12 Oct

How Schenectady's Transfinder uses data to keep buses on the go

From the timesunion.com
By Larry Rulison
Published 3:09 pm, Monday, October 9, 2017     

Being in the software industry, Antonio Civitella has always known the value of data.

Civitella's company Transfinder makes bus routing software for school districts and has grown to more than $13 million in annual revenue, with 80 employees at its Schenectady headquarters.


Without good data, school districts wouldn't be able to get their buses where they need to go on time. Parents and administrators would be upset. 

But in recent years Civitella has learned that customer service data, small pieces of information about which customers are calling about which problems and when, is also extremely valuable to the company's operations and making sure that its customers stay happy.

Transfinder tracks a lot of numbers in its customer service department, which gets the busiest over the summer as school districts ready their transportation systems for the start of school in the fall. 

The summer is so busy for Transfinder that employees rarely take vacations during the crunch period, when the company can handle up yp 1,000 calls a week, often complex problems that can take days to address. 

This past summer, Transfinder opened more than 9,600 "tickets," which are customer service requests that require attention, and it was able to fix 90 percent of those within 24 hours.

Employees also held 36 webinars and conducted 1,433 training sessions with customers.

The data help Transfinder improve its future customer service and helps managers set incentives.

But Civitella also noticed other valuable bits of information were also in the data the company collected. For instance, at school districts where a superintendent or transportation director was new, problems often developed.

That's because training on Transfinder's software programs often needs to be re-done for that new person, who might have used a competitor's software. And that person, who is often in a position to make budget recommendations, will often want to go back to the system they know well.

Civitella has learned to take that information and make an assumption that problems could arise. It's called predictive analysis.

"We immediately categorize that as a jeopardy account," Civitella said. "We learned this in the past."

Using such predictive analysis, Civitella says, helps the company get ahead of problems before they ever happen. For instance, the company can look to beef up staffing ahead of time or spend more time on training with a client to avoid problems spinning out of control.

"If you have these numbers, then use these numbers," Civitella said.

Transfinder has also started to bring in employees from outside customer service and support during heavy traffic periods like the summer to help answer calls and fix problems. 

This past summer, 33 percent of all tickets were closed by employees in another department like sales or marketing.

"That's actually a big deal," says Joseph Messia, Transfinder's chief operating officer. "That's what teamwork really is."