Welcome to the JNCTION Customer Information blog, an insight into the customer information landscape for the UK rail industry. How is the rail industry tackling the leading cause for passenger dissatisfaction and what new developments do JNCTION have in-store to deliver better information during disruption.
‘The Rail Industry needs to follow through on its promises to put the customers first by making the best use of new digital technology. Innovation is essential to deliver the changes that will meet that promise to every passenger.’ – Mike Lloyd, MD of JNCTION
We’ve all been there… you’re standing on the platform, waiting for the information board to update and absent of any explanation. Next, you try asking a staff member and they also don’t know. Now, you’re wondering why you are waiting, or instead, what alternatives do you have? This absence of any information is enough to put many passengers off travelling using rail.
When the information finally does arrive, it is often underwhelming and poorly received, with 63% of passengers left feeling frustrated. Research from the Department for Transport on Rail Passenger Experience of Disruption Handling indicated that the information given during the disruption was perceived as negative. 95% of people gave negative comments (e.g. 26% insufficient, 19% unclear, 19% inadequate, 15% no information given)’.
“Two minutes can seem like two hours when you don’t know what’s happening.
– Focus group, London.
A daily frustration for many passengers and a primary cause for dissatisfaction. The result: poor passenger confidence. The question is, why is this still happening? This has been a known (and a leading) industry issue for almost 10 years. Transport Focus identified that ‘how train companies dealt with delays’ was the primary cause of dissatisfaction for the last 6 years. Despite considerable efforts from Train Operators (TOCs) and Network Rail, the problem persists.
The inability of the industry to meet these fundamental issues is clearly a matter of concern and passengers are obviously not happy with how they are treated under the current industry arrangements. What is the rail industry going to do about it?
“If you’re travelling through Waterloo this evening, consider finding another route.
JNCTION identified that Train Control staff still mainly use 1980’s technology, which doesn’t provide real-time information to predict delay length, or how delays will affect services. When disruption occurs, train operations staff use inefficient manual processes to resolve the problems, leaving little time to inform their customer experience front-line teams or passengers. A new 21st-century solution is needed.
Transport Focus also highlighted the poor use made of data by a very data-rich industry. The current systems are not able to deliver information quickly enough or in a synchronised way.
The challenge of information provision lies within TOC control and the bottleneck it forms. During a disruption, TOC train controllers’ primary focus is identifying the cause of the disruption and putting into action a solution to reduce the consequent delay. Lack of resources, and the complexity presented by different disruption situations, cause staff to be overloaded. Thus Customer Experience staff, who distribute the information about delays, often receive insufficient information about modified services, leading to poor communications with customers and hence, high levels of customer dissatisfaction.
“Train Operating Companies’ Passenger Information During Disruption (PIDD) working groups try to ‘do existing things better’ rather than ‘do better things’.
– Transport Focus
However, it isn’t all doom and gloom. The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) and the UK rail industry are now working together to improve passenger information, particularly during disruption. In September 2020, ORR released a Customer Information Plan seeking to improve the delivery of passenger information that is timely, personalised, accurate, accessible and useful. Several TOCs are now searching for alternative solutions to the current practice for customer information delivery.
We anticipate that it won’t be too long before the issue is addressed and passengers can start building trust in rail again. Now with the announcement of Great British Railways, the industry is under great pressure and scrutiny to deliver passengers the service they expect and deserve.
In the next instalment of our blog, we will delve deeper into what is currently available and what JNCTION are doing to address the leading cause for passenger dissatisfaction.