Improving every customers’ journey
Walking in our customers’ shoes, we have identified where we can improve the experience they have of our services.
We have detailed action plans to deliver enhancements across:
• planning and researching journey options
• buying tickets
• boarding the bus or train
• getting help from our staff or through information channels
• completing the onward journey
• contacting customer services, clearing delay repay or locating lost property
Our new vision helps the Group to create an aspirational version of what the future will be like for customers; the ideal customer experience where every journey is taken care of. Our commercial bus companies work hard to attract and retain customers and we are proud that for another year we have achieved leading national ratings of 89% customer satisfaction in the national bus passenger survey. Features that many of our services outside London have, such as onboard Wifi, USB phone charging points, and new way-finding apps all assist to increase satisfaction. As expectations increase we need to be agile and find new ways to take care of every aspect of journeys and deliver even better experiences.
We also appreciate that every customer is unique, so has different needs and expectations, increasing personalisation is key to people feeling taken care of. Whether it is an ‘app’ remembering a passenger’s ‘home’ station, a customer service system automatically calculating a refund that is due, or a bus driver recognising the signs that a customer may have dementia and responding appropriately, it is increasingly important to offer a personal service that suits the needs of the individual.
We are investing in technology, and through our industry groups, working with information technology companies to build a substantial portfolio of innovative transport apps. Providing information at people’s fingertips helps people make decisions about their journeys from start to finish. We know every minute counts for many of our customers, and providing people with the best information is essential to building trust.
An important element of public transport is providing an inclusive service. Whether customers are using wheelchairs or mobility scooters, have difficulty walking, are pregnant or travelling with young children, or have learning difficulties or mental health issues – all our bus and rail companies strive to make their services as accessible as possible to everyone.
We invest approximately up to £70m per annum in new buses and this year all vehicles acquired have audible announcements and electronic visual signage (AV) onboard, also we have made a commitment that future purchases will be fitted with AV. Our bus companies have signed up to the RNIB charter, using the ‘Stop for Me, Speak to Me’ training material to help drivers appreciate some of the experiences and problems blind and partially sighted people face.
We continue to deepen our people’s understanding of the issues facing customer with dementia and – particularly in the coastal areas we serve which have higher percentages of elderly people – have used the Dementia Friend training along with other accessibility training to positive effect. Practical ways to assist passengers with hidden disabilities, such as the introduction of ‘helping hand cards’ at many of our operating companies, enables us to provide a more personal service. The Samaritans work with our train companies to promote mental health and wellbeing and also, as part of their ‘safeguarding’ programme, to assist identifying young people who may bevulnerable and at risk.
All our trains are wholly accessible for users of wheelchairs, but there is still some way to go before most stations have step-free access as many stations were built at a time when step-free accessibility was not a consideration. However, many of the barriers to increasing accessibility of our bus and train services are not physical ones, and can be overcome with increased employee awareness and training.
On Track rail app
Go-Ahead’s rail app ‘On Track’ is considered one of the best rail-journey-planning apps in the UK, providing customers with the ability to look up train times, buy rail tickets and find out to the minute how rail services are running.
Built in collaboration with rail passengers, ‘On Track’ provides rail passengers with all that is needed to plan a journey: identifying nearest stations, buying train and car park tickets and real-time train-running information. It also gives one-touch email or phone contact to customer services and allows passengers to claim compensation if their journey is delayed.
Integrated and accessible travel
We are mindful that the majority of people’s journeys don’t start and end with a bus or train ride and our aim is to deliver integrated transport solutions where we: provide accurate, real-time information about delayed services by developing apps; make purchasing tickets as simple as possible with smartcards and mobile tickets; and make contacting or claiming compensation for delayed journeys as simple as possible.
Public transport should be accessible for all those who wish to use it - cycle hire schemes and bike storage provision at stations along with good walking routes to and from stations are ways we work with our partners to make them easier places to access.
We also know that by considering people with audio, visual and other physical limitations we will be improving the service for all passengers. We are increasing audible announcements and information screens on board our trains and buses and all our buses and trains are accessible to wheelchair users. Many of our hundreds of railway stations were built at a time when accessibility was not a consideration, so, together with Network Rail and local authorities, there is a programme of installing ramps and lifts to make stations step-free. Priority is given to stations that have the most of passengers using them and where we are successful in securing local authority and government grants. All our customer-facing employees have training in disability awareness using the social model of disability – appreciating that it’s our responsibility to remove the barriers that restrict people from using our public transport services.
Go-Ahead is leading the way as a transport company in using social media. Twitter and Facebook are widely used across our bus and rail companies to keep passengers updated with service-running information and latest product and ticket offers. Social media platforms also enable our passengers to exchange information and views about our services.
London Midland, won the prestigious Putting Passengers First National Rail Award for using Twitter to communicate with customers. All our bus and rail companies provide customer service through social media from first thing in the morning to last thing at night.
Go-Ahead's businesses have identified ways of using social media to interact with staff, many of whom use social media in their daily lives. Southeastern created an internal dedicated business and social network for its 3,800 employees called 'Workmate', and the rest of our rail and bus companies have followed suit with similar portals.
In addition to the range of award-winning social media activity already underway in our bus and rail companies, Go-Ahead Group has a Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts to update followers about the Group’s operations. You can follow Go-Ahead at @TheGoAheadGroup and Facebook.com/TheGoAheadGroupPLC and linkedin.com/company/the-go-ahead-group-plc
Mobile ticketing and smartcards
Go-Ahead continues to invest in smarter ways to improve the service we offer customers to make it as easy as possible for them to travel with us. We operate the largest smartcard scheme outside London’s Oyster and were one of the first in the sector to introduce mobile ticketing (m-ticketing).
Through smartcards and m-ticketing we have a greater understanding of our customers’ behaviour and preferences and we are able to communicate with many of them in a more personalised way.
Our online customer database can be used for effective, targeted marketing campaigns across our bus and rail businesses and now has almost four million registered customers.
The data gathered through this channel enables us to gain a fuller understanding of passengers’ travel habits and purchase preferences. This means we can provide them with relevant information and products to suit their needs.
Driving change through technology
Value for money and making it as easy and convenient as possible to pay for travel are a significant element of Go-Ahead’s mission to take care of each passenger’s journey. As well as providing WiFi and USB charging points, it’s important that all other aspects of our bus services remain in line with customers’ expectations.
Several years ago, Go-Ahead’s smartcard “the Key” led the way for the industry to introduce smart ticketing. Now, more than three quarters of all retail spending in the UK is made using contactless payment cards, so in the past year we introduced technology to support the next generation of contactless payments across our regional bus division. A range of options, including Visa, Mastercard, Apple Pay and Android Pay, can now be used by customers on most of our regional bus services. We are the first bus operator to introduce the UK Cards Association’s aggregated pay as you go ‘model 2’.
Unlike other major operators that can only accept ‘flat fare’ transactions, ours has the ability to sell London Oyster-style ‘pay as you go’ ticketing. Multiple trip fares are calculated and capped, meaning customers can make several journeys with payment transactions aggregated into a single debit from their account, based on the best fare available. Go-Ahead will soon be operating the largest transport contactless payment scheme outside London, using ‘model 2’. This project has been delivered in collaborative partnership with UK software and hardware company Ticketer and Australian fintech start-up Littlepay.
Taking care of our customers
Our vision focuses on taking care of customers’ journeys, from start to finish. We recognise that it’s impossible to deliver our vision alone and so we rely on partners, such as local authorities and Network Rail, to ensure road and rail infrastructure is properly maintained, to allow us to run reliable services.
We aim to increase passenger satisfaction through strong, collaborative partnerships with these key stakeholders, together with a clear focus on factors within our direct control. Our regional bus business continues to lead our sector in customer satisfaction, with a high score of 90%, as measured by the independent passenger watchdog, Transport Focus. Findings indicate that one of the most important drivers of satisfaction is the attitude of the bus driver. We’re proud that scores across all our regional bus companies recognised the helpfulness and friendliness of our drivers and we continue to invest in recruitment, training, development and wellbeing programmes to ensure this remains the case.
Transport Focus also praised Southeastern for its improved customer satisfaction levels, up 10ppts to 82% in the spring 2017 national rail passenger survey, and also noted improving results on the Gatwick Express and Southern routes. Southeastern attributes success in this area to ensuring employee and union representative involvement as active partners in projects aimed at improving customer experience. Charing Cross station’s wellreceived ‘customer ambassadors’ are there to look after customers and provide on-the-spot assistance. As well as giving train service information, they arrange taxis, provide coffee vouchers, and issue immediate compensation to people whose journeys have been delayed. Involving the whole station team, encouraging ticket office colleagues to come out from behind ticket office windows at quiet times to take a more proactive approach to helping customers. Elements of this successful customer-focused initiative are being rolled out at other key stations across our rail business. Passengers’ expectations are always rising.
As rail services are modernised with the arrival of new trains, improved technology and modern working practices, there is greater expectation that staff will be on hand to assist customers. We are pleased that the increased number of on-board supervisors assisting Southern customers has led to better experiences for passengers, reflected in the latest satisfaction scores. Despite the impact of industrial relations issues on many services, there was a marked increase in levels of satisfaction customers felt with the availability and helpfulness of staff.