CATS customer satisfaction numbers way down in latest survey

A new customer satisfaction survey suggest regular riders of Capital Area Transit System buses are unhappy with the service. According to the survey, the number of customers who would recommend the CATS bus to a neighbor or friend is far outweighed by those who would not recommend the public transit system.

The survey, conducted in mid-February by transit consultants TransPro, measures customer satisfaction through use of a metric called a Net Promoter Score, or NPS. The survey asked respondents how likely they would be, on a scale of 0 to 10, to recommend CATS service. Those who would be very likely, responding with a 9 or 10, are considered promoters. Those who would be unlikely, responding with 0 through 6, are considered detractors. The NPS is determined by subtracting the detractors from promoters.

In the latest survey, only 30% of the 515 respondents rated CATS service highly enough to be considered promoters, while 41% fell into the detractor category, giving the system an NPS of -11%. That’s considerably down from an October 2014 survey, when the NPS was 19%, and also from the first customer satisfaction survey in February 2014. At that time the NPS was 3%.

“We are disappointed with the results of the survey,” says CATS CEO Bob Mirabito. “We must improve how we serve our customers. We are working at the agency to provide tools to improve our customer service on the bus and at our call center. We will be conducting another survey in the fall and hope to see a marked improvement in our performance.”

As to why the February survey results were so much lower than those from last fall, transit consultant Mark Aesch, whose company conducted the survey, suggests one factor that may have played into the lower ratings was negative publicity surrounding ongoing contract talks between the CATS employee union and the administration. TransPro CEO Mark Aesch says the February survey was conducted within a week of the collective bargaining unit’s organized picketing.

“While it’s difficult to quantify the impact of this activity, it almost certainly had an adverse impact on survey results,” he says. “This appears to be directly seen in several customer impression metrics related to bus operator performance. In the next wave of surveys it will be insightful to see if bus operator performance results return to more traditional levels representing a more positive customer experience for CATS.”

As first reported by Daily Report on Monday, CATS officials say they will need as much as $11 million over the next 18 months to implement the goals contained in a new strategic plan, which include replacing 11 buses, constructing four new transit hubs and building additional bus shelters.

Read a recent Business Report profile of Mirabito.

—Stephanie Riegel

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