According to the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail, the number of passenger rail journeys more than doubled between 1997 and 2015. This is a great success story for the railways in general, however figures from the Office of Rail Regulation show that the number of complaints rose in 2015 for the first time since 2006. How can Train Operators Companies (TOCs) sustain high passenger numbers and also deliver a high quality service to all passengers, at all times of the day and days of the week?
Clearly in order to do this effectively it is important to understand the views of passengers and the factors that are most likely to drive both dissatisfaction and delight; and then gain a detailed understanding of whether TOCs are meeting these needs. GfK’s approach is a two-stage methodology based on customer feedback and mystery shopping.
Once the customer research has established the key drivers of customer (dis) satisfaction, mystery shopping is used to focus on those drivers by delivering an objective assessment of performance, based on key parameters as follows:
• Time of day / day of week – mystery passengers (MPs) would be instructed to assess a particular station or line at a specific time of the day / day of week. This will include assessing performance at peak times (including crowding, punctuality, announcements) to assess how critical ‘pain points’ are dealt with; as well as quieter periods.
• Passenger type – MPs with different profiles can also be used to assess how different passengers are dealt with, including passengers with disabilities, elderly passengers and those with families.
In order to provide Transport clients with fast turnaround objective results, MPs use hand-held devices to enter their data and provide immediate feedback. These questionnaires can be detailed, including open-ended questions and include routing which allows MPs to undertake multiple assessments within one ‘shift’. These shifts are designed in advance to ensure that MPs follow specific routes and, therefore, assess both multiple stations / stops and vehicles (e.g. trains, buses, underground etc..) in one shift to maximise efficiency. GPS also allows project management teams to track progress.
The fast turnaround of the results allows clients to take action immediate action, particularly in light of ‘red flag’ events that require urgent focus. In addition, the questionnaires focus on more than customer experience factors, but also on compliance-related elements such as punctuality and communication. Mystery shopping is generally used to identify those factors that drive dissatisfaction (e.g. late trains, cleanliness, poor staff behaviour), which are key in retaining customers and minimising complaints.
In summary, well designed mystery shopping programmes can provide Transport clients with key insights into both the customer experience and operational compliance, delivering results which allow for immediate action and provide a strategic overview of performance.
For more information on our Customer feedback and Mystery shopping programmes, please get in touch below.