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Viewpoint: Issue Issue 28 5 Apr 2012

Public Transport’s challenge of engaging with customers

People these days expect an open dialogue with those who provide them with products and services. Bus and rail operators are embracing the thinking, but still need to do more

John Austin

When I was doing management training some years ago a frequent theme in college lectures was the difference between supplier-led and consumer-led organisations. Our lecturer had clearly identified the fact that many passenger transport operators were then still in the former camp. Whilst I instinctively knew he was right, it required quite a major effort of will to bend one’s thinking to see things through the eyes of the customer, particularly when the surrounding culture was generally...

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Your Comments:

16 Apr 2012

From many recent experiences as a traveller and rail industry employee, I would argue the values of customer service lives in rare pockets across our industry. Inconsistency is the enemy. In the same journey I am both charmed and appauled, depending on which stage of the journey I'm on. And of course, the prevailing service culture of the given TOC.

Equally, I leave my hotel having just been lavished like a demi-god, only to arrive at one of our premier UK stations to be reluctantly dealt with as some kind of trespasser.

I think this article underestimates how far adrift the rail industry has become from norms of service levels in other retail areas. From first hand experience, this industry does not broadly understand how to graciously accept and respond to genuine feedback. These are the building blocks of 19th and 20th century retail, let alone 21st.

I am also certain the operational leaness we are all inclined to adopt removes the capacity to monitor and feedback and turmaround frontline behaviours. Hence, those who persist with scorn towards the passenger can inhabit the blind spots with relative ease. With such flawed feedback mechanisms in place, behaviours will not change for the better...

There is an answer, Co-operative rail franchises which have accountability to the passenger as number one mission value. Really, something fundamemtal in the way we deliver rail services has to give in order toa take the decade wide leaps required. Watch this space...