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Train operators ranked worst for customer service

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2nd Sep 2016
Editor MyCustomer
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Delayed trains are as much a part of British culture as fish and chips or a stiff upper lip.

Therefore you’d expect train companies to have had years of refining their customer service to coincide with this seemingly perennial problem. Especially given the other British cultural phenomenon – complaining.

Not so though, according to a new study from service consultancy, Engine, which has revealed that the British public rates train operators as having the worst customer service of any industry.

Engine’s third annual Customer Experience Survey states that 38% of consumers rank train operators and public transport as the worst ‘sector’ for service, with utility companies ranked second by 36% of respondents.

Virgin Trains was recently ranked as the top UK brand for quickest customer service response on Twitter, with an average response time of just 4 mins 25 seconds.

But this isn't always consistent across multiple channels. A cursory glance at Twitter exchanges between train operators and their customers highlights this point:

In any case, the survey found that honesty is the most valued trait in the way a company deals with customers (cited as a top three trait by 50% of people), followed by efficiency (48%) and reliability (44%).

“The gap between the best and worst sectors for customer service is growing,” says Oliver King, co-founder of Engine.

“Public transport & train operators face unique challenges, being huge infrastructure businesses with numerous legacy systems, but they’re moving backwards in terms of public perception, particularly as other, more nimble, sectors are raising the game in how they design the customer experience through advances in thinking and technology.

“Public transport, along with utility companies, need to be learning from the lessons other sectors are providing.”

Those sectors include food service and restaurants, which are seen as providing the best customer service and experience (cited by just over 45% of consumers as one of the best), narrowly ahead of the hotel & hospitality industry (just under 45%). Food services (+10%) and hotels (+8%) saw the greatest increase in perception based on 2015 corresponding study.

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