Improving the Customer Experience: a Long Distance Train Operator's Response to the Recession
R Risely, R Sheldon, Accent, UK; J Muir, R Payne, P Williams, East Coast Mainline, UK
This paper will explore an alternative model being adopted by East Coast Mainline where the operator is seeking to improve customer experience during recessionary times.
The recession has raised a number of challenges for long distance rail operators. Unlike their regional/local counterparts (where commuters represent a large proportion of passenger numbers), long distance operators rely heavily on business and leisure passengers for the majority of revenue. For leisure and a proportion of business passengers spending on rail travel is often seen as discretionary and in the advent of the recession all long distance operators have had to cope with falling passenger numbers and passengers ?down trading? from First to Standard or travelling on cheaper/[more] restricted tickets.
One response would be to remove costs wherever possible (by, for example, reducing on board service, staff visibility and cutting back on new product development). However, a danger of adopting such a model is a potential reduction in customer satisfaction and value for money perceptions. This in turn can lead to the potential for discretionary spending to be ceased (ie: passengers no longer make rail journeys) or for modal shift (ie: passengers seeking alternative modes which offer cheaper or better value for money options for long distance journeys).
This paper will explore an alternative model being adopted by East Coast Mainline where the operator is seeking to improve customer experience during recessionary times. The key objective of the strategic plan is to maintain (and start to grow) passenger numbers whilst increasing the potential for revenue generation through improving service delivery. In addition, encouraging modal shift through a number of projects is also being explored. The paper will focus on a number of major initiatives undertaken by East Coast Mainline in the last 18 months and will provide evidence on the potential impact on customers. It will reference a number of research projects specifically undertaken to assist in the improvement and development of the overall customer experience (from searching/booking tickets through the onboard experience and after journey relationship management).
Association for European Transport