We’re Live: GO Transit Case Study

Hi all, as promised in my last blog post, I’m posting the link to our GO Transit Case Study slideshow posted in SlideShare.

For the comprehensive collection of research, once again here are the links to Aaron’s blog, Ana’s blog and Tanya’s blog.

The team would love for you to have a look and to post any feedback you have!

The final curtain.


Thanks again, team. It’s been a slice!


Case Study: GO Transit

“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things…”

Well, I’m only really going to talk about what our #smrtcce team has been working on these past few weeks. Our GO Transit case study has come to a head.

We’ve been preparing a presentation in the background – and it’ll combine all of our contributions. I’ll link you to it once we’ve perfected it.

For now, I’m going to fill you in on my input (AKA the part that was assigned to me!).

Organizational Goal

GO’s vision of its future, according to its Strategic Plan (2020) is:

“GO Transit will be the preferred choice for interregional travel in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.”

Directly tied to this vision is GO Transit’s Passenger Charter. I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll state the key one again: “Keeping you in the Know.” Again, this is GO’s promise to its customers to keep them informed.

These are pretty high level, so let’s get to the Communications Objectives.

Communications Objectives

GO Transit lists 6 objectives to achieve their vision. The second item is “GO Transit will be a leader in customer service.” 

One of the ways they plan to be successful in this is through “Effective customer communications.” Here’s exactly what it says:

“Customers will have easy access, through a choice of media, to the information they need to understand GO Transit services, plan their trip, and adjust to any service disruptions. GO customers will be informed promptly and updated frequently when service is disrupted and will receive accurate information about the cause of the delay.” (pg. 15)

The company also lists a challenge to this specific objective:

“Communication methods must constantly evolve to respond to customers’ increasing expectations for accurate and timely information, and to take advantage of new technologies to monitor service and distribute the information to the customers who need it.” (pg. 15)

Appropriately the team’s tactic fits nicely into the communications objectives.

via GO Transit

The Tactic

La pièce de résistance.

The team has come up with an overarching tactic to be employed by GO Transit. Based on our research of other transit systems, and research in to how GO Transit already incorporates the use of social media (keep in mind our focus on Lakeshore West train passengers), here’s what we came up with:

  • GO Transit should empower the customer service ambassadors on the trains to be able to tweet updates and delays from dedicated Twitter handles.

For example, for Lakeshore West, using the @LkShWGO  Twitter handle (or something prettier), the customer service ambassadors can tweet to its followers. The account should stipulate the following:

  • tweets are part of a wider program to inform and, therefore, not to be solely relied upon
  • we’ll do our best to keep up with tweets
  • name the customer service ambassadors and list initials of tweeter

The tactic is pretty simple and straightforward. The use of the tool is free. The only times costs come into play are when we discuss training customer service ambassadors and incorporating this into the customer satisfaction survey. But it’s not too intensive, in our opinion.

Why the team thinks this is a good idea

So the team thinks this tactic works for multiple reasons.

First and foremost, the tactic addresses that communications objectives listed above. It’s offering GO Transit passengers yet another way to stay informed. It’s one more option among the different types of media GO Transit is already using to keep its passengers in the know (an app, direct email alerts, signage, etc.). Just another “choice of media.”

Telling customers about these dedicated Twitter handles would be easy considering GO Transit uses all kinds of different media – Facebook, Twitter, its website, emails, etc. It’s just a matter of spreading the word and offering the option.

We also think the tactic addresses that pesky little challenge (also listed above) about communication methods constantly evolving. Customers expect timely and accurate information. Twitter is real time. BOOM.

Customers would have to choose to follow the dedicated handles, which they could do for those transit lines they used most frequently. The dedicated Twitter handles are also easily “stopped” if it’s not something customers are really using.

Another positive outcome could be a reduction in negative comments on other social media platforms used by GO Transit. And, that little report card they have? They might see their scores improve in customer satisfaction.

So what?

Ultimately passengers want to have a little more control over their commutes. Offering them another option to receive updates gives them more information, and the ability to make decisions based on that information. This goes a long way in keeping customers satisfied. And it’s one more way to beef up GO Transit’s customer service program.

What do you think? Got anything to add?

MTA — Transit in New York City

It’s been a while since my last few posts about GO Transit’s use of social media. Turns out, there will be a few more from me and a few classmates (Aaron, Ana and Tanya)!

The team and I decided we’d look at a few other, comparable major cities and their transit systems. This post will be a brief snapshot of how the Metropolitan Transit Authority (in New York City) uses social media.

image via MTA website


MTA has a very similar website to GO Transit’s. Both post updates, governance information, a trip planner and customer-friendly information, for instance.

The advantage to the MTA website is a Service Status update. This section updates users with the different transit lines’ service assessments. As you can see in the image below, the application is divided into different sections such as subway, rail, bus, and bridges and tunnels. And then each transit line (depending on which category it falls under) gets its own little service rating. This application can be downloaded as a widget and shared via social media.

MTA Service Status screenshot

The team thinks that this application is something that could easily be adopted by GO Transit. It would be a simpler application for GO because it would only be divided into rail and bus, and each route under those headings would have its own service status posted.

Twitter and Facebook

MTA has a Twitter account (@MTAInsider). Here are a few of the Twitter account stats as of March 12, 2012:

  • Following ~100
  • ~2,000 tweets to date

The @MTAInsider tweets are similar to @GetontheGO tweets but the account user responds more to direct messages. So, instead of posting a generic “please contact a customer service representative,” the account users engage and then respond with more specific instructions.

The @MTAInsider profile clearly states that the Twitter account is not monitored 24-7.

MTA also has a Facebook page, which is very similar to GO Transit’s page.  MTA posts updates, people respond and use the page to comment (both negatively and positively) about service.


The team is focusing on GO Transit’s “Keeping you in the know” goal. With that in mind, I think we can take a few tips from how MTA does employs the use of social media. The company’s use of social media isn’t perfect, but maybe GO Transit can become a leader in its use and application of social media in Canada.

So far the team’s still in the research phase, using Google Docs and a few of the other tools at our disposal. Suggestions, and some more research to come!

GO Transit #FAIL?

Man it’s great when companies make mistakes. Otherwise, what would we have to blog about?

Maybe I’m being picky here, but let me present my case for GO Transit’s recent #FAIL. Then you can decide.

The evidence

On the afternoon of Wednesday, February 8, 2012, @GetontheGO tweeted:

Screenshot (Feb. 8, 2012) of @GetontheGO Twitter feed

Seems like a regular, everyday, corporate kind of tweet. Nothing amiss, right? Wrong.

Here’s why. Follow the link they inserted into their tweet. There’s nothing wrong with posting a link to their Passenger Charter. Except for one small problem. This video was posted a year ago.

Here’s the video (but you can also check out their YouTube Channel to see when the video was posted):



Old news

I actually like GO Transit’s Passenger Charter. It’s straightforward, clear and gets to the core of some of their issues. But this tweet, to me, is like saying “check out how we’re doing the same thing we’ve been doing all year.”

Why is GO Transit linking us to old news? There are a ton of other, more current things @GetontheGO could be tweeting about.

If you want to link us to this video, why not just say something like “if you missed it, check out our Passenger Charter and let us know what you think”?

More proof

There’s a ton of research on what makes a tweet good and what makes a tweet bad. Here’s a blog posted to Technorati on that very subject.

The most important thing I’d like to draw your attention to is the FIRST of the “9 ways to avoid annoying people with your Tweets.”

Yup, you guessed it, it’s “Don’t tweet old news.”

GO Transit vs. the world

After delving in to the world of GO Transit, I’ve come up with a few key “issues” for them to address.

Research at a glance

My primary research (thank goodness GO Transit conducts surveys so that I don’t have to) indicates that there are two specific areas GO Transit should address. One is “comfortable experience” and the other I’ll argue is “keeping you in the know.” The latter, I think it an area for improvement because it’s their lowest target and they haven’t posted the results. I’ll keep watching those scores…

Based on my secondary research of Facebook posts evaluation and GO Transit’s use of Twitter, it seems to me that customers aren’t feeling heard. Strange. Because GO Transit conducts those surveys. I wonder if everyone knows about that survey or how to participate?

I chose these formats because, in combination, they’re a great representation of the issues GO Transit is currently facing.  It just so happens, they’re also a great way for GO Transit to turn the negatives into positives. To me, it just makes sense to use these same platforms to communicate improvements and ask for feedback going forward.

“I’m learnding!”

Now that we know what’s standing in its way, GO Transit can move forward with a few objectives.

My suggestions? GO Transit needs to:

  1. Ask passengers (from my target audience in this case) their preferred method of communication and use those platforms to communicate going forward.
  2. Engage its audiences and actively build supportive online communities through increased, proactive use of social media tools. For example, use social media to ask customers what the company can be doing better instead of using Facebook and Twitter accounts as inboxes.
  3. Address the concerns of passengers (like comfort, services and fare hikes) and then communicate the results to those same publics.
  4. Be vocal about what the company can and cannot address and communicate improvements (and be honest about the shortcomings too) on those same platforms.

End scene

Even though GO Transit has a monopoly on the commuter rails, its goals still focus on customer satisfaction. If the company can engage passengers in a positive way, it’ll be sure to build its supportive online communities. Maybe then, GO Transit will garner more advocates and won’t have to defend itself as much.

Break it down

It’s time to get to the heart of the matter, GO Transit.

Framing the scenario

Here are a few questions I asked myself while conducting some research. Plus my own answers (because who doesn’t love it when people answer their own questions? The answer is no one).

  1. Who’s my “audience”? Lakeshore West GO bus and train commuters (Toronto to Hamilton and every stop in between) aged ~25-50.
  2. Why did I choose this target group? Because they’re the ones I usually see on the train during rush hour commuting for work. They’re also the group who seem to be most vocal about issues they have with GO Transit.
  3. What do members of this demographic have in common? Many use mobile devices while on the train. And most are just trying to get to and from work in a hassle-free way. Opportunity.
  4. What might make this group happy? More trains, straightforward routes, all at a reasonable cost.

How do I know what might make this group happy? See for yourself…here’s a collection of Facebook comments from Get on the GO’s page on the subject:

Recent negative Facebook comments about GO Transit services and fares

You’ll notice that the comments I picked had no replies from Get on the GO. Another social media management gap I will try to bridge for GO Transit.

Like I said in my last post: it’s not all bad. That survey that I mention (that GO Transit conducts regularly) points to a lot of “happy” customers. But there’s certainly room for improvement.

Fall into the GAP

Let’s take a step back. Let’s talk about GO Transit’s goal (or what should be their goal).

Reach for the stars

I already identified one of GO Transit’s communications gaps. Woah there, partner! What’s the big picture, you ask?

Let’s make this simple: GO Transit needs to increase its customer satisfaction.


I’ve done some research and the consensus is toning toward disappointment. Now, it’s not all bad, but I’m zoning in on the negative as something to be able to improve. We all want to get better at something, don’t we?

In addition to some of the other research I already performed, I should mention a couple more sources and be a little more specific.

After checking GO Transit’s official Facebook page regularly, more often than not, the comments trend as complaints. Worse than that, the complaints aren’t always addressed.

I also asked around. My question was always something like “why do you take the GO?” Usually the answer surrounded not wanting to deal with traffic. Other answers were because people liked to get work done on the train. Others? “Because I have to, not because I want to.”


A lot of people are generally satisfied with their commute but not so much with the GO Transit services. A blog commenter also reminded me that GO Transit has a virtual monopoly on GTA commutes.

No competition? That’s a topic for another day.

image courtesy of GO Transit