Keith Gait, Stagecoach

Keith Gait

Keith Gait

Customer Service Director

Stagecoach (South)

United Kingdom

Recognising the need for greater customer focus, public transport firm Stagecoach recruited Keith Gait two years ago. To put in perspective the task that Keith had on his hands, this was an organisation that hadn't undertaken customer service research in 30 years. 

Within three months of his appointment, Keith had drafted a three-to-five-year customer experience strategy, laying out the journey Stagecoach would take, the investment required and all the key elements of the improvement programme. These included a research and insight programme to understand what customers needed and wanted, to help the company better shape its product and service; the introduction of baseline internal and external metrics; the re-engineering of internal processes and structures; the better use of rich data, including CRM; and the development of its website app and other support tools. 

As an early part of the strategy, it was decided that mandatory training that all driving staff have to complete every year would be focused on customer service training rather than driving skills. Work was also undertaken on customer personas, to understand the attributes, emotions and needs of customer types and groups and how Stagecoach could develop services and products to serve its customers best.

Company culture also became a key area of focus for Keith. Very early on he noticed that there was a very old-fashioned, militaristic culture in place, and that this was having a signicant impact on the experience customers received. Employee engagement was also identified as an issue, while there were particular cultural challenges associated with the middle layer of management, the supervisors and controllers. Of most concern was the belief in the organisation that the bus was more important than the person on the bus. 

A culture change programme was launched in July 2019, including a series of off-site facilitated sessions with all senior and middle managers discussing the day-to-day conversations that supervisors would have with drivers. This led to the introduction of a customer champions initiative, in which a small number of drivers from each depot that were identied as particularly strong on customer service were selected to take an active role in promoting the benefits of customer service to other drivers across the depots, backed up with offsite facilitated learning once a month.

In October 2019 the company launched an innovative Voice of the Customer programme to track progress. Keen to solicit immediate feedback from customers whilst on the bus, Stagecoach added stickers on the back of seats on all buses on key routes, inviting travellers to give feedback via a variety of channels incluing SMS, web or IVR. This attracted around 2,500 responses were received in the first three months. 

The findings reflected the service improvements that the CX strategy has delivered. In the six months from launch, the VoC programme reported an improvement in NPS of 28 points. Elsewhere, from the end of 2019 to the end of 2020 customer compliments increased by 65%, while the number of passengers carried per complaint increased for 19/20 by 22% with 13,900 passengers per complaint compared with 18/19.

Not only has the company brought in amazing NPS improvements, but this has been done in a very conservative industry and a challenging sector.

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