Metro Transit rolls out live chat service to ‘meet customers where they are’

Metro Transit riders with questions about fares, where to find park-and-ride lots or which bus or train to take have a new way to get in touch with a transit representative after the agency recently rolled out a live chat.

The feature allows riders to click a “Need Help” button in the lower right corner of the agency’s website at metrotransit.org and be connected to a Transit Information Center representative – not a bot – and to speak in real time.

“We opened the new channel to reduce pain points and improve the customer experience, to allow them to choose how to communicate with us,” said Wendy Adams, supervisor of the Transit Information Center (TIC). “It’s a great way to meet customers where they are.”

When the chat service went live on June 21, ICT operators had 36 interactions with customers who chose to use the live chat option.

Live chat users can receive a chat transcript by providing an email address. Customers also have the option of calling the center at 612-373-3333 or texting at 612-444-1161.

Phone calls, texts and live chats are available from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays. The TIC is closed on Sundays and public holidays.

For years, customers with questions or problems had only one option: call TIC and speak with one of the 22 representatives who work at the center. Just ten years ago, the call center received 1.5 million calls per year.

But that number had slowly dwindled to between 800,000 and 900,000 calls a year by the late 2010s — a trend that continued with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of those calls transitioned to text interactions. In 2019, Metro Transit launched its text messaging service, which allows customers to correspond with TIC representatives by typing on their phone.

Many companies have long had online chat functionality in various forms, and it was something Metro Transit had been considering adding for a few years, Adams said.

Using live chat doesn’t mean customers get answers faster than those who call or text. Chat requests are placed in the queue along with calls and text messages, and are routed to ICT representatives in the order in which they arrive.

“There is no passing at the head of the queue [with the chat]”, Adams said. “They’re all treated the same.”

MVTA Fun Bus returns

The Minnesota Valley Transit Authority has brought back its 4 Fun Bus, a weekend express route serving the Mall of America, Mystic Lake Casino, Valleyfair and Canterbury Park. Buses also pick up and drop off at Marschall Road Transit Station in Shakopee.

Trips run hourly from approximately 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays until the end of October. Rides cost $2.50.