Boos and bou­quets for JUTC ser­vice

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - ANDREA LAWRENCE

This is an open let­ter to Mike Henry, min­is­ter of trans­port, and the ex­ec­u­tive man­age­ment of the Ja­maica Ur­ban Tran­sit Com­pany.

WHAT IS ex­cel­lent cus­tomer ser­vice, I ask my­self? I will state what it is to me, with this ex­pe­ri­ence: Ap­prox­i­mately two months ago, at 6:25 a.m., I was on the 17AX JUTC bus that plies the Greater Port­more to Cross Roads, via Marescaux Road route. The ar­tic­u­lated bus (long bus) broke down in the vicin­ity of the Bridge­port High School. The driver stopped a very packed 1A (bus com­ing from Hell­shire) to trans­fer the pas­sen­gers and told us that he had asked the other driver to take pas­sen­gers to Cross Roads!

Cus­tomer ser­vice, for me, would see the driver mak­ing con­tact with the pow­ers that be to have a re­place­ment bus dis­patched as it was dur­ing peak hours.

I called JUTC’s toll-free num­ber and spoke to a woman. I ex­plained the sit­u­a­tion and asked if she could ar­range for a re­place­ment bus to trans­port the re­main­ing pas­sen­gers. She said she would call me back. (Of course, I wasn’t very op­ti­mistic that she would). Notwith­stand­ing my pes­simism, the lady called me back and re­ported that a sub­sti­tute bus was on its way! At that point, I re­quested her name, in the event that the bus did not come. Still be­ing doubt­ful, I con­tacted her again to as­cer­tain the bus’ lo­ca­tion and was duly in­formed. I should point out that step by step, I had been keep­ing the re­main­ing pas­sen­gers up­dated and they took the de­ci­sion to wait.

Within 10 min­utes of be­ing ad­vised of the lo­ca­tion of the bus, it ar­rived and trans­ported us to our var­i­ous des­ti­na­tions. Ms Yanique Piper, I have to pub­licly thank you for rais­ing the cus­tomer ser­vice bar at JUTC – ser­vice par ex­cel­lence! You did JUTC proud! Ms Piper had called me back via a mo­bile num­ber and, as such, I was able to keep in con­stant con­tact with her. With that ex­pe­ri­ence, how shocked I was with this one:

On Septem­ber 30, I was at the Half-Way Tree Trans­port Cen­tre from 2:30 p.m. More than an hour later and un­able to get on a No. 17/18 – only one had ar­rived up to the point of be­ing there – I be­came frus­trated as there were thou­sands of school­ers on lo­ca­tion. As I was with a sleepy six-year-old, it would have been very chal­leng­ing to en­ter a bus based on the push­ing, stam­ped­ing, and shov­ing that I had wit­nessed when the pre­vi­ous No. 17 had ar­rived. He would have suf­fo­cated.

SEEK­ING HELP

I took the de­ci­sion to go to a dis­patcher (those in bur­gundy JUTC shirts) to ask if he could fa­cil­i­tate me board­ing a bus be­fore it went to the area for em­bark­ment.

As­sum­ing that be­cause this male dis­patcher saw me with a six-year-old, ex­cel­lent cus­tomer ser­vice with a hu­man touch would pre­vail, how shocked was I when he said, in full view of other JUTC work­ers and some school­ers: “See­ing that 13 per­sons had asked me be­fore you, I couldn’t make an ex­cep­tion for you.” I stood there in dis­be­lief.

So in an em­bar­rassed tone, I replied, “Even for the sake of this baby? He is only six years old.” At that point, he offhand­edly replied, “I will ask the driver if it is okay and see.” I shook my head, said thank you, but even­tu­ally moved away, more so be­cause he was nowhere in sight.

I am sure JUTC dis­patch­ers/work­ers re­ceive cus­tomer-ser­vice training. I, there­fore, urge mem­bers of the public who have had sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ences to let your voices be heard and com­plain to JUTC man­age­ment. Man­age­ment must make their work phone num­bers public to fa­cil­i­tate these calls. We should not ac­cept these types of non­cha­lant, off­hand, and un­car­ing re­sponses.

I have often heard peo­ple re­mark at the Cross Roads bus stop, “No, mi chile. No line nuh form out here suh. A only the Span­ish Town bus stop over there suh. Dem al­ways form a line.” Lines are re­peat­edly formed at the Span­ish Town bus stop in Cross Roads. That should be re­cip­ro­cated through­out all JUTC bus ter­mi­nals.

A cus­tomer-ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tive told me that a dis­patcher once tried to in­sist that a line be formed at the No. 17/18 bus stop in the Half-Way Tree Trans­port Cen­tre and was ig­nored. My so­lu­tion is to have dis­patch­ers es­corted by a po­lice of­fi­cer to do this task. As such, I of­fer these hum­ble rec­om­men­da­tions as I be­lieve that con­struc­tive crit­i­cism should walk hand in hand with so­lu­tions:

1) Dis­patch­ers should have their names and an iden­tity num­ber im­printed on their shirts or wear a name tag to eas­ily iden­tify them in the event of a com­plaint.

2) Dis­patch­ers’ role should be more than just dis­patch­ing a bus or chang­ing its route. It should be ex­tended to in­clude look­ing out for the el­derly, the dis­abled, and adults with ba­bies and small chil­dren up to, say, age eight years of age.

3) The el­derly, the dis­abled, adults with ba­bies/small kids, should and must be al­lowed to board the buses prior to other pas­sen­gers.

4) It must be­come manda­tory for lines to be formed – or the bus doors – not be opened.

5) Drivers should en­sure that the el­derly and dis­abled are of­fered one of the four front seats in a packed bus. The dis­abled sign is very vis­i­ble.

I can only pray that steps will be taken to re­train some of the dis­patch­ers based on my ex­pe­ri­ence. CARE – in my own thought process – means ‘Cor­dial As­sis­tance Re­quires Em­pa­thy’. Dis­patch­ers and drivers must put them­selves (em­pa­thy) in the place of the vul­ner­a­ble and show that they care.

We can­not af­ford to wait for an el­derly per­son, the dis­abled, or a child to be crushed – God for­bid – or suf­fo­cate in their at­tempt to board a JUTC bus be­fore the JUTC re­acts. I wel­come a proac­tive, rather than a re­ac­tive, ap­proach to these kinds of sit­u­a­tions.

JER­MAINE BARN­ABY/FREE­LANCE PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Scores of per­sons gather in an ef­fort to board a No. 18 bus at South Pa­rade in Kingston on March 16, 2016. There is often a dog-eats-dog rush to board the No. 17 and 18 buses at the Half-Way Tree Trans­port Cen­tre, writes Andrea Lawrence.

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