Enhancing the Experience of the Train Journey

Enhancing the Experience of the Train Journey


Mark Van Hagen, Netherlands Railways, Pauline Bron, Netherlands Railways


This research gives insight in the emotional journey of trainpassengers that can be mapped in an ‘emotion curve’ and offers a train operating company input to make the right (policy and investment) decisions and to adequately address the processes right.


Every railway operator should see and recognize the importance of the customer as its most crucial asset. Without the customer, there is no license to operate. As railway operators are often held internally and externally accountable for their services, customer satisfaction surveys are conducted to determine, amongst other things, the scores for (aspects of the) service. At NS these scores are highly important and underlie goals and plans for improvement.

To be successful it is essential to follow the value experienced during the entire train journey of the customer. The aim of this research was therefore to seek the emotional context, such as the customers’ deeper desires, motivations and expectations and so-called ‘moments of truth’. The answers to these questions would offer NS a new perspective on the services it provides and enable it to focus on those elements that truly enhance customer satisfaction.

To gain more insight into the customer experience, ultimately enabling us to act on it, the emotional journey of the respective customers was mapped in an ‘emotion curve’. This curve was developed using qualitative research based on in-depth interviews with an Underlying Construct Elicitation Method (UCEM) among 27 participants (see also ETC paper of Van Hagen, Apeldoorn, Eijsink & Verhoeven, 2012). Such a journey offers insight into the peak and off-peak moments, and the customer delighters, satisfiers and dissatisfiers of train travel. We also looked for the moments of truth (essential for the brand and the customer), as these are times we can make a difference. The insights from UCEM were then tested and supplemented by an online research community which enriched the UCEM output in three phases (observation, crowd interpretation and discussion by images, blogs and customer reports), and which brought the customer experience literally to life. A total of 65 people actively participated in the community, yielding over 3600 posts with pictures and stories. The combination of both methods enabled us to generate as complete an insight as possible.

Key findings customer journey:
• Whether or not having a place to sit on the train is essential to the overall experience. Only when passengers have a good place to sit can they experience a true moment of peace and relaxation. This is currently the only peak in the emotion curve.
• The transportation to and from the station greatly influences the total experience. Travelling by bike or on foot is much more relaxed than by bus, tram or car. This gives customers the feeling that they have more freedom and control.
• A real peak at the end of the journey is currently missing. Although at this point nothing is expected of NS, this is a chance to offer something that transcends expectation and which is memorable (see for example ETC paper of Lekkerkerker, Mook, Van Hagen & Van Houten, 2012).

Respondents furthermore named seven emotional themes which they felt deserved particular attention:
• I want to feel welcome at the station
• Feeling in control allows me to enjoy my train journey more
• I like to see facilities at stations and on trains improve
• On the train I want to relax and enjoy myself
• For me the conductor is an NS ambassador
• I can only enjoy my journey in a clean and comfortable environment
• I forget NS once I get off the train although my journey is not yet over.

The experience themes and emotion curve enable us to view our service provision in a new light, affording us input to address the elements that make customers enthusiastic. In other words it offers NS input to make the right (policy and investment) decisions and to adequately address our processes (doing the right things right).


Association for European Transport