Working in partnership with London TravelWatch

What does customer service mean to Northern passengers?

16 December 2016

We know that the way a train company and its staff treat passengers is important in building trust between passengers and a train company. But what does customer service mean to passengers? How important is it?

Northern asked our help to answer these questions as part of its quest to boost customer service. We worked with Northern to agree the questions and asked passengers from our new Transport User Panel for their views and experiences of Northern’s customer service. 936 people who had travelled with Northern in the last 12 months responded.

Our research found:

  • 34 per cent had received good or excellent customer service, while 15 per had received poor customer service
  • more than three quarters rated customer service on trains and stations as important, although more important on the train than at the station (87 and 77 per cent respectively)
  • customer service is not as important as cleanliness of the train, the price of the ticket and the punctuality of the train. Punctuality was rated as important by 99 per cent of respondents.

The latter point reinforces the finding of our research Passengers relationship with the rail industry that the most important thing in building trust is to deliver the basic service - punctual, clean trains with sufficient seats - effectively and reliably.

Northern faces challenges, including old trains (not least the notorious pacers) and overcrowding at peak times. The new franchise includes overdue investment, but new trains will only take Northern so far. So it is important that Northern look beyond this and explore how they can engage with passengers and improve customer service. Northern have already used the findings to support the launch of a new programme to improve customer service and will use the feedback from passengers to inform development of staff training and its customer service strategy.

You can read the full research report here.

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