and shows you like, this is what somebody said about you and somebody has taken the time out of their busy day, not just to say thank you, but to send this in formally.

You know, that brightens people’s day. And so when people tweet us and let us know, I always encourage them. If you want to put in a, you know, an official commendation, here’s how you can do that and include this information, because we want that staff member to have that same experience of feeling appreciated and knowing that somebody took that time to say thank you to them more than just like, thank you.

So I love it. I love it when people say that they’ve had good service, and I love it when we can pass that on and make, you know, our drivers say, or our SkyTrain attendants say something like that.

JAWN: Perfect. Yeah. Everyone should win, right?


JAWN: Like that’s the thing. So I appreciate the work that you guys do in trying to make sure that the right people get those commendations.

Tapestry, I’m curious because I think when people think about customer information, the first assumption they might have is, that’s the call centre? That’s where I get my information? If I have a few questions, I can get answers there. But what are the other ways that your team and your department and CI actually interact with our customers? Maybe they don’t even realize it, you know.

TAPESTRY: Yeah. You know, a few years ago, there was a big push to improve our communication with our customers, and this was directly from our feedback from our customers. So when we say to customers, send us your feedback, we can’t always implement everything immediately. But we definitely want to hear that. And it’s ways that we can improve.

So I mean, we do have Twitter and we do have the call centre, but we also have the electronic signs, whether it’s, you know, at bus stops, the SkyTrain, there’s now signs that, you know, tell you when your next train is arriving, but also kind of what’s happening on the system. So if there’s system outages or there’s upcoming maintenance, we’re also doing that.

We’re putting that out there. The website and customers, you know, they might have a regular route that they take, whether it’s SkyTrain or a bus. And we’re the ones that put out the alerts for that. So anytime that you find out, oh, my bus has been canceled or there’s a detour, we’re also putting it out there that way. We’re trying to find as many ways as possible to get that information to our customers.

And, you know, we have, you know, the public, it’s a big group of people that are not all the same. So different ways to find to communicate to them. Also, you know, we have behind the scenes if people put in feedback, our department are the ones we’re getting in touch with the other departments. So operations, or we’re trying to find that information for them.

And then, of course, lost property. So we do have face to face interactions, too. You know, people go in and they get their stuff. They might also ask for route help or, you know, just have questions about transit and then they can help them through that, as well. So there’s lots of ways to contact us. And if people can even think of more, let us know.

Send in that feedback!

JAWN: Okay, fair enough. Tapestry, give us a play by play, a little walk through. If, for example, there was a delay happening on the SkyTrain system, how do we get from the moment the delay is recognized from our friends over at BC Rapid Transit Company to the point where it now becomes disseminated as good information that we can share to the public via your team?

What is that step by step process kind of look like?

TAPESTRY: Well, it can be complicated at times, and I think there’s two ways in which it usually happens. One is, where do we get that information from when we’re in customer information? Sometimes, we actually hear it from our customers. Our customers, before BCRTC can even reach out to us.

They are reaching out to us. They’re calling us or they’re tweeting us and they’re saying, “hey, my train is stopped” or “hey, there’s announcements being made, what’s happening?” And so that will alert us and push us into action, and we’ll reach out to BCRTC or SkyTrain. But, there are times when something has happened and, SkyTrain, they have to have a little bit of time to investigate.

So we don’t always know right away. Is this going to be a delay? Is there going to be, you know, do we need a bus bridge? How big is this delay? So, they will typically either call us directly or they will send us an email.

And you know, my team, we have to like decipher a lot of stuff because it comes in shorthand, it comes in codes. Like they’re talking about bits of, you know, areas of track. They’re not saying necessarily the exact, what’s happening. We have to kind of put that together in a timely manner.

We also, in my department, we have kind of like a GPS for the SkyTrain, so we can see if anything is lit up in red. If trains are stopping. And we listen on the radio, too, we try to listen to see if, you know, we can speed things up and get bits of information for our customers and take a bit of the pressure off SkyTrain, because depending on the situation, what happens is, you know, they might need time to investigate themselves.

Do they have an attendant on scene? You know, they’re looking through the cameras to see what’s happening. And once they’re trying to determine that, then they forward the message on to us. Does that mean that we’re sending out a Twitter message or that we’re sending out an SMS message? Are we posting it on the website?

And of course, the more serious the incident or the longer the delays, then we’re going to try to use as many things as possible. We might update our IVR. We’re going to update the messaging that customers see on the screens at SkyTrains, just to let them know there are delays or there might be a bus bridge. You know, this is what’s happening. We try to utilize as many things as possible, but we also want it to be accurate. So, although customers might say “my train is stopped, why?”

And we might be able to see that their train is stopped, we want to make sure that we’re getting the most accurate information so that, you know, there there’s less confusion. And, you know, if they need to make other arrangements, I’m going to catch a bus instead of catching the SkyTrain, that they can make that decision.

Or our agents or people on Twitter can help advise them like, you know what, this looks like it might be delayed longer, use a bus, here are your other options. But we take the information from the SkyTrain. Like I said, they’ll either call us or email us and try to, like, figure out a bit of a mystery at times and then determine the best way to communicate that to our customers.

JAWN: Layered and complicated process.


JAWN: But it happens quickly.

TAPESTRY: It does, yeah.

JAWN: And it happens to the point where it actually benefits the customer, to the point where they, you know, they understand what I need to do in order to get home or get to work, get to school, to an appointment, whatever it is.

TAPESTRY: Yes. And you know what, everybody, I know when these things happen, whether it’s like a transit road supervisor or a SkyTrain attendant, people in their control, we’re jumping into action, you know, and that’s not always visible when, you know, somebody is stuck on a train car somewhere, but people are jumping into action.

They want to get that information out as soon as possible, and they want to get the problem resolved as quick as possible. I see it, you know, time and time again, people are jumping into action and that’s part of the complexities that doesn’t always come through, like when we’re, you know, sending out messages, but just know that we are working as fast as we can to get that messaging out.

JAWN: Knowledge is power. And at the end of the day, the work that our customer information does is all about empowering you, the customer, to make informed choices on getting from point A to point B as smoothly as possible. They are the first line of contact when you need answers to your questions. And remember, like you, they’re transit riders as well.

Our thanks to Tapestry and the entire customer information team for the great work they do every single day. Don’t forget to give them a shout out on Twitter if you have the chance. my thanks to producer Allen for always answering all of my questions, and producer Sophie Tomei for asking all of the right questions. And of course, a big thank you, as always, for listening and subscribing.

I’m your host, Jawn Jang, and until next time, have a safe trip.