In this installment of A Conversation With, we talk to Kevin Felkner of Waco Transit System. Kevin won the Outstanding Customer Service Award at the Texas Transit Association Conference in El Paso earlier this month. Congratulations Kevin!
Kevin began his career in public transportation at Waco Transit System just three short years ago as a bus driver. He was quickly promoted to a scheduler position and oversaw demand response, paratransit, and ADA eligible operations. Kevin’s journey to public transit is an unusual one that involves a bit of luck and a motorcycle, but we’re truly grateful his journey brought him to us because his exceptional people skills make him an outstanding employee!
RATP Dev: How did you get into the public transportation industry?
Kevin Feltner: It was by chance. The last job I worked at I was there for about 19 years. I was in retail sales and management…I took a year off, grew a big beard, and rode my Harley all over Texas! Then, one day, I decided it was time for me to get back into the workforce. I went to a job fair and the very first table that grabbed my attention was Waco Transit System. Speaking with the system representatives was captivating and impressive. I said to myself, you know what, I’ve never driven a bus. Let’s give that a shot and see what I think about it. I studied, got my license and became a bus driver! I was then able to work myself up into the office based on my interest in the transit industry and experience in sales and management, and that’s where I am today.
Life’s an adventure; enjoy it while you can.
RATP Dev: You just won an Outstanding Customer Service award. How was it that you were considered for this award?
K.F.: I was discreetly nominated by Allen Hunter - RATP Dev’s General Manager of Waco Transit System. He always compliments me on a job well done but I was pleasantly surprised to hear that he had submitted a letter to the TTA organization on my behalf and spoke highly of my accomplishments. I was trying to fly under the radar!
RATP Dev: What does this award mean to you?
K.F.: For me, it’s kind of a culmination of a lifetime of my three-word phrase “do unto others.” It’s something I learned from my mother. She was a waitress and she always put on a happy face to go to work. She used to say people don’t want to hear your problems. They need somebody to lean on, someone to listen to them. Customer service was very important to her, and through the years it was a skill I honed as well.
RATP Dev: From your perspective, what constitutes outstanding customer service?
K.F.: That’s a very broad question. But in my opinion, it’s genuine concern and care for the people you are dealing with. If you genuinely believe in what you’re doing, and you have concern for those people, it comes naturally.
RATP Dev: How do you interact with your customers?
K.F.: I have a position where I mainly talk on the telephone. In addition, if anyone comes to the help desk, I’m usually the person who responds. With the ADA applications that I process, I meet people in person quite often as well. When anyone seeks my help, I interact face to face, I don’t stand behind a glass window and talk. I shake hands and sit down and talk someone the way I would want to be talked to. I treat them how they should be treated, as people.
RATP Dev: What do you hope your customers take away from their experiences with you?
K.F.: I hope they know my concern to resolve their issues are real and genuine. At the same time, I know that we’re running a business, so I look at it that way, too. It makes a difference to sit down for an extra minute or two to show concern for somebody. They’re certainly going to remember that and that’s going to reflect whether they do business with us in the future.
RATP Dev: Can you tell me about a specific interaction you’ve had with a rider where you’ve felt like you made a difference?
K.F.: About six months ago, a customer called Customer Service in tears. She was looking for a ride to a doctor’s appointment but did not know how she was going to get there. Since she was currently dependent on a walker and living in the greater Waco Area, her options were limited. She had to have previously applied for and be certifiably eligible for the service – and that takes time. After listening to her situation, I told her not to worry. I told her I’d mail her the application for future trips but would also take care of her issue right now. Since she didn’t have an account, I went ahead to approve and book her ride, considering the allowance of a 30-day conditional ADA approval. I got her from Point A to Point B in the timeframe she had. I got her to this important doctor’s appointment. Then I mailed her the application, so she could take that with her to the doctor who was able to fax it back. She was so thankful. She called me every day for a couple of days thanking me. We still talk today!
RATP Dev: Providing exceptional, reliable public transportation can be difficult sometimes due to circumstances beyond your control. How do you stay positive at those times?
K.F.: Deep breaths help, I can tell you that [laughs]. Sometimes it’s kind of tough but in the back of my mind it’s always there that I’m dealing with folks that are typically unable to get to and from a bus stop. What this tells me is that these folks, for some reason or another, are not able to transport themselves, and that can’t always feel good. I just remember that they probably hear ‘no’ everywhere they go and just a few kind words and providing them with a solution can help, so that’s what I do.
RATP Dev: What advice would you give to others working with the riding public?
K.F.: You must keep in mind that everyone is a potential customer. Now it’s not all about business, but that’s how I think about it overall. We’re selling a service and you’ve got to do everything you can to help your customers access and enjoy that service. So just do that little extra. Take your time, make eye contact, and really try to go above and beyond because in the long run our customers make us more successful.
When we reached out to Allen Hunter for a comment on Kevin’s award, he eagerly added, “Mr. Felkner doesn’t just take client calls and books trips daily, he is constantly working to solve the transportation challenges of our passengers. Even on a busy day, he never makes the passengers feel hurried or rushed. Going the extra mile, he has embraced all the complexities of our organization from the Urban and Rural System to the Medicaid service, making things like funding sources and trip types appear transparent to our clients. Never, have I ever witnessed someone answer the phone and address our clients with such empathy and compassion. We are certainly very lucky to have him on board.”
- A Conversation With
- Customer Service