What Do UK Rail Passengers Really Want?

This article is by Sasha Jenkins, Business Development Director at Teleperformance UK.

Twice a year, the independent transport user watchdog, Transport Focus, collects data on what rail passengers think of the service they receive. The National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) provides a network-wide picture of customers’ satisfaction with rail travel. Passenger opinions of train services are collected twice a year from a representative sample of passenger journeys. Passengers’ overall satisfaction, overall satisfaction with the station and train, and satisfaction with 33 specific aspects of service can therefore be compared over time.

This survey contains a lot of data on the performance of the train operating companies, but more importantly it captures how passengers feel about the service they receive. It is an excellent snapshot of the voice of the customer.

There is a single page in the report that details the factors that are most correlated with customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction. This graphic displays the top 5 issues that cause both satisfaction and dissatisfaction for rail passengers today:


As can be seen, the factors that make customers satisfied are mostly what you might expect if you use a rail service yourself; clean, reliable trains that are frequent and fast. What really annoyed customers is unreliability, a lack of seats, and a lack of information about what is going on when trains are delayed.

This last point is actually the biggest factor of all in creating dissatisfaction with 58% of customers saying this is what ruins a journey – the way that the train company fails to deal with delays. We all know that this is true. If a train is not moving and the driver explains why and says that we will all be on the way in three minutes then the delay is generally accepted. If the train sits minute after minute without moving, the tension inside the train can be visible, as nobody knows what is going on and when the train might move again.

I believe that this is a really important area of focus for any train operator wanting to improve the customer experience. Information provided to customers at stations and on trains. Automating the provision of information so the customer experience is not just as random as having a driver who likes to keep the passengers updated. Information should be an automatic right and available easily.

Naturally this is easier now that almost every customer has a tablet or Smartphone in his or her pocket, but additional systems are needed for the customer who might only be carrying a paperback novel.

81% of customers already believe that the information they get at stations is good so the focus for improving the customer experience is clearly on the information provided during journeys – improving the way that delays are handled by keeping the passenger informed.

Over the next few weeks I will be adding additional blogs with some of my own ideas on how this can be achieved, using data from organisations such as Transport Focus. Please leave a comment here if you have any thoughts or ideas on how you think the passenger experience can be improved on rail journeys in the UK.

You can get in touch with me via my LinkedIn profile here.

Train is approaching

Photo by Davide D’Amico licensed under Creative Commons. Graphic from Transport Focus NRPS Report, June 2015.


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Will the ‘gaming generation’ move the goalposts in the war on content?

The battle for consumers within the consumer space is fascinating: Sky, Virgin, and BT as the established main players have a leading position in the market due to the investment they have made in cable infrastructure and content.

They have spent heavily to secure premium content such as the movies you will see first on these platforms, sports that are only shown live on these platforms (Premier League/Ryder Cup) and have diversified well to enable you to take your service with you through a wifi-enabled service, for example SKYGO.

I would estimate that the average UK household is spending between £30-£100 per month on such services but I wonder if the future landscape will change? Is it really viable that customers will continue to pay at these levels – purely because they can only see certain content first or at all on one particular platform?

For my generation, I suspect this will be the case but the younger ‘gaming generation’ may have something to say about this. They are living their lives already through the internet: there is already an expectation that they can do almost anything through their phones/tablets – from finding love, to keeping in touch, listening to music, and of course watching films. There is an insatiable demand for ‘everything over the net.’ Services such as Netflix and Apple TV are becoming mainstream with movie libraries and popular new original content, such as Narcos on Netflix.

I predict that future generations will ‘expect’ their TV service to be delivered at low cost and via the Internet. They will place increasing pressure on established cable providers to reduce their pricing and this will challenge those organisations that are not already planning to meet this challenge head-on.

What will this mean? I suspect established cable providers will face some difficult questions regarding how to invest in content. They will not be able to assume the full cost can continue to be passed through to the consumer if the customer is not prepared to pay such a high price. In a market free of competition this can work, but in one where new entrants are continually challenging the rules, it is a highly risky strategy.

I have no plans to change my service because I am a sports addict and want to watch live sport when I want it. I can’t vouch for my kids though… and what if an online alternative starts offering most of the sport that I want to see?

What do you think? Leave a comment if you think the ‘gaming generation’ will change the rules on how content is purchased or get in touch direct via my LinkedIn profile.

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Photo by Sarah Barker licensed under Creative Commons.

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Retailers Listening To The Heartbeat of Customers

This post is by Phil Crossley, Business Development Director at Teleperformance UK.

I’ve been at the Retail Week Customer Experience Summit today listening to some great speakers from right across the retail spectrum. One of the sessions I enjoyed most was exploring the future of retail and the connected consumer. It covered subjects including wearables, the Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality and Contactless Payments.

Some of these technologies are a reality today. Contactless and phone payment systems are already here and are growing especially fast now that Apple Pay has launched. Wearables are common for fitness fans or those with a health problem, but most of these new technologies are still nascent.

One of the problems I foresee as we rush towards the world of the connected consumer is the trade-off between information and privacy. Most of these services work only if the customer releases information about who they are and what they are interested in. Most customers are happy to give up information freely, if they can see something in return. Facebook is a good example of this.

However, when we start including payment and loyalty systems within the mix, information security is obviously more important. It’s true that most modern smartphones have biometric security systems that can not only lock the phone, but be used to verify the identity of a person wanting to buy something using the phone too.

This is great, but as fast as features are added to phones, hackers published how to defeat them. At the Retail Week conference today it was demonstrated that other biometric measurements might become common. It seems you can even prove your identity by allowing someone to listen to your heartbeat! Getting security right and ensuring that identity can be verified easily and securely will be essential for all these other information-rich technologies to work in the customer service environment.

I can see it happening soon. Augmented reality to help customers find items and to create virtual offers targeted at the individual, the IoT ensuring that the store runs more effectively, and payment without delay using your phone – or another wearable device.

One day, I’m sure that I will be able to verify payment in store just by allowing the checkout robot to listen to my heartbeat. Until then, it’s time to keep a strong focus on how to balance customer information sharing and security. It’s the one issue that could cause consumers to reject more open technology systems.

Were you also at the Retail Week Customer Experience Summit? Leave a comment here with your views on customer security or anything else from the summit, or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

SecurityPhoto by GotCredit licensed under Creative Commons.


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Driving Loyalty With A Completely Integrated Customer Experience

This post is by Liz Parry, Strategic Account Director at Teleperformance UK.

I have often written that the days of loyalty in retail being about cards and points are dated. Customers have an expectation of great service today and if they don’t receive a great experience then that’s more important than any points.

However, creating a truly advanced multichannel retail environment that delights the customer so much that it actually inspires loyalty and creates brand advocates is not easy. However, this is something that House of Fraser has achieved remarkably well.

Take a look at this ClickZ feature, published this week and exploring how the House of Fraser app and other in-store technologies have not only transformed shopping with them, but creates a new customer experience entirely that surpasses what most other retailers can offer. Some of the particular innovations mentioned are:

  • Augmented Reality; the House of Fraser home brochure comes alive when a smartphone is nearby, by allowing the pages to come to life with animation and additional information
  • Shoppable Windows; shop window displays are digitally enabled allowing passers-by to easily buy what is on display. This feeds into the corporate plan to try turning 70% of in-store shoppers into multichannel shoppers.
  • Digital Mannequins; mannequins equipped with iBeacons allow customers to view outfits, see similar outfits, and staff can see what customers are looking at in real-time, creating cross or upsell opportunities.

Customers using the app can have specific timed offers and discounts pushed to their phone, they can get more information on any product just by scanning the bar code, it manages all loyalty details, and it can even find the nearest store.

What I like most about this seamless environment is that everything is designed to help the customer. The customer experience is the priority and therefore the customer feels better about the overall experience. This is what really creates loyalty in this new retail environment.

Many retailers are struggling with the latest industry requirements, multichannel service and the omnichannel, bringing the in-store and online experience together. But the technology exists to deliver what customers expect. The trick is to put customers at the centre of what you do, regardless of how long things have been done differently. Be customer centric and customer loyalty will follow.

Have you seen the integrated systems at House of Fraser for yourself? What did you think and what do you think are the priorities for retailers today? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

House of Fraser//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Photo by James Petts licensed under Creative Commons.

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Comparing Utilities on Complaints Received

In recent research, Citizens Advice said that the difference between the UK energy utilities offering a great customer service and poor customer service is enormous.

The best performing company was SSE with 47 complaints registered per 100,000 customers, but Scottish Power received 944 complaints per 100,000 customers. Citizens Advice collected this data between April and June this year.

Energy UK, the body representing the biggest suppliers said: “The key thing here is a range of choice comes into play when shopping around for energy. Customers can consider fuel type, cheaper tariffs and good service when choosing their supplier. Smart meters will also significantly iron out any issues relating to billing when they roll-out in the next few years.”

This is true. As metering becomes more automated there should be scope to eliminate many of the complaints that are related to bills at present. However, there is still an issue here that some companies get 20 times the customer complaints received by their peers.

What Citizens Advice is asking for is transparency on customer satisfaction levels. Price comparison websites already allow customers to compare energy companies based on price and tariff, but if complaint levels were also easily available then it would address the fact that customer service and price are the two key factors that help people decide which energy company to use.

I agree that this transparency can only be a good thing for customers. It is also good for the companies too. Those who look after their customers will be able to use their good performance on customer service as a key differentiator. Those who have a poor record now will have more of an incentive to improve if the data is easily available to potential customers.

What do you think about the Citizens Advice suggestion? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn Profile. 

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Photo by SEO licensed under Creative Commons.

Posted in Contact Centres, Current Affairs, Customer Service, Utilities | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Energy customers want better service and prices

For a long time now I have been talking about the importance of customer service in the UK utility sector – in particular how the big players stand to lose market share to new market entrants who know how to make their customers feel special. Now it looks like these predictions are becoming a reality.

Recently, Reuters reported that small energy providers have 13.4% of the household energy supply market. If 13.4% does not sound very significant then consider that the small players only had 2.6% of the market two years ago – this is a major change in how energy is supplied in the UK.

Reuters claims that the shift to smaller suppliers is driven by two key factors. Primarily the quality of customer service is better at the smaller companies and secondly, customers feel the larger companies just charge too much.

Ed Kamm, Chief Customer Officer at First Utility – one of the smaller companies gaining large numbers of new customers – that their focus is on engaging customers. He said: “Eventually customers who are on standard tariffs realise that they’re kind of getting ripped off and they look to the market  and we’re out there with a great price, with a different message.”

The switching process is simple so it is likely to accelerate, especially as the word of mouth effect multiplies. Two important variables need to be considered though. Can the smaller companies cope with such rapid growth? In particular can they continue to offer great customer service if they are taking hundreds of thousands of new customers on board rapidly?

Also, will the big players adopt a new strategy? Many customers don’t want to switch energy supplier so if the big companies can up their game, they can easily keep many customers on board.

What is clear though is that for both the bigger and smaller energy companies, providing great customer service has become a key market differentiator.

What do you think will happen next in UK energy? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

Electricity Pylons

Photo by Nick Page licensed under Creative Commons.


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Banksy’s Dismal View on Customer Service

This week saw the closure of British street artist Banksy’s Dismaland exhibition at Weston-super-Mare in the southwest of England. Banksy parodied the DisneyWorld theme parks with his vision of a miserable theme park filled with art from over 50 collaborators. One thing I really noticed at Dismaland was that several works in this collection of the dismal commented on customer services, such as the sign reading “Customer Service Desk Closed 24 Hours.”

Contact centres and the quality of customer service offered by some companies has long been good material for stand-up comics, so it’s no surprise to see artists also taking aim at complex IVRs and long waits for help from an agent.

The reality that I see is very different though. The companies I am working with offer support to their customers across many different channels at any time of the day or night and there are no fixed scripts or automatons – just really knowledgeable agents with the freedom to do what it takes to help the customer.

But, I know that the media features bad news above good. Who would want to read endless good news anyway? We all tend to prefer disaster or rumours, because it is more interesting to talk about. 

The attitude of the artists and comics to customer service centres is exactly the same. A comedian would not walk out on stage and talk about the fantastic help they received earlier in the day. What gets a laugh is talking about the agent with an undecipherable accent or the menu system that leads them to spend 30 minutes just selecting their problem.

And I’m laughing as I think of this too. I can remember seeing some comedians doing routines like this and it is funny because it is a shared experience. Everyone has had an awful customer service experience, but my question is really, has one of those awful experiences been in the recent past?

Managing the customer experience is so complex today that it requires specialist companies with global experience of how to manage customers across multiple channels. In a recent Deloitte study 93% of managers said that the experience the customer has with a brand is the primary or secondary reason why they stay loyal to that company. If you don’t treat your customers well today then nine out of ten will not stay with you.

This elevation of the customer service team to be at the forefront of customer loyalty strategies has led to some fantastic career opportunities too. People can get into this business today as an agent and move into various other areas that are now connected to customer service, such as marketing and sales.

So Banksy’s criticism can be taken lightly with a smile, but it’s not the reality of the customer service business today.

What do you think we can do to highlight just how much the industry has changed? Leave some ideas here or get in touch with me directly via my LinkedIn.


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