I don’t want to be your friend, just tell me when I’m going to get home!

03 July 2012

Passenger Focus has today released research into how passengers want to be communicated with via social media such as Twitter and Facebook. The research found that passengers did not want an informal ‘mate-like’ tone, but wanted information delivered in a direct and professional manner.  

Passenger Focus research shows that information during delays is passengers’ fifth highest priority for improvement, behind value for money, punctuality, frequency and being able to get a seat.  

Commenting on these findings, Anthony Smith, Passenger Focus chief executive, said: “It is clear that passengers want tweets giving information that is of direct, immediate importance to their journey and they want a professional not-too-matey tone.  Passengers also expect that if a train company has a Twitter feed it should be active at all times train are running.  If social media channels are used there are real customer services ‘wins’ to be had and we would encourage train companies and others to study this research as they develop their approach to social media.”

The key points train companies and those seeking to win new franchises should note are:

  • in the context of rail travel, many passengers appear to use and wish to use Twitter as an information channel about service disruption rather than as a truly ‘social’ medium
  • passengers regard Twitter, rather than Facebook, as having an important role in how train companies communicate with them about disruption – but they see social media as complementary to rather than replacing traditional channels of communication
  • it appears that Twitter offers the potential for train companies to tackle long-standing perceptions of poor customer service, particularly if it is accurate, consistent and timely enough to build trust among followers
  • there is an expectation that Twitter feeds operate throughout the hours that trains are running and on all days of the week
  • that there is a strong desire among passengers to be able to filter or personalise communications to receive only the information relevant to their journey

In terms of how Twitter should be used, while individual personal preferences will clearly vary, the broad message from passengers we spoke to is:

  • the tone of Tweets should be professional and not attempt to be ‘my friend’, although when services are running well there is scope for greater informality
  • Twitter feeds should focus primarily on train service information of direct, immediate relevance to passengers with sparing use of non service-related Tweets
  • non-standard abbreviations that have to be thought about and overly-technical language should be avoided in Tweets
  • two-way communication with a train company via Twitter is expected in specific circumstances (e.g. a specific question to which the passenger needs an immediate answer to make a decision about their journey) and if the train company responds effectively it can create a ‘wow factor’.  However, many appear content to be passive recipients of service information.

Notes to editors

1.    Please click the link below to down the report, ‘Short and Tweet. How passengers want social media during disruption’:

2.    Passenger Focus is the official, independent consumer organisation representing the interests of rail users nationally and bus, coach and tram users across England outside London.  We want to make a difference for rail, bus, coach and tram passengers.
            We’ll do this by:
            –     providing authoritative advice for industry based on sound research
            –     securing improvements to services – both big and small-scale improvements
            –     helping passengers with advice and information
            –     campaigning for change
            –     acting on rail passenger complaints

3.    For further information please contact:
Dervish Mertcan
Communications Officer
Tel: 0300 123 0847 / 07918 626 045
or e-mail: dervish.mertcan@transportfocus.org.uk  

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