GBRTT was established to create a whole-industry strategy and roadmap to help Great British Rail (GBR) address industry-wide problems and meet customer needs outlined in Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail report, with Improving Customer Care as one of the key areas that needs addressing. The report identified the current approach to customer care in the rail industry is inconsistent and expensive with high levels of duplication. These problems have contributed to broken trust with the industry - therefore customer care focus is required to meet customer needs and rebuild trust.
GBRTT approached Common to help validate their understanding of the problem and to suggest solutions to ‘closing the care gap in rail’. Essentially they wanted to consider: How might we deliver a step change in customer care across the rail experience so that we rebuild customer trust, dramatically improve customer experience and win back customers who do not currently choose to use rail?
Common partnered with our inclusivity partner, Open Inclusion, and collectively we were able to consider customer care in the rail industry through a lens of inclusion, diversity and accessibility. We had a three pronged qualitative approach to the research:
- Online customer forum to capture experiences and get participants thinking
- Online workshops with forum participants to discuss and evolve our understanding of experiences
- Pan-disability interviews with customers who had accessibility needs. Participants were mainly rail users, but some non-users were included across each mode of research as well. The remote nature of the research ensured we could include people from across England, who used a range of rail companies. We explored good and bad experiences of customer care across the rail industry, and compared it with experiences across other industries too.
Through the research we were able to identify the need for a stepped approach to rebuilding trust across the rail industry. And that there were three core areas to focus improvements to care:
- Staff were key - as well as the need to be approachable, they need to be proactive to customer needs, including those with different access needs, and supportive through times of complexity and disruption;
- Digital services - improvements to ease of use, processes that make customers feel acknowledged, personalised support and communication as much as possible;
- Environments that were cared for - spaces that are well maintained show a greater level of care for overall service.
Insights from the research will be used widely across the rail industry, including all 14 DfT franchises, Network Rail and the National Rail Enquiries Service.
Sam Saint Warrens, Katherine Jennings, Florence Nolan
Qualitative research, Social research, Public engagement