Keeping Buses on the Road
STA Transportation Supervisor Eric Woods has all the charm you might expect from someone who grew up in New Orleans. He is easygoing, polite and, of course, has the telltale drawl of a southern gentleman.
“I get some friendly flack from co-workers about my ‘Naw-lins’ accent, but I don’t mind,” Woods laughed. “I know they’re just jealous.”
As a transportation supervisor, Wood’s main objective is to keep the buses on the road and that means resolving any and all problems that arise, for drivers and customers alike. Woods loves the responsibility, even though it has become more challenging since the coronavirus outbreak.
“People are stressed and now have new concerns about things like safety regulations,” Woods said. “We give our drivers the tools they need to provide the best customer service they can on any given day, even during a pandemic, but sometimes they still need our help.”
That’s why, on a typical workday, Woods will likely be out on the road in an STA road vehicle. He wants to have a strong visual presence so the drivers know he is in the area and can get to them quickly if they need assistance with anything from an onboard medical emergency to a mechanical problem, or any scenario in between.
It is Woods’ responsibility to resolve all issues quickly and efficiently and often this means meeting with STA customers directly.
“My philosophy is simple — ‘the customer is always right,’” Woods said. “If I’m dealing with a distressed customer, I try to de-escalate the situation by remaining calm, really listening to them and repeating back what I’ve heard, and then showing genuine concern for their problem and resolving it as soon as possible.”
Woods’ customer service skills are truly sublime, so it’s a bit surprising that he developed many of them through training and on-the-job experiences he received while employed as a corrections officer at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.
“We were taught to read people from day one,” Woods said. “For example, a higher pitch in a voice can mean someone is excited or trying to mislead you; or a person who is lying won’t make eye contact.”
At STA, more often than not, it’s Woods’ finely-honed communication skills that are most helpful, whether he’s investigating an incident, writing a report, or assisting a customer.
“I like being a part of something that keeps people moving from point A to point B,” Woods said. “We get people to work, to school, and out to buy groceries and then we get them back home. That’s important.”
Woods strives to live by the lessons he learned as a child from his grandmother, who lived to age 105. Her key to longevity was perseverance, especially during difficult times.
“Keep your head up. This virus may test our perseverance, but we have to push past it,” Woods said. “We need to be understanding and treat each other the way we’d want to be treated. For now, that’s all we can do.”