When Satisfaction Suffers

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Almost a year ago, we had a good BMW (Bitch, Moan and Whine) about the rail companies, who pocketed around £180m from delays.

And all this was despite constant delays and disruptions to UK rail services. Which, of course, results in a bunch of disgruntled (to say the least) passengers.

So, it’s no real surprise to read that passenger satisfaction has fallen to a ten-year low.

According to the survey of 25,000 people conducted by Transport Focus, the transport watchdog, 79% of train users were satisfied with the services offered by rail companies: the lowest the percentage seen since 2008.

More than one in five passengers are dissatisfied.

The lack of punctuality, service disruptions, the seemingly regular strikes and the catastrophe that was last summer’s timetable chaos have all played their part in the reduction of consumer satisfaction levels.

It was the Northerners that saw the biggest drop in satisfaction… namely Northern and Great Northern rail firms.

Heathrow Express and Chiltern Railways, on the other hand, had actually ‘significantly improved’, with Heathrow scoring the highest rating of 96% out of all of the UK’s 25 rail companies.

Of course, there’s no saying how shit they were before the ‘significant improvement’!

The other rail companies in the top five were Grand Central, Hull and Virgin Trains.

Thameslink, TransPennine Express and Greater Anglia were dragging their wheels at the bottom of the list along with the two Northerners.

These 5, along with ScotRail and London North Eastern Railway, ‘significantly declined’ in the customer satisfaction ratings.

Leaves on the line

During 2018, Northern services were plagued by engineering overruns, strikes, the aforementioned timetable chaos and an unusually high amount of leaves on the line. (Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. Darned pesky leaves).

As well as overall satisfaction, the survey looked at other factors affecting consumer ratings.

71% of people were satisfied with the levels of punctuality and reliability (presumably not the Northerners dealing with all that foliage though.

Unsurprisingly, when value for money was brought into question, only 46% of rail users were satisfied.

And only 31% were content with value for money when using rail services for commuter transport.

Nothing really eye opening there, considering ticket prices are continually escalating, with most of the cash filling the rail companies’ coffers, if our blog last year was anything to go by.

Let’s face it, rail travel is an emotive end user experience at the best of times. Standing in the cold, waiting for the inevitable delay and then being crammed into a busy commuter train – invariably next to someone with a rather unpleasant body odour.

But having to pay through the nose (which you need a peg for) for the privilege… well, that really takes the biscuit.

I’d be pretty unsatisfied (read: pissed off) too.

And the Chief Exec of Transport Focus says pretty much the same.

As he said, fundamental change in the industry – and from the Government’s Rail Review – is a must.

You reap what you sow…

Because there’s no two ways about it. Consumer irritation at poor performance erodes trust. And frustration at continual fare increases saps end user confidence in the system.

He also added that passenger anger during last summer’s timetable crisis was extremely intense – and, presumably, totally justified.

One assumes that customer feedback management departments really had their work cut out for them, dealing with irate and frustrated commuters.

Especially when compensation for all the trials and tribulations presumably wasn’t easy to come by.

A representative for the Department for Transport said they’ve introduced new compensation measures and commission an independent review of the country’s railways and branches.

They are also looking to modernise the network and deliver significant performance improvements, thus improving punctuality, comfort and capacity across the country.

Let’s just hope that it’s not too little, too late, considering the drop in customer satisfaction levels.

Learning from their mistakes…

Yes, I’ve said it once, but it’s worth repeating as this goes for any business out there, not just rail companies….

Poor performance reduces trust in a brand.

Unwarranted price increases reduce consumer confidence in a brand.

Excessive drops in consumer satisfaction ratings can be seriously detrimental to the health of a brand.

So, make sure you know what your customers want. And want they don’t.

Work to deliver a positive, emotive end user experience, not a negative one.

And don’t hike your prices, just because. Make sure you can justify your actions.

Keep up to date with the times. Modernise where necessary. Invest in new technologies and get active on social media…. But ONLY if it’s going to help you reach and engage with your target market and is appropriate for your brand.

Don’t do something just because it’s what everyone else is doing. It has to work for you.

And, for gods sake, sweep up those damn leaves outside the front door before someone falls and sues for compensation!




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