How better passenger information will boost your customer service

Picture a familiar scenario. Stormy weather has caused havoc overnight and a tree has fallen and blocked the line. It will take some time to clear the debris, so the trains your customers are relying on to get them where they need to be are unavoidably disrupted.

Frustration builds among the passengers, but if they knew how long the delay was likely to be, they could decide whether to wait for their train or change their plans and work from home that day. Or if people were aware of a local bus service which could get them to their destination at no extra cost, they might decide to take that option instead.

When passengers have the information they need, they feel more in control of their journey.

Information is key for rail passengers

Research suggests that customer information is one of the top priorities for people using the railway. The 2022 Transport Focus report What Matters to Passengers reveals that out of twenty-five factors which matter most on a rail journey, Being kept informed about delays and the options I might have is ranked seventh in importance.

For passengers aged between 18 and 35, it’s the third most important factor, coming just below value for money and punctuality and reliability. Hardly surprising when you consider how we’ve all come to expect instant and accurate information about just about everything on our smartphone screens.

But what kind of information is most useful to passengers, and how can TOCs provide this in a more automated, streamlined way?

Real-time information on rail disruption

When services are disrupted, passengers need to know the extent of the delay they’re facing. They’ll be wondering if it’s worth waiting on the platform a few minutes longer or if there’s time to grab a coffee. They definitely want to know if they have to re-plan their journey or reorganise their day.  

Your customer support staff can provide passengers with this information but it involves accessing data from different sources, such as signalling systems and live departure boards and rekeying it into the customer information system. Even then there’s no guarantee your customers can locate the information easily enough to plan their journey.

In an ideal world, passengers could access a map on their smartphone showing the service status on the rail network they use, just a tap on their station brings up granular real time information relevant to their journey, giving them an accurate picture in both summary and detail.

Instant access to the status of the service goes a long way towards alleviating the pain of disruption, and puts the passenger back in control. And if the process is completely automated it frees up time for customer information staff to spend on more strategic communications initiatives.

Help passengers plan their train journeys

A few years ago, posters on social media shared some phrases which they described as their three-word horror stories.  Rail replacement bus was right up there along with no milk left and view current balance.

However, when a passenger knows in advance that their journey will be affected by planned engineering works and they will need to take a rail replacement bus, it becomes a much less horrifying prospect.

A journey is easier to plan if passengers can see on a map which section of their trip is disrupted and how that is likely to affect their arrival time.

Increasingly TOCs are offering their passengers a calendar view of scheduled changes or disruptions to the service so passengers know what to expect well before they travel, giving them the option to either tweak their journey, factor in more travel time or decide to travel on a different day.

A better experience for rail passengers

Consider all the other factors which help people plan their journeys too. Knowing whether the lifts are working at the station, which carriage they need if the train is too long for the platform or which side the doors will open.

Having this simple yet very practical information easily to hand is a game-changer for rail passengers.

The fact is, all this information is available on different data feeds, but pulling it together to present to your passengers can be time consuming and resource intensive for your staff. The aim of RailSmart Dynamic Route Maps is to automate that process.

The map allows you the ultimate in flexibility to choose what level of disruption drives what information by setting parameters in advance. It uses existing feeds and requires minimal intervention in real time.

Instead of accessing data from multiple sources and manually sending out messages, TOCs can give passengers clearly presented, colour-coded live maps on their smartphones, so they can plan their journeys in real time and in advance.

Operators can customise the maps with their own branding and set parameters such as defining a minor delay as ten minutes and a major delay as twenty or more. You know what works best in your region and for your customers, and we can work alongside you to create a better way to share information tailored to passengers’ journeys.

You can’t control the weather and the disruption it brings, but you can give customers their own personal, live route map to help them make better travel decisions while reducing workload for your team.

Find out how RailSmart Dynamic Route Maps can revolutionise your customer service.

To see RailSmart Dynamic Route Maps in action book a demo and get a hands-on product demonstration from our team.