How CATS Manages by Performance to Drive Success Outcomes

We often like to say that light rail customers on Charlotte’s CATS system feel like riding the train is the equivalent of taking a trip to Disney — because with a Net Promoter Score (NPS) typically in the mid-60s and 70s, CATS customers are extremely satisfied with the service and highly likely to recommend it to others.

And this is by design. CATS has been on a multi-year journey of continuous improvement to focus on what matters most to its customers on its light rail, bus, and paratransit services. Each year, CATS leadership strategizes on the organization’s priorities and goals for the coming year, which then cascade into key performance metrics and tactics to be carried out by staff to ensure that CATS achieves its goals by the end of the year. CATS conducts onboard customer satisfaction surveys twice per year that not only provide them with feedback on whether tactics are working as intended, but also tell them if there have been any shifts in customer priorities that need to be addressed by new metrics and tactics. In this way, the process becomes a virtuous cycle of feedback and strategic response.

This data-driven performance culture has served CATS well in the current pandemic crisis. Well before COVID-19 appeared, CATS customers were already telling the agency that cleanliness of vehicles mattered just as much to them as on-time performance. CATS responded by drilling down to identify problematic routes, times of day, and types of cleanliness issues to be addressed. Using this data, CATS tackled the issue on multiple fronts, from enhancing cleaning procedures to conducting trainings with frontline staff to reminding customers of courteous behaviors. When the pandemic hit, CATS already had the processes in place to ramp up cleaning and was one of the first agencies to release videos on social media providing a behind-the-scenes look at their thorough cleaning procedures. In fact, in the customer satisfaction survey conducted March 9-15, customer satisfaction with bus cleanliness increased for the 3rd consecutive survey.

By focusing on what matters and having a system in place, CATS will be well-positioned to recover from the current crisis — perhaps even emerging stronger than before.


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