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ORR updates five-year-old complaints handling guidance to rail operators

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has today updated guidance on complaints handling procedures (CHPs), including by acknowledging the use of social media, after five years of issuing the same guidance to rail industry leaders.

The guidance was created to ensure that train and station operators use insight from passenger complaints to tackle the root causes of dissatisfaction and continuously improve their services.

It updates previous guidance from 2005 and focuses on the way the industry manages staff and creates a culture to respond to complaints effectively.

Stephanie Tobyn, deputy director within the consumers sector, said: “We want to see the industry use complaints information, as well as general passenger feedback, to identify the root causes of dissatisfaction and take targeted action to improve overall customer experience.

“The new guidance is aimed at making sure that the industry focuses on putting the right training, staff and organisational structures in place to deliver a continuously improving railway for passengers. We have updated the guidance to reflect technological developments such as use of social media to ensure that the industry is keeping pace with the changing needs and expectations of passengers.”

And rail minister Claire Perry reiterated that plans to build a world-class rail network must be backed by guidance to facilitate the process through which customers lodge complaints when they don’t receive the quality service they deserve.

After close consultation with the rail industry and combining sector-wide views, the main updates to the guidance include:

  • Having a clear process in place to distinguish between complaints and feedback, particularly in use of social media platforms such as Twitter
  • A requirement for train or station operators to coordinate responses to complaints about third parties (such as car park providers or catering staff) – this will ensure that the passenger is not disadvantaged by, for example, having to address a complaint to several different bodies
  • A new obligation to establish an appeals handling process with the passenger bodies (Transport Focus and London Travel Watch) where passenger bodies think this would be appropriate
  • How ORR is also working with the industry on monitoring compliance with the guidance, including publication of key performance data demonstrating how train operating companies are complying with their obligations to disabled passengers and managing passenger dissatisfaction

The guidance builds on recent work between the regulator, the government and the rail industry to improve overall service standards – including overseeing the development of a ‘code of practice’ on providing accessible ticket information to passengers when they buy tickets.

The ORR is also reviewing the rail ticket market to assess whether industry arrangements and rules and regulations on ticket selling – now over 20 years old – are still relevant and provide the best outcome for passengers.

And in a new transparency bid, it will publish a new report on April 2016 showing industry performance against the major obligations it has towards consumers: assistance to disabled passengers, management of CHPs, provision of information to passengers and better information to help commuters choose their ideal ticket.

(Top image c. Johnny Green/PA Images)


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