Using customer experience insights to enhance travel quality

Posted: 5 September 2018 | , | No comments yet

Train operating companies continuously seek more business. The key combination is high performance and happy customers, yet Netherlands Railways’ (NS) strategy sets passenger satisfaction as the number one target and performance indicator. This ambition is supported with a wealth of insights into the main drivers of passenger satisfaction. The big challenge is how to successfully convert insights to action. Mark van Hagen, Principal Consultant Customer Experience and Joost van der Made, Head of Concept Development, explain more.


Research insights

Research into human thought1 shows that over 95 per cent is subconscious. This means that unfortunately, customers are not very good at expressing what really makes them happy. Consequently, reaching the subconscious mind is crucial in uncovering what truly matters. In their research, NS use ZMET – the Zaltman Metaphor Eliciting Technique1 – which consists of in-depth interviews using photo-elicitation. This technique allows us to discover what stages in a rail journey matter most2 and which needs are most important during the so-called ‘moments of truth’3. The results from the first study show that customers experience nine journey phases, beginning at their home and ending at their destination, as illustrated in Figure 1 4. It clearly finds that passengers experience the most positive emotions whilst sitting in a moving train. However, if they are not able to sit or if the train is running late, negative emotions arise, making the total journey experience a negative one.

Figure 1: Customer experience of positive and negative emotions throughout a journey

The second ZMET study showed that people have three core emotional needs when travelling by train4. They need to be:

  1. In control, which includes having complete access to the necessary information for completing the journey and understanding the prevailing situation: Passengers do not like feeling dependent on the whims of an operator
  2. Appreciated: Welcomed passengers feel they are taken seriously in terms of their wants and needs
  3. Freedom: Passengers should be able to spend their time as they wish with freedom to do what they want.

Being aware of customer satisfaction drivers is one thing, but knowing how to deliver them is another. In order to convert insights into innovation that drives successful business we use the ‘Design Thinking’ approach, commonly used in the field of user experience design.

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