Why the ultimate customer must be the rider
02 October 2023,
Susan Baldwin recalls listening to a speech a year ago from a man confined to a wheelchair.
“He said that what we all experienced with Covid is what those with disabilities experience every day,” she says. “You have people that can’t get out and go to the store, or go visit friends, or go do community activities, because they don’t have transportation. That resonates with me.”
As Vix Technology’s new Vice President of Customer Relations, Baldwin carries that thought with her every day. The ultimate customer, for her, is the rider and that equity in public transit is not just a matter of fairness; it is a fundamental aspect of creating sustainable, thriving, and inclusive communities.
From bus driver to vice president
She began her new role at the transport solutions provider a little over a month ago and saw the opportunity to join a company with a growing US presence.
“I want to ensure that what we offer is what the transit agencies need and what their customers need,” she explains. “The ultimate customer is the one that everybody should have in mind when you’re looking at technology and what it brings.
We have the ability to make public transportation efficient for every rider. At Vix, we are able to put in technologies and solutions that meet public transit agencies’ needs. We want to stay at the forefront of that but make sure that the customer is behind it.”
As a self-described “Daddy’s girl” she followed in her father’s footsteps and started her transit career as a bus driver. In that role she was able to observe, and deal with first hand, customers and their needs on a daily basis and how public transit serves a lifeline for many people who do not have access to private vehicles, such as low-income individuals, seniors, and people with disabilities.
Later Baldwin, with this frontline experience, saw an opportunity to help improve the technology that’s being provided to the riding public and began to work with a variety of transit agencies either in a consultancy or leadership role. This led her to become part of the senior management team at Clever Devices and later Vice President of Customer Success at Bytemark.
Despite her wealth of experience and training she declares that, “it all means nothing if a transit agency cannot provide efficient, reliable service to the communities or the people that need it”.
The importance of fare equity
As cash usage falls across the world and contactless and card-based payments rise, Baldwin says that part of ensuring equity is to keep in mind those who are unbanked and rely on cash. She believes that just like the transit system should be efficient and reliable, the options for payment should be efficient as well.
“If you had a vendor at every corner that could take your cash and turn it into something else [a travel pass or bus ticket], then fine, but if I’ve got to search for a place to turn my cash into that, then that’s not efficient for me. As the rider, I need to catch the bus,” she explains. “I don’t need to search and walk an extra mile to get to something to make things convenient for the transit agency.”
She affirms that it’s a transit company’s job to make it as easy as possible to use public transit.
“I’m a ‘choice rider’, as in I can ride the bus if I want to or I can drive my car,” she adds. “You have people that don’t have that option and that for them the bus or public transit is their only way to have some type of freedom from their home. And if that’s not who we’re servicing, then we’re not in the public transit business.”