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When Snow Strikes, SEPTA's Social Media Team is ready to respond.

by Manuel McDonnell Smith
Public Information Manager

With the Delaware Valley enduring one of the more brutal winters in recent memory, the simple task of getting from Point A to Point B has become a challenge for every commuter this season. But this year, many of our riders are making it through the storm with help from another source, real-time tweets from the SEPTA Social Media Team @Septa_Social.

When the weather gets rough that's when "we get more aggressive," says SEPTA Customer Service Technology Supervisor James Siler. "During a weather event, people want to know what service disruptions they can expect," he explains. For twelve hours a day, the team responds to every type of question that a rider can ask. "Is this route running, is that route on detour, will my car be towed from a SEPTA lot if it's left during a storm?" are a few of the most commonly received over the past month. For every question sent to the team, there's been a timely reply sent back. In the month of January alone, @Septa_Social logged more than 4,300 mentions. That number nearly doubles the amount of mentions that the team logged in the fair weather month of October. And it continues to grow as the winter season drags on.

Social Media Agents are available from 7:00am-7:00pm on weekdays, 8:00am-6:00pm on weekends and for extended hours during weather emergencies ready to deliver critical travel information. "Social media is the wave of the future that more and more people are engaging in" says Rohan Hepkins, SEPTA's Director of Customer Service "and they expect us [SEPTA] to be listening." According to Hepkins, who is also responsible for SEPTA's "traditional" customer service programs, including telephone and email interactions says the public nature of social media interactions are invaluable, "just engaging with a few folks has the potential of reaching thousands" through shares, mentions, and re-tweets.

Because of the fierce weather conditions that have been affecting our region this season, the Social Media Team has also accelerated their efforts to provide bilingual service updates and replies. "We recognize that we have a significant segment of our riders who are bilingual," explains Customer Service Specialist Neftali Velez. "While they may communicate in English, they may prefer to use Spanish while on social media. Our efforts in this area are a reflection of our community and our customers." It's a focus that Velez's partners Eileen Matos and Eric Negron share, in fact, the team not only sends out messages in Spanish, but also actively searches social media for bilingual messages about SEPTA service so that they're able to provide real time updates. "The toughest part of the job is squeezing everything into the twitter limit of 140 characters," explained Negron. "One word in English can be three words in Spanish". But serving our customers whether it is in Spanish or English, or in snow or sun, is a challenge the SEPTA Social Media Team looks forward to taking on every day.

A motivational sign inside of the Social Media Room.

A look inside SEPTA's Customer Service Call Center.

(From L to R) Neftali Velez, Eileen Matos, and Eric Negron are the bilingual members of the Social Media Team.

A large screen keeps track of waiting calls waiting to be answered inside of the Customer Service Call Center.