Shaping the journey for tomorrow’s customer

Source: RTM Aug/Sep 16

Jacqueline Starr, managing director of customer experience at the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), discusses the range of measures being developed to improve passenger journeys now and in the future.

What should we be doing better to transform customer experience, to shape the rail customer journey of the future and to create an excellent journey experience, from start to finish, for everyone who travels with us? 

The RDG, working with train operators and the wider industry, has a plan, which puts the customer in control; lets the customer travel his or her way; and enables the customer to be always connected – or ‘on’; that gives the customer clear value and makes the customer feel valued. 

The RDG is mapping every aspect of the end-to-end rail journey to gain greater insight into our customers’ expectations and to appreciate better what they want now and in the future. 

We recognise that customers want to see change now. Which is why, as we develop longer-term strategies for change, at the same time we are defining a range short-term measures which will lead to immediate improvements. 

Immediate improvements 

Firstly, control. Customers want to know exactly what’s going on. That means continuous real-time information and updates so that they have more power, flexibility and choice. For example, we have completed a national project so that for the first time customers see accurate and consistent train information right across Britain’s rail network. The single new system, replacing scores of different feeds, will ensure that customers see the same live information wherever they choose to look for it – online, via an app, from station staff or on station screens – making it easier to plan journeys and providing better support during disruption. 

Secondly, travel the customer’s way. Customers want one-stop-shop information and access to the railway, and a greater degree of ‘personalisation’ where their profile and preferences – for example, favourite seats – are known and stored. Smart ticketing will help us improve the information we give customers by allowing us to send personalised journey updates based on their travel patterns. 

Third, always ‘on’. Customers want to be able to stay connected to work, family, friends and what’s important to them when they travel by train. That means better wi-fi and mobile connections to keep people plugged in, minimising interruption and offering support at the touch of a button when they need it. 

Fourth, clear value and feeling valued. Customers want simple, straightforward pricing and options, and for us to be clear about what they get. For example, we can do more to make buying a ticket less complex and confusing. We want to help people get the best possible information and to be confident that they are buying the right tickets for their journeys. The industry has just launched a new online guide to tickets to help rail customers travel with confidence. MyTicket on the National Rail Enquiries website has gathered and simplified information from several sources for the first time in one place to make it easier for people to check which trains, times and days they can use their tickets on. 

Accessibility and future ticketing 

As we take a fresh approach to delivery across the rail industry, there are some key issues that we are determined to make progress on as quickly as possible. 

Accessibility is one. Rail services are now far more accessible than ever before, thanks to major investment. We want to invest even more, and will work with campaigners and disabled customers to help us secure more funding and agree how best to spend it.

We want to make it as easy as possible for disabled passengers to enjoy train travel.  Record numbers of disabled people are travelling by train and the vast majority simply turn up and go. At the same time, we want to ensure that those who most require assistance get the help they need. Our plans include improving the Passenger Assistance system so that, from 2018, it will be a one-stop-shop for everything: book your ticket, seat reservation and assistance in one go. We want to see greater consistency regarding requirements for advanced bookings with the recommended advance notice cut to just two hours, a universal turn-up-and-go service at staffed stations and clear communication about available services at unstaffed stations. 

The future of ticketing is another of our biggest priorities. Barcoded tickets will be universal by the end of 2018, and smart tickets will enable us to move away from customers buying tickets then either waiting for them in the post or having to collect them at stations. 

By 2022 customers’ tickets will be stored ‘in the cloud’. Lost or forgotten tickets will become a thing of the past, and we will see less and less of the old magnetic stripe tickets which often wear out and stop working. This is not purely a technology-driven vision and to ensure that nobody is left behind, customers will still be able to buy paper tickets and we will offer various choices based on our insight work. 

We’re delivering major improvements for passengers today and in the future. As an industry we must be agile and do more, faster and better to translate our greater insight into what people want into improved services that require less effort from our customers.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


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