The big four: strategies for making your customer a priority

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Over the last couple of months, Snapper has had the privilege to attend and participate in several events that were focused on the public transport customer. This represents a collective need across the industry to communicate better with customers.

One of the key questions is: “How can we avoid the situation where all communications between transport operators and their customers begin with a problem, frustration or failure?” The good news is that many cities around the world are tackling this challenge head-on, and with some excellent results.

We have considered these examples and compiled a list of the top four strategies currently being used to put the priority on the customer.

  1. Set a high level customer focused goal

Transport for London has been very transparent with industry about their business strategies. Their number 1 priority was recently cited at the UITP Marketing and Communications forum as putting “customers and users at the core of all our decision making.” This is made clear for all employees through their tagline “Every Journey Matters” and demonstrated with the practice of staff abandoning ticket booths in favour of standing in public spaces, next to the gates to help customers with questions and problems.

Maria Brauer from Vasttrafik in Sweden explained how they have gone through a complete overhaul to become a customer led organisation since 2011.  They started with understanding their customer better, using big data and customer research. Next they developed a Customer Promise: that “any customer will always feel reassured; that staff are always helpful; and that customers will always have the knowledge they need to travel”. The mission of every Vasttrafik employee then became the delivery of that customer promise in “every meeting, every day”.

  1. Measure customer satisfaction

Most public transport authorities have a customer satisfaction programme or a score-card system.  At the Customer Experience in Public Transport Forum in Melbourne last month, we heard about how Virgin Australia measures the satisfaction of 500 ‘guests’ per day and uses this information to create score cards for each area of the organisation, to benchmark how they are doing against their customer focused goals.

Miki Szikszai also shared Snapper’s method for measuring satisfaction at this forum, which utilises Net Promoter score (NPS) to ask around 300 customers per day, how likely it is they would recommend Snapper to a friend or family member on a scale from 0-10.  One of the benefits of NPS is that it is widely used across many industries, so Snapper was able to benchmark results for 2015 across all NPS users in NZ. Click here for the surprising results.

  1. Create a social media presence

While it’s easy enough for anyone to start up a Facebook or Twitter account, the hard part is having a robust strategy around it’s purpose, and clear guidelines for practitioners to communicate effectively and consistently.

STIB Marketing Director David Favest shared at the UITP workshop in June, that their social media strategy was to become the “preferred mobility solution in Brussels; to become a partner of Brussels city life; and to create an emotional bond with the public.” STIB uses social media effectively not only to inform the public about the transport network, but they also go a step further by engaging with the community to promote local events and participate in campaigns to raise awareness and ‘love’ for their city. They also make sure content is filled with up to date cultural references and use humour to tell stories.

Across the other side of the world in Melbourne, Yarra Trams (the biggest tram network in the world) reinforced the need for a strategy surrounding social media practice. They use a simple idea to help guide their responses to online conversations, that is an H2H approach (human to human). It means that staff responding to messages should “think like a passenger, have respect for people, are polite, helpful and understanding and continuously improve practices to provide the best customer experience possible”.

  1. Integrate all mobility options into the network

Berlin Public Transport network (BVG) has embraced new technology and new transport options, by including them in their mobile app (2.1 million downloads).  They consider the private car as the enemy, but not other methods of car usage, which can lead to a sustainable and liveable city in the future. For example you can use the BVG app to plan your journey on public transport, but it will also show options for car and bike sharing that are popular and widely available in Berlin.

This all-inclusive multi modal approach has been coined MaaS (mobility as a service) in Finland where it originated. Vienna has also replicated this with their SMILE project, where they recruited 1500 people to use the app and after 6 months measured the results. They found that 26% of people were using more public transport services than they did previously. The convenience of having all options for information, booking and payment on one platform was such a good experience that they were more likely to mix and match methods of transport to get to a destination. So, including non-public transport options was not detrimental to patronage! The consistent message here from all cities is that there is no need to own a private car if you have an integrated network of transport choices – be they private or public.