The number of people willing to recommend the Capital Area Transit System to a friend has plummeted for the first time since the agency started measuring satisfaction more than a year ago.
A new TransPro survey conducted in February shows that 30 percent of CATS riders are considered promoters of the Baton Rouge bus system, while 41 percent of riders are detractors. The new results show a 37.5 percent tumble in bus system promoters since an October survey.
“I’m taking it as if we just performed poorly,” Mirabito said. “We’ve got to do a better job.”
CATS has pushed for many improvements since voters passed a dedicated property tax in 2012 to improve and expand bus services. The agency has tried to expand its fleet and implement new services like a Garden District Trolley.
CATS started measuring customer satisfaction after it implemented wide-ranging service changes and expansions stemming from a property tax passed in 2012. CATS has promised taxpayers it would deliver higher-quality, more-reliable service.
But the bus system has hit many snags along the way. Mirabito has clashed over and over again with the transit union and terminated one of the union official’s jobs during a June meeting intended to go over contract negotiations.
Mirabito said the survey results may have been affected by the transit union’s protests about driving old and poorly maintained buses, which happened close to the time when the survey was conducted. CATS workers complained they felt unsafe driving the buses and said the internal management structure of CATS was problematic.
A few days later, Metro Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle called for Mirabito to resign.
TransPro, which conducted the survey, creates a net promoter score by using the number of people willing to recommend a service to a friend. Well-liked and trusted companies tend to have high scores, like Apple, which has a 70 percent net promoter score. Companies that tend to have customer service problems have low scores, like Internet providers, which have 5 percent net promoter scores.
The score subtracts the number of detractors unwilling to recommend a brand from the number of promoters who are willing to recommend it.
CATS had a 3 percent net promoter score in March 2014, with only a few more people willing to recommend CATS than not. The score climbed to 19 percent in October of that year, with much more people ready to endorse CATS than diminish it.
But the Baton Rouge bus system’s net promoter score has tumbled to minus-11 percent, as the number of detractors of the bus system outweighs the advocates.
Mirabito said CATS has planned a handful of upgrades to boost customer satisfaction. He said the agency has added customer service representatives to its Customer Care Center and that it has revamped operator training.
He also said CATS is in the process of getting more buses to replace some of its dying fleet. Anyone who experienced one of many recent CATS bus breakdowns was likely to give the agency a poor rating, Mirabito said.
CATS also has continually struggled to attract people who opt to ride the bus rather than those who do not have any other means of transportation.
The latest survey results show CATS has not made much headway in luring riders who are not dependent on the bus. Of the 515 people surveyed, 87 percent said they do not have a choice in whether they use the bus for transportation.
Additionally, 66 percent of those customers said they primarily ride the bus to and from work.
Mirabito said CATS is in the process of hiring a public relations firm to better promote its Garden District Trolley — meant to attract new kinds of riders — along with other routes.
“Our focus is, whether you’re a rider of need or a rider of choice, we’re going to take care of you,” he said.
Mirabito said CATS plans to conduct another customer satisfaction survey around September.
Follow Andrea Gallo on Twitter, @aegallo.