Emotions Quantified: Targeted Approach to Improving Customer Satisfaction
Mark Van Hagen, Netherlands Railways, Menno De Bruyn, Netherlands Railways
The critical incident technique was applied in the emotions of a recent train journey. The insights from this study will help railway companies to identify targeted approaches to improving quality for the whole journey from door to door.
Netherlands Railways (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) has already shown that feelings play an important part in how the whole train journey is rated (Van Hagen, 2011; Van Hagen en Bron, ETC 2013). A unique follow-up study (N = 2500) has now revealed the relationship between the opinions expressed by passengers on each of the eight phases of their train journey and the intensity of the feelings experienced in these phases. The critical incident technique was applied, in which a distinction is made between a positive, negative or neutral experience of a recent train journey. Different passenger and journey characteristics were studied, such as trip purpose, direct connection versus a journey with interchanges, and access and egress to and from the station. A relationship with passengers' prior expectations was also identified, the (emotional) importance of the end activity (destination), and previous experience as a driver for choosing to travel by train.
This study gives surprising new insights into how the various phases of the journey are experienced in emotional terms and how they are evaluated on a rating scale. Linking feelings to a score allows us to quantify feelings at each stage of the journey and to calculate the importance of each stage in the entire train journey. The level of detail of the survey questions helps us to see which underlying factors score well (positive) and which poorly (negative).
The results not only show there is a strong correlation between feelings experienced by passengers and the opinions they express about their journey, but also the intention of passengers to travel by train more or less frequently. Because we now know how important the different stages of the journey are for passengers, it is much clearer which phases and underlying factors in the train journey deserve the most attention from the operator in the eyes of the customer and in different circumstances (delays, connections, etc.). Since we also know the feelings that are associated with how the journey is rated, the operator now has much more specific information to help direct efforts towards enhancing customer satisfaction. The insights from this study will help railway companies to identify direct and targeted approaches to improving quality for the whole journey from door to door.
Association for European Transport