Motorists on our nations’ toll roads could be more frequent users and more profitable as toll road clients if their customer service options were simpler to use and more intuitive. Much of the traveling public is used to banking on their mobile phones, shopping on-line and viewing on-demand search results. They rightfully expect the same seamless service experience from the transportation sector. It is these consumer expectations that are raising the bar on what good toll road customer service looks like and how it is measured.

mug-barry-1How motorists access and use tolling services is evolving rapidly. Finance, ecommerce and other industries offer technology-enabled innovations that are key to transforming tolling into a consumer driven service. Payments can be automated. Traffic conditions can be communicated in real time. Online portals and call centers can provide automated services.

Tolling agencies must position themselves to serve a wide variety of motorists with preferences that span multiple generations. These preferences can include less interaction with service personnel and more self-service options from an app or a website. There will be some motorists, however, who will still prefer face-to-face interaction or a telephone conversation.

As the methods of delivering good customer service continue to change, so are the objectives of this service. Not that long ago all of the focus was on efficiency.

But now effectiveness in resolving all issues in one interaction and educating the customer about service options are the new goals. Everybody wins when the phone stops ringing.

Devang Patel

One place to start is by simplifying many tolling business rules that add significant service complexity, chase too few dollars and increase operating costs. Streamlining many of these rules will allow toll operators to further empower customers with new on-demand self-service options that are intuitive and effective.

This simplified approach can mitigate many of the service issues that drive a consistently high volume of customer service calls. Business rule simplification can have a significant impact on all service channels.

Examples of this simplification are readily available from other industries. One example is the Uber-Eats food selection and home delivery model.

The Uber-Eats business model anticipates customer needs, simplifies service selection, and provides for immediate problem resolution, often with the help of artificial intelligence (AI).

Another way to meet the need for less interaction and more instantaneous service is to encourage services that turn a motorist into a potential customer-for-life. For example, drivers who frequent a given tollway and opt to buy a transponder or “edge” IoT device can be seamlessly charged and serviced.

Gene ContiGood customer service enhances customer acquisition success and retention while lowering the cost of servicing each individual customer. Good customer service also has meaningful, long-term strategic value. As transportation modes continue to evolve, new digital transport services will become vital in accommodating smarter vehicles and passengers. Connected vehicles are here today and fully autonomous vehicles are on the way. Satellite-based tracking systems for tolling are already active in some parts of the world accelerating the introduction of many new digital services.

It all comes down to serving the toll road operator’s largest stakeholder, the motorist, who wants convenient and safe transport from point A to point B. This is the value that they are willing to pay for.

This article was written by Kyra Solutions' Chief Strategy Officer Barry Pelletteri, Vice President of Consulting and Projects Devang Patel and Solutions Advisor Gene Conti.

Originally published on February 18, 2021 in SmartBrief

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