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SEPTA's Kim Scott Heinle

MBA Alum Shares SEPTA's Customer Service Innovations


December 05, 2017

If a SEPTA rider is waiting on a late train or bus, one of the most immediate and proactive actions they can take is to tweet at @SEPTA_SOCIAL. If all goes according to plan, the rider will get a reply tweet within five minutes.

The man supervising this real-time rider response effort is Kim Scott Heinle, SEPTA’s assistant general manager of customer service and advocacy, and 1994 Drexel LeBow MBA graduate. He returned to campus to speak with Assistant Professor of Marketing Elea McDonnell Feit’s Data-Driven Digital Marketing class and share how social media and analytics have shaped his approach to customer service.

Feit’s data-driven course provides students with an overview of today’s digital marketing landscape including banner advertising, websites, email and social media marketing. Heinle’s presentation touched on these themes and particularly complemented what the students had been learning about social media listening and responding. He explained that the transit agency shifted resources from phone-based customer service to social media in an effort to “position ourselves where our customers are.”

Heinle explained the digital tools his team relies on to monitor social media chatter and the metrics they use to measure success. Among those metrics is response rate and speed: The @SEPTA_SOCIAL team now meets their five-minute reply goal 95 percent of the time and boasts a nearly 100 percent reply rate on a typical business day.

Prompted by an insightful student question about what groups SEPTA views as competitors, Heinle explained that they’re fighting with Uber, Lyft and even Indego bike share for ridership. These startup competitors reinforce Heinle’s point that SEPTA has to strive to keep up in the digital age. “You have to be relevant,” he says. “If you’re not relevant, you go out of business.”

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Headshot of Elea Feit

Associate Dean for Research, Associate Professor, Marketing