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Tolling Points

Resetting the Future of Tolling One Kale Smoothie at a Time

By: 
Mike Pellegrino, Shimmick

When I think about the future of tolling, I think about my family, my kids specifically. That’s all any of us need to do really. I have four adult kids who love to get together at mom and dad’s house whenever possible. It’s funny how they can’t wait to leave the nest but somehow they always find an excuse to come back home. Now don’t get me wrong, I love it but more importantly I love seeing how our next generation interacts with each other and the rest of the world. 

The Future is Today and It’s In Your Living Room 

If you want to see our future look no further than your own family today. When my four adult kids and their significant others gather around our home, or sit at the table to socialize, half of them are on their phones at any given time. Let’s hope they’re not texting each other about me. Family game night used to be about sitting around the table and playing Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly or some other board game. Now my family sits in the living and plays live interactive games through our individual phones that are broadcast on the TV.  

But my favorite is when I ask them how so-and-so is doing and they say “Oh, I texted her three times last week but she hasn’t texted me back yet.” When I foolishly ask them: “Well why don’t you just call her?” I get a look from everyone like “Oh, there’s dad being dad.” Apparently, suggesting that you actually pick up the phone and call someone gets the same reaction as when I suggested they eat their broccoli when they were little. I guess broccoli was disgusting then but now a kale smoothie infused with liver enzymes and walnut milk is delicious.  

My point in all this is not a commentary about family dynamics in 2021, it’s to let you know that my family is indicative of the growing demographic of your toll road customers. In fact, every day that goes by, they move closer to becoming your dominant demographic. The burning question is, how prepared are you to do business with this demographic? Don’t forget that this generation grew up with cell phones, social media, laptops, and toll roads while many of us grew up with rotary phones and 8-track tapes. The difference is that they are resetting the ground rules about how this game is going to be played moving forward. 

Fortunately, tolling has witnessed much-needed advancements in roadside and operational technologies over the years. We all remember the Turnpike Toll Gun that allowed drivers to load a gun-like device with a roll of quarters that you could shoot into the toll basket as you entered the gantry. Sadly, once tolls were raised to 30 cents, this terrifying device became obsolete.  

Let’s face it, we are not in the tolling business, but rather the customer experience business and our growing customer base knows this better than anybody and expects you to interact with them in a certain way that was not common a generation ago. The preferred method of communication and interaction for this growing demographic is their smartphone – the lifeline to all things that are important in the universe. If they have a question about the company they are interacting with, they will research it online first. Raise your hand if your kids lecture you to ‘just Google it Dad.’ I thought so. 

They prefer to self-serve their low-to-moderately complex tasks. My family can order dinner and have it paid for through an app on their phone quicker than I can say “Honey, what’s the phone number for Sal’s Pizzeria?” 

Are You Ready to Embrace the Inevitable?

Most importantly, this generation demands a better and faster customer experience from the companies they engage with. Seventy-eight percent of consumers say they are loyal to brands that understand them and what they want to achieve. Are you prepared to understand your customer and what they expect from you? Are you prepared to explore and deliver the technology and internal methodologies that can deliver a greater customer experience? Are you prepared to invest in intuitive app-like technology so customers can engage with you on their phones instead of a live agent? Are you ready to turn the mirror inward and look at your various internal departments to make sure that the customer-touching channels like your website engage the user with processes that deliver an outstanding customer experience? One of the greatest benefits of process analysis and redesign is in the overall improvement in the image of your agency and continued engagement of your customer.  

Change is inevitable and should be embraced with open arms, but is it too much to ask to want to call up a friend and actually ask them how they are doing or never have to figure out which emoji best represents my mood? Or am I foolish for wanting to yell across the kitchen table “you sunk my battleship” just one more time. Ok, I just heard it then. Now I understand why my kids are texting each other about me! 

How We Can Help 

Shimmick has grown to become an operations and management leader in the tolling & transportation industry and a proud member and on-going Platinum Sponsor of IBTTA. Our Operations & Management division has been supporting the tolling industry for over 25 years. The services we deliver to our tolling agency customers includes everything from implementation to back-office operations, customer service center operations, walk-in and Welcome center operations, in-lane cash collections and, of course, interoperability. 

Newsletter publish date: 
Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - 11:45

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