Rail companies need to get their CX on track

Colin Auton, managing director at Mustard, shares his experiences and recommendations following the release of the findings from the latest rail passenger survey.

The results from the latest rail passenger survey were released yesterday (29th January 2019) and they didn’t make for pleasant reading, with satisfaction falling to its lowest level in more than a decade.

Based on my recent experiences of using the train to commute to work, this didn’t surprise me at all:

  • I can’t remember one occasion where my train home from Manchester Oxford Road has been on time.
  • Once I couldn’t get on three consecutive trains to my home destination because they were all too full. This added over an hour to my journey home, just waiting around on a cold platform.
  • At the end of last year, twice in a week I found myself stood in the aisle between two carriages, completed hemmed in by other passengers. Not a very comfortable journey, and surely not safe!
  • On one of these occasions, a lady stood by me fainted and it was impossible for any member of staff to get through the carriage to help her. Actually the staff didn’t even know this had happened as there was no one around. Fortunately other passengers rallied around to help her. Surely this isn’t right!
  • At the start of this year I got the train into work on a particularly cold morning and there was no heating. It was absolutely freezing!!! I could see my breath. It actually felt warmer outside.

All of the above has happened during a time when it is a nightmare to commute into Manchester by car due to extensive roadworks. This should provide a real opportunity for the train providers to convert car commuters to train commuters, boosting revenue whilst helping reduce emissions. I even looked at this option myself, but have ultimately been deterred from commuting by train for two main reasons:

  1. My experiences above
  2. Train providers being unable to offer more flexible season tickets for people who work from home or regularly attend meetings elsewhere, so don’t need to travel every day during the week. They just aren’t adapting to the changes in the workforce.

As customers, the only change that we see or hear about is higher ticket prices, which it seems cannot be justified by an improved service.

Rail privatisation was supposed to deliver an improved customer service. To be fair, on some routes it has. My journey from Liverpool or Manchester to London is a level above what it was years ago. But regionally and locally it appears that there is still much to do to improve the customer experience.

I do hope that rail providers take on board these latest research findings and not just respond by quoting figures highlighting how much they are investing in the service. There needs to be a significant change in focus on the customer experience to convince the 1 in 5 who are dissatisfied with the service that things are getting better.