Chat Tool Will Allow Subway and Bus Riders with iPhones to Get Real Time Service Information, Communicate Directly with NYC Transit
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today announced the launch of an Apple Business Chat pilot program for subway and bus riders. The added feature will allow Apple users to communicate directly with NYC Transit through iMessages, Apple’s proprietary secure text message system. Subway and bus riders will now be able to chat with a NYC Transit customer service specialist in real time using the Messages app on iOS devices. The Authority first introduced the feature, driven by technology called “Apple Business Chat,” in mid-April with a soft launch that included a marketing push with signage in stations and onboard subways and buses.
With Apple Business Chat, iPhone users will have the ability to have more personable, one-on-one conversations with customer service specialists. The chat is activated through the Apple Messages app. Once a user begins a conversation with NYC Transit an automated assistant will bring up a menu of options for the customer to choose from, ranging from the next train or bus, find out if there is planned work going on, report a MetroCard issue or a safety concern. Once the customer provides that information, a member of the NYC Transit digital customer service team—the same team that currently manages customer service via WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook—can help answer questions and get issues resolved starting with the first reply.
“It is important to have a fluid conversation with our customers, and NYC Transit continues to come up with new ways to make that conversation easier,” said Sarah Feinberg, NYC Transit Interim President. “Now iPhone users are never more than a text message away from chatting with us.”
“We want to give customers every possible tool to communicate with us,” said Sarah Meyer, MTA Chief Customer Officer. “There are a lot of iPhone users in New York City, and this feature gives customers the ability to interact with us like they are texting a friend or family member.”
Since launching in April, NYC Transit’s Digital Communications Unit (DCU) has already received approximately 1,100 messages from New Yorkers via Apple Business Chat. Efforts to grow the number of users and refine the ways in which riders can get customer service support will continue into the new year. Additional in-station signage will begin to appear in the coming weeks as will a social media campaign to promote the use of the tool.
The Apple Business Chat feature comes after the successful rollout out of WhatsApp in October 2020. WhatsApp proved to be especially helpful for non-native English speakers using the system. By using Google Translate, frontline personnel from NYC Transit’s DCU team are able to interact with customers about real time service changes or other matters in real time in 108 languages.
Android users can reach out to NYC Transit’s DCU team using WhatsApp, Twitter or Facebook.
The continued expansion of new technology builds on the DCU's widely praised Twitter outreach. Over the last two months alone, DCU team members have received over 40,000 Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp messages in over 25,000 separate conversations.
For those who prefer to contact the MTA by telephone, information is available by dialing 511, the New York State Travel Information Line. Those who are deaf or hard of hearing can use their preferred service provider for the free 711 relay to reach the MTA at 511.