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5 Ways Spare is Revolutionizing Call Center Operations and Rider Experience with AI-Based Technology

The on-demand era is here, leading to a strain on call centers and as a result, long wait times and decreased rider satisfaction. Spare is on a mission to tackle these call center challenges head-on. Here's how.

Terri Ling

The burden on call centers

Traditional call centers at transit agencies have often struggled with a mismatch between call volumes and staffing levels. High call volumes, especially during peak hours, not only put a strain on resources but also lead to unhappy riders who don’t want to wait 10 minutes to speak with an agent.

1. Modern, user-friendly app-based interfaces

One of the most effective ways Spare relieves this burden is through the development of modern, user-friendly app-based interfaces for trip planning, booking, and payments. Our agency-branded mobile app, Spare Rider App, and Rider Web can supplement or even replace traditional phone-in bookings.

An example of The Current in Clark County, Washington, C-TRAN’s branded rider-facing mobile app.

At Spare, we not only think about accessibility a lot, but we design with it top-of-mind. Spare’s Rider Experience (RX) Team’s sole focus is to create a positive impact on riders by delivering an accessible and intuitive experience that accounts for a wide range of disabilities and impairments. All of our rider-facing applications are designed to meet and surpass WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines. In addition, we’ve made it our mission to build all of the same functions that any rider can complete in-app on a smartphone, such as real-time ride ETA checks, bookings, cancellations and more to be accounted for even if riders only have access to landlines.

Across our 100+ customers, we've noticed that 60% of trips are booked through the rider app, and most of the remaining 40% through the admin panel. Specifically, for paratransit, rider app bookings have increased by over 50% in the past 12 months.

2. Rider-centric booking agent tools

Even when riders prefer to book trips by phone, Spare's trip booking and dispatch module offers several built-in functionalities that make it easier for agents to handle inquiries and bookings. These include:

  • Auto-populating Geolocations: Agents no longer need to manually input addresses – let our software do it for you!
  • Quickly Search Favorite Locations: Stored addresses of riders can be auto-populated directly from their rider profiles.
  • Auto Insertion of Trips: Spare automatically inserts new trips into the manifest, saving precious time.
  • Automatic Communication to Riders: Updates about vehicle arrival, delays, etc., are automatically sent, reducing the number of inbound calls.

3. Spare Call Center: cost-effective overflow capacity

Spare Call Center is another arrow in our quiver. It offers overflow call center operational support, providing a flexible and scalable solution for agencies to combat staff storages, handle peak call volumes, increase phone coverage, or receive a full turnkey solution.

The value of Spare Call Center includes:

Extended Customer Service Hours

In some instances, agency operating hours do not exactly match agency call center operating hours. Spare fills the gaps when your full-time staff is off-duty by extending call center hours, ensuring that riders are serviced in a timely manner.

While the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority's (MVTA) dedicated call center operates from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday, their microtransit service runs seven days a week, from 6:00 am to 9:00pm. In partnership with MVTA, Spare was able to fill call center gaps by offering riders a reliable and convenient call-in option throughout the entire service operating hours.

Multi-Language Support

Languages are often a communication barrier between agents and riders looking for assistance, and the inability to communicate can be frustrating. Spare’s bilingual agents are fluent in English and Spanish. We carefully vet all agents to ensure language fluency is present to maintain top performance and accuracy in all customer interactions.

Rapid Implementation with Flexible Scalability

When staffing shortages are the name of the game, it’s crucial that call center support can be quickly set up. Thankfully, with Spare Call Center, agencies can set up overflow support in as little as a few days, along with training and onboarding resources ready for new agents and teams who work closely with them.

4. Spare IVR: Systematic call tree flow

Our new feature, Spare IVR offers a tech-based solution for transit agencies to combat staff shortages. Spare IVR uses Interactive Voice Recognition (IVR) technology to offer efficient and accessible ways for riders to book, cancel, and check ride ETAs.

In partnership with Collin County Transit in Texas, the team leverages Spare IVR to drive down burden on their call center operations. Over 50% of their ridership uses these methods to manage their trips, with a 4.3 out of 5 satisfaction score for riders who interact with this feature. Collin County’s riders commend the speed and accessibility of these new communication channels.

5. AI Voice: AI-powered conversational agent

Our latest product, AI Voice offers a tech-based 24/7 call center solution for transit agencies to combat high call volumes, staff shortages, long wait times and hold times, and more as a first line of defence.

AI Voice listens and understands human intent, responding in a human-centric manner. It does so by:

  1. Listening: AI Voice transforms spoken words into text using speech-to-text technology, acting as a diligent note-taker for the Large Language Model (LLM) to understand.
  2. Understanding: It then processes this text with a LLM, essentially a vast digital brain, to grasp the caller's request, whether that's booking, canceling, or inquiring about a trip.
  3. Responding: Using text-to-speech technology, AI Voice converses back, providing answers or confirmations as smoothly as a well-informed assistant.
  4. Adapting to Interruptions: Designed to manage sudden changes in the conversation, AI Voice can pause its current task to address new inquiries instantly, ensuring a fluid interaction.

Conclusion: So, what’s next for call centers?

The future of on-demand transit depends on efficient, streamlined operations and a superior customer experience. At Spare, we're committed to providing smart, scalable solutions for agencies facing the challenges of growing call volumes and rider demands. As on-demand transit continues to evolve, Spare is here to make sure your agency and your riders are well-taken care of.