Disruption: How to improve the passenger experience

By John Acton, Managing Partner for Passenger Services at Telefónica UK

Bad weather is out of everyone’s control. No matter who you are, someday, somehow it will affect you. Passengers travelling over the Christmas period were witness of this, with severe delays occurring at Kings Cross due to overrunning engineering works. Air travel was also affected as signal failures at Stansted and Gatwick meant passengers were left grounded with little knowledge of when and if the problems would be resolved.

I guess it won’t come as a surprise to most that the passenger services industry with its vast networks spanning thousands of miles is one of the worst affected when it comes to the unpredictable British weather.

Last winter the UK suffered a series of storms which with severe winds, floods and fallen trees caused major disruption to road, rail and air travel services. One storm in particular hit the south stretching through Dorset, Hampshire, Surrey and Kent, a few days before Christmas. Travellers on their way to spend the holidays with family and friends found themselves stranded as a result of nationwide flooding, severe delays and cancellations across all modes of transport. Gatwick was one of the worse hit airports; the basement of the North Terminal was flooded causing 72 out of 260 flights to be cancelled, affecting over 11,000 passengers.

But just because disruption is unavoidable, it doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about it.

The National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) suggests that how TOC’s deal with delays accounts for 50% of customer dissatisfaction. Customers understand that disruption is sometimes unavoidable but it is the way in which service providers’ deal with it that has greater influence on customer satisfaction.

Giving passengers the information they need to make an informed decision is key to managing their expectations. Equipping employees with tablets and smartphones means real-time data can be securely accessed from anywhere, or providing passengers with the opportunity to check for updates themselves by providing access to interactive screens or self-serve apps.  The main thing is to ensure that all information sources provide real-time data which comes direct from the same back office systems and avoids passenger frustration caused when receiving conflicting messages.

At O2 we believe technology has a key role in helping address the challenge of keeping customers informed during periods of disruption. To discover what simple but effective solutions are available to help you manage disruption, read our full report here.