New Feature Allows Riders to Message Customer Service Representatives in Real Time
In a major upgrade for customer communications and a first in the region, MTA Long Island Rail Road President Phil Eng today unveiled a significant new feature of the LIRR TrainTime app, a chat function that LIRR customers can use to chat in real-time directly with LIRR customer service staff. The upgrade will prove especially helpful to customers navigating their return to LIRR in the wake of COVID-19.
Customers can use the feature to ask for the time or location of their train or to report a problem and they can seamlessly submit photos while doing so. In response, the customer support staff can send “deep links,” which, when clicked, take the customer directly to the relevant part of the app.
For example, if a customer asks for the location of the 8:15 train at Island Park, the staff can send a link to that train and the customer will see it directly on their phone on a map with one click. Or if a customer asks, “I haven’t ridden the railroad since March, are trains busy now?” an agent can respond with information from LIRR real-time passenger loading data letting the customer know which trains and cars are busier than others.
The app’s new features were built entirely in-house by LIRR developers and staff with an intimate understanding of the system. The team designed numerous solutions tailored specifically to LIRR.
“The Long Island Rail Road and MTA IT continue to embrace technology and being forward-thinking, bringing customer-friendly tools that will make navigating our system easier,” said Phil Eng, LIRR President. “We are giving our customers the tools they need to communicate directly with us no matter where they are and building features for the 21st century. With the support of our labor partners at TCU and their members for embracing this idea, Will Fisher and his entire team once again went outside the box and put this new communication tool in the palm of our customers’ hand.”
"This addition to our app is yet another example of how the LIRR is leading all North American railroads when it comes to embracing innovation,” said Will Fisher, LIRR Chief Innovation Officer. “This feature will help make the entire customer experience more seamless and reduces the number of applications customers need when navigating our system.”
“TCU once again is proud of its MTA workforce in being instrumental in creating, implementing and utilizing a new technology introduced by the MTA,” said Nicholas Peluso, TCU National Representative. “For the last thirty years as technology changed so did the TCU workers. The TCU has been the backbone of MTA’s Information Technology Department. Without the TCU, the MTA’s would not be the leading IT department for railroads throughout the country. The TCU has been working closely with LIRR President Phil Eng to have exceptional customer service at our customers’ fingertips. With the introduction of the chat feature on the LIRR mobile app the LIRR once again leads the railroad industry in customer communication. The TCU’s members who work in the LIRR’s Customer Service Center will be bringing this new customer service feature to life.”
"This new chat feature is like traveling with a Long Island Rail Road customer service rep who can answer questions and provide information in the moment,” said Lisa Daglian, Executive Director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA. “The LIRR is continuing to update its technology to address rider needs and we appreciate these ongoing efforts. This will provide an extra level of comfort and security as riders return and as the pandemic abates."
"Kudos to the Long Island Rail Road for continuing to use technology to improve the way it communicates with riders,” said Gerry Bringmann, chair of the Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council. “The new chat feature will allow users to get information and report any problems in real time. Having a direct connection is particularly important in these uncertain times and we encourage riders to take advantage of this new feature to get answers on the go."
Customers who already have TrainTime installed will receive an automatic update so that they can use the new features. The revamped app is also available through the App Store and Google Play Store for immediate download and use.
The chat feature is staffed by LIRR personnel seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. At all times, customers should call 911 or find an employee in case of an emergency.
The MTA will track the usefulness and popularity of the LIRR’s in-app chat function and will evaluate the possibility of extending it to the MTA’s other apps, including MYmta. Last year MTA New York City Transit began using WhatsApp to enable subway and bus riders to communicate with New York City Transit in real time.