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Arlanda Express has the most satisfied customers in the Swedish travel sector

Posted: 20 September 2012 | | No comments yet

Arlanda Express noted major successes during 2011: trains upgraded with prizewinning interior décor, a robust financial result and a record number of passengers. The journey now continues with a stronger focus on service and passenger care, with all personnel undergoing training in the practical philosophy of hostmanship – the art of making people feel welcome.

According to a survey by ISI Wissing, over the course of 2011 – and for the fourth consecutive year – Arlanda Express had the most satisfied customers among all passenger traffic companies in Stockholm. In competition with airlines such as SAS and Malmö Aviation, taxi companies like Taxi Stockholm and Sweden’s largest train operator, SJ, Arlanda Express captured first place by a healthy margin. Arlanda Express is Sweden’s most punctual train operator and has been for the past 10 years. Moreover, Arlanda Express has attracted attention at an international level; among other media, the British lifestyle magazine ‘Monocle’ nominated Arlanda Express as the world’s best airport express train.

Arlanda Express noted major successes during 2011: trains upgraded with prizewinning interior décor, a robust financial result and a record number of passengers. The journey now continues with a stronger focus on service and passenger care, with all personnel undergoing training in the practical philosophy of hostmanship – the art of making people feel welcome. According to a survey by ISI Wissing, over the course of 2011 – and for the fourth consecutive year – Arlanda Express had the most satisfied customers among all passenger traffic companies in Stockholm. In competition with airlines such as SAS and Malmö Aviation, taxi companies like Taxi Stockholm and Sweden’s largest train operator, SJ, Arlanda Express captured first place by a healthy margin. Arlanda Express is Sweden’s most punctual train operator and has been for the past 10 years. Moreover, Arlanda Express has attracted attention at an international level; among other media, the British lifestyle magazine ‘Monocle’ nominated Arlanda Express as the world’s best airport express train.

Arlanda Express noted major successes during 2011: trains upgraded with prizewinning interior décor, a robust financial result and a record number of passengers. The journey now continues with a stronger focus on service and passenger care, with all personnel undergoing training in the practical philosophy of hostmanship – the art of making people feel welcome.

According to a survey by ISI Wissing, over the course of 2011 – and for the fourth consecutive year – Arlanda Express had the most satisfied customers among all passenger traffic companies in Stockholm. In competition with airlines such as SAS and Malmö Aviation, taxi companies like Taxi Stockholm and Sweden’s largest train operator, SJ, Arlanda Express captured first place by a healthy margin. Arlanda Express is Sweden’s most punctual train operator and has been for the past 10 years. Moreover, Arlanda Express has attracted attention at an international level; among other media, the British lifestyle magazine ‘Monocle’ nominated Arlanda Express as the world’s best airport express train.

Continually focused

The fact that Arlanda Express has satisfied customers is by no means a matter of chance: we have focused on maintaining a high service level over a number of years, including interaction with passengers, and we have now drawn up a programme aimed at raising the significance of positive interpersonal interaction.

We want to offer passengers a world-class service. This means we must ensure that we continually develop, and now we have elected to do so through an approach referred to as hostmanship – an approach that can be rewarding both in professional and personal contexts.

Hostmanship – giving people a better day

Hostmanship means that those we meet should be treated as guests – whether it’s a customer, a colleague or an external business partner. If you view the person you meet as a guest in your world, you will personally act as a host who is responsible in ensuring that it is a positive encounter in which the guest feels welcome. This entails that each employee assumes personal responsibility for shaping interpersonal interaction. This is an inclusive approach in which the reward is to see and confirm the people you interact with in your work, and in each encounter to ask yourself what precisely it is you can contribute to creating a positive feeling in your interaction. It is also an approach that permits you to welcome yourself – to see your own potential, find your own driving forces and view your own value in the activity. For example, it can be easy for you to underestimate what you do, it may seem like daily details and routines, but it could be a lasting memory for the person with whom you interact. Minor measures and friendliness are frequently decisive for successful interaction. In the case of many foreign visitors who arrive at Arlanda Airport, the train attendant is one of the first Swedes they meet, and the first impression they gain is from their journey to Stockholm city. Giving them a fantastic start to their visit is an example of positive hostmanship. This can involve simple things, such as assisting visitors to find their hotel, or giving suggestions regarding particular things to see and places to go. When you practice hostmanship, it is not a job – you simply give people a better day.

Arlanda Express elected to use the company Värdskapet AB to gain assistance in continuing to develop a welcoming corporate culture.

“It was really enjoyable to work with Arlanda Express, which was already at a very high level in terms of customer satisfaction. The focus was on identifying how the company could continue to remain at a very high level – that was a major challenge,” says Jan Gunnarsson, President of Värdskapet AB.

Exceeding customer expectations

Arlanda Express has long focused on making the 20-minute journey to Arlanda Airport an experience that should exceed passenger expectations. Upgrading the train interiors with new décor and refurbishing the platforms were key measures, but it is just as important to focus on what means most in a service company, namely, the personnel.

All our employees underwent a training course during which they also conducted workshops dealing with the implications of hostmanship. After this, the viewpoints of all personnel were compiled in a document describing how they envisaged hostmanship to take form on the Arlanda Express. A key aspect of the process is that all personnel were given the opportunity to participate and personally define what positive hostmanship entails for their particular working tasks – that it was not just an idea that executive management had proposed.

Being visible and available

In the case of hostmanship on the Arlanda Express, the emphasis is on being visible and available for customers and colleagues, with maximum presence. A key implication for hostmanship on the Arlanda Express is that the employee always has the right competence to conduct his/her tasks and always seek to develop – to perform a little better every day. Having the right competence can prove crucial. For example, during summer 2011, two train attendants were able to save the life of a passenger who had a heart attack on-board the train – thanks to the fact that they had been trained in using a cardiac defibrillator, which is available on every train.

There are major benefits to be gained from working with hostmanship, since positive customer interaction leads to favour – able customer retention rates; but equally important is that it creates a good workplace in which employees feel satisfied with the work they perform. Working with hostmanship is facilitated by a flat and active organisation, and one in which executives are readily accessible for personnel – a feature that frequently characterises Scandinavian corporate culture.

A prerequisite for the success of our hostmanship is that it permeates the entire organisation, from executives to employees. We must help each other in our everyday work and executive management should also be out there to meet customers and employees. The major challenge is to maintain active hostmanship. It must be incorporated in day-to-day operations, be noted at workplace meetings and be an active feature in discussions within the company.

Greeting customers with eye contact and a smile may seem a natural aspect in a service occupation, but it is the seemingly simple and self-evident features that present the challenge. There is a great deal to gain from the customer’s initial impression, and it is impor – tant for Arlanda Express to gain confirmation that passengers feel welcome. However, it is not as easy to gauge customer interaction as it is to measure sales figures.

Gauging customer interaction

Arlanda Express uses two external research companies to gauge customer interaction. One company undertakes research using the method referred to as the ‘Mystery Traveller’ method. This entails that a number of people travel as ordinary passengers on different days and during different periods. During the journey, they follow a pre-determined schedule through which they check how interaction is experienced in terms of various aspects. The features gauged include the attention given to passengers, whether personnel are available on the platforms and how well they can respond to questions from passengers. The survey also gauges whether personnel deal with pass – engers’ requirements, meaning which type of ticket suits that particular passenger’s travel plans. Posing further questions regarding how the customer plans to travel and presenting the optimum offer leads to more satisfied customers, as well as raising the company’s added sales. The purpose of the Mystery Traveller survey is to present a cohesive impression of overall customer interaction, but never to single out particular individual employees. March 2012 saw the results from the latest survey, which proved to be our best to date.

The overall rating was 4.5 out of a possible 5. Moreover, Daymaker – the company that con – ducts the survey – stated that it had never before gauged a company with such high ratings.

Customer interaction is also gauged by means of a service check via the company, Mistat. This is a customer satisfaction survey conducted by external personnel travelling on trains. It includes questions that gauge friendly interaction, assistance and proficiency. In the latest survey, both questions gained the highest rating since the surveys started, with 92% of passengers giving Arlanda Express the maximum, or almost maximum, overall rating.

We are proud that the focus on hostman – ship has given such fantastic results. Hostmanship never stops; it is a continual project that is always part of our operations and our efforts to deliver the maximum effect.

 

About the author

Per Thorstenson joined Arlanda Express in October 2011 as Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of the A-Train group of companies. Prior to that, having held senior roles at DHL International and Time Warner, Per was the Marketing Director for Electrolux Professional from 1998. Over the course of his career, Per has focussed on achieving significant improvements in sales, productivity, market share and profitability, and was awarded a prize as one of the best managers in Sweden by a leading magazine two years ago.

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