Finding a New Normal
At this point in the coronavirus pandemic, even the slightest hint of normalcy can be a comfort. That was the case at the STA Plaza, when staff reunited for the re-opening of the Customer Service counter for pass sales and exchanges in mid-June.
“We’re excited to be back together,” said Jenni Knoll, Customer Service and Plaza Operations Manager. “Regaining even this very small sense of ‘business as usual’ is refreshing.” It’s Knoll’s responsibility to ensure that all emergency measures mandated by STA leadership are put in place at the Plaza, and stringent safety requirements are followed.
She’s overseen implementing strategies like expanding and intensifying the building’s disinfection protocol, closing interior waiting areas and establishing a new “walk-through-only” facility status. During the period when fares and pass sales were suspended, Knoll had to split the Customer Service team into two crews working alternate weeks.
Knoll is fully aware that the transition into a new era of transit is only just beginning and that establishing a “new normal” at the STA Plaza will take time. But for now, the facility will remain walk-through-only, patrons of both STA and shops in the Plaza still make purchases, and janitorial crews will keep up the full cleaning and disinfecting schedule.
This week a new safety practice was put into effect as well. On July 1, STA began enforcing Governor Jay Inslee’s order that requires people to wear face coverings in public places, including public transit.
“This means that everyone inside the Plaza, waiting outside, or boarding a bus or van, needs to wear a face covering,” Knoll said. “If you don’t have one, you can pick one up at the Customer Service counter at no charge while supplies last.”
In the days since the reinstatement of pass sales, Knoll has seen a steady, uptick in the number of customers visiting the Plaza’s Customer Service counter.
In an effort to help STA’s customers to recoup unused value on passes purchased prior to the fare suspension, Customer Service set up a pass exchange process. It’s work that requires extensive manual record keeping, but to date, they have provided about $11 thousand in pass exchanges. Knoll hopes this will encourage more people to start riding again.
“People coming to the counter for a pass exchange have been awesome,” Knoll said. “Everyone is so thankful and appreciative when we replace their pass or add value back on their Smart Card. It’s been an amazing thing to see.”
But the strain of the recent health crisis can also try people’s patience. The question Knoll and her team hear more than any other is, “When is this going to end?”
“I wish I knew the answer,” Knoll said. “My team members have the same worries as our customers about family, health and finances. But despite the stress, these Customer Service Representatives continue treating customers with empathy and respect and I’m really proud of that.”