Customer Service Lessons from the TTC

I’m going to use my favourite “love to hate” entity, the Toronto Transit Commission (the TTC), to illustrate some key lessons in customer service. For those who are unfamiliar, the TTC is “a public transport agency that operates transit bus, streetcar, and rapid transit services in Toronto, Ontario, Canada” (via Wikipedia).

Lesson #1: Put Yourself in Your Customer’s Shoes

This is a simple and fundamental rule of customer service, yet so many businesses seem to forget to or simply don’t apply it.

Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of taking public transit during rush hour knows what a wholly frustrating and unsatisfactory experience it can be.

CrowdedTTCSubway_BLOG(photo credit: George Pechtol)

One thing that annoys me to no end is when subway drivers brake suddenly and repeatedly during the ride. This is problematic because riders are packed into the subway like sardines and we often don’t have access to a handrail when subway is that full. The result? People who are already sweaty and cranky end up falling and tripping into each other.

That is simply not a pleasant experience, and it can easily be avoided by drivers putting themselves in their customers’ shoes. Remember that your passengers are not seatbelted into cushy seats, so kindly refrain from repeatedly slamming the brakes!

This customer service rule lends itself across small, medium, and large business across a wide range of service industries:

  • Coffee shop: examine if the cream, sugar, and lids are easily accessible after a customer picks up her order.
  • Clothing retailer: examine if your return/exchange policy is hassle-free.
  • Restaurant: examine if your website clearly displays your menu, address, and phone number.

When in doubt, put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Act and react accordingly!