Every journey matters – a pan-TfL Customer Information Strategy
Following a review of customers’ current and future expectations, Transport for London (TfL) is working on a long-term vision to improve how their passengers access information. Silke Elvery, TfL’s Strategy and Planning Manager, provides details of their Customer Information Strategy and how it supports the fact that customers ultimately want an empowered and easy experience – to feel supported, autonomous and in control of their journeys.
Transport for London (TfL) is London’s integrated transport authority, implementing the Mayor’s Transport Strategy to keep London working and growing and make life in the city better. TfL is responsible for operating the majority of public transport and regulating private transport in the capital.
TfL provides the following services: London Underground; London Buses; Docklands Light Railway; London Overground; London Trams; London River Services; Dial-a-Ride; Victoria Coach Station; Santander Cycle Hire; and the Emirates Air Line.
Furthermore, TfL regulates the taxis and the private hire trade, operates the Congestion Charging scheme, manages the red route network of London’s key strategic roads, operates traffic signals, takes action on road safety and enabling people to make sustainable travel choices, including encouraging cycling and walking.
TfL values customers’ time. TfL needs to get smarter in helping our customers make the most out of our network by giving them the right information at the right time.
To enable us to do so, TfL conducted a review of customers’ current and future needs and expectations to create a framework and vision for our long-term Customer Information Strategy.
Need for change
London is growing faster than any other European city – from 8.6 million today, to more than 10 million expected by 2030 – by which time there will be 2.1 million extra public transport trips every day. Our network must keep pace if London is to remain a world-leading city and driver of the UK economy.
Technology is continuing to change how, when and in what format customers use information to help them plan and manage their journeys. Technological innovations are rapidly changing consumer perceptions and expectations around customer information. Today, customers are accessing information in increasingly varied ways with 75% of Londoners using the internet for maps or directions, 76% accessing live public transport information, and 62% making day-to-day travel plans online1. Customers increasingly expect to find real-time, personalised, integrated information that is easy to use and is personalised for their specific needs – empowering them to make decisions about their journeys.
Information is ever present, through a large number of channels, whether it is digital channels – Twitter, website, emails, apps, tube status update boards, or human – staff or fellow passengers. While printed remains an important channel, our customers use a wide range of sources for the information they need. Customers seek information at any time or stage of their journey. The paradigm needs to shift to a ‘seamless’ and ‘always on’ Customer Information Strategy.
Our customers and their journeys
Our customers range from Londoners to domestic and international visitors of all ages and backgrounds. Combined, these customers make up the 30 million journeys made each day on the TfL network.
TfL knows that a number of factors shape our customers’ needs and expectations and can determine the mode of transport chosen. For example, within central London, people tend to walk to complete their journey, whereas to go in and out of central London, they are most likely to use public transport. In most parts of outer London, people tend to use their cars more.
The majority of journeys are undertaken by car (32%), followed by bus and walking (21% respectively) followed by Underground (11%) and rail (9%).
Our customers and users also have a wide range of habits and attitudes, such as how much they plan their journeys, their use of digital, and their innate confidence levels, which shape their opinion of transport choices and options. These factors and attitudes may vary dependent upon journey type and familiarity. Some of the following facts might be surprising: 29% of all trips are for shopping/personal and business; 28% are for leisure; 17% is for commuting; 8% is for education; and 6% is other work, with 51% of night bus journeys being work-related. Between 8:00 and 9:00, 50% of journeys are for school and education, with 30% for commuting. Friday is the busiest day on the network.
Customers compare TfL with other companies outside our sector, and the bar is being raised; customers expect ‘everyday excellence’. They want innovation and disregard current limitations, as services are judged against every company the customer comes into contact with. These rising expectations, combined with rapidly advancing technology, are changing the way in which TfL needs to provide services.
Customers value organisations that allow them to feel confident and in control, with customer care and innovative use of technology being cited as the most important factors.
Organisations that are getting the basics right, with friendly and helpful staff, which are easy to contact, have excellent knowledge of their service, handle complaints well and provide consistent customer service allowing customers to make the most use of technology, are scoring top.
There is some understanding of the difficulty of the task that transport authorities face, but digital is seen as cheap and is expected as a basic service, which needs to be complemented with human touchpoints, i.e. staff or Help Call-points.
Customer information needs
Our research has identified two broad states of the transport system that have a significant impact on customers and users’ mood and mind-set2 and the information needs and requirements they have of TfL.
Customers and users’ needs change when the state of the system changes, and they expect TfL to change too. When services are operating well, customers like to receive low-conscious level reassurance, a ‘feeling’ of being informed, and get a sense of a ‘live’ and proactive system. Customers and users want to feel calm and in control and not be unnecessarily interrupted.
However, customers and users’ information needs significantly increase in scenarios when the transport system is not working well – such as times of disruption or during planned closures. This applies for both planned disruptions and familiar journeys (customers and users perceive the network to work well and are in a neutral/positive mood) and unplanned disruptions and on an unfamiliar journeys (customers and users need more reassurance/negative mood).
Customers want an evolved and more coherent tone and approach from TfL
Information can play a hugely important role in delivering customer satisfaction at different levels of the customer experience, for example:
- As a hygiene factor, where the ‘minimum standard’ must always be achieved and if it is not, it will drive dissatisfaction
- As a critical success factor, where it can make the difference between a good experience and a bad one, and can drive up satisfaction
- As a delighter, when all other aspects of the service are operating well, it can really provide the ‘icing on the cake’.
Customer information best-practice
From customers’ point-of-view, information should demonstrate progress and innovation, an integrated organisation, and customer care, particularly during times of disruptions.
Combining best-practice from other industries and drawing on the insights of the Customer Touchpoints research has helped TfL develop the overarching principles for TfL’s customer information strategy, which are:
- One voice: Communicate as a ‘joined-up’ organisation with a consistent tone
- Human: Retain the human touch by showing empathy and personality where appropriate, and demonstrating synergy with digital channels
- Actionable: Providing enough information for them to make their own journey decisions, whilst providing optimised options
- Predictive: Know enough about customers and users and the system to help predict and deliver what they need
- Always on: Remain relevant and accessible to customers and users in a dynamic 24-hour environment
- For all customers and users: Ensure the system is inclusive of all customers and users and their needs.
Drawing on these principles, the TfL Information Strategy Model and supporting work streams have been developed, as such:
Staff and customer care
To make customers feel confident and cared for, with service facilitated by TfL’s investment in staff who are empathetic and proactive in delivering information and assistance.
Real-time information and innovation
TfL needs to continue to capitalise on technology to deliver ‘everyday excellence’ for customers, focused on keeping customers informed and connected.
Information from TfL that is based on customer behaviour and habits, localised and personalised for customers’ specific journeys and that also provides actionable information
Be consistent – with a shared cultural purpose and vision – across all its modes and businesses. This consistency relates to quality and format of information, customer service and service design.
Customer and user expectations
Table 1 (below) gives a summary of the views and requirements of TfL’s customers. By tackling these points, TfL can demonstrate that it cares about its customers’ daily experiences and is committed to delivering our ‘Every Journey Matters’ customer promise.
What TfL has achieved already
Providing high quality, real-time information to customers and road users is a core part of its job. TfL has changed how, when and what it provides, including:
- 300 apps powered by Open Data and unified API. 30 data sets available to over 6,000 developers
- Staff more visible, through London Underground and Buses staff training
- Iconic print and signage, such as the Harry Beck tube map or the TfL roundel
- Ground-breaking digital real-time information, such as London Buses iBus system
- A customer database with four million live contacts
- Approximately 1.8 million followers on social media
- Mobile-first website, with increasing personalisation
- Wi-Fi at 250 London Underground stations and Victoria Coach Station as well as 79 Overground stations.
Customer expectations are always increasing, so TfL has bold plans going forward. In the areas of staff and customer care, there will be: continue to roll-out a core set of principles for good customer service, based on our Every Journey Matters successes; embed pan-TfL customer service training to implement best-practice; and empowering staff to own the customer relationship, rewarding initiative.
Concerning real-time information and innovation, we will: improve customer facing processes and tools to communicate information faster, making the information actionable; increase type and number of information channels to customers; and adopt multi-modal policy for all new digital displays.
In the area of personalisation, there will be: a personalised website, including favourites; disruption and behavioural change notifications; personalised and actionable fares and ticketing content and notifications; and a single view of the customer, with continuity of information across all channels.
For consistent experience, there will be: implementation of common standards in digital and printed information and signage; development and implementation of a consistent tone of voice used in customer information, from staff to print and digital; and consistency in describing service levels for customers with accessibility needs.
Information is hugely important to customer satisfaction and TfL’s reputation; customers feel satisfied on the whole and they have seen noticeable improvement in TfL’s provision in recent years.
- TfL Digital and Social Media Monitor – June 2014 (13284 TfL Digital Media Monitor report – Oct 2013, Final)
- TfL Touchpoints research July 2015, conducted by 2CV
Silke Elvery is Strategy and Planning Manager at Transport for London (TfL). Silke’s passion and background is customer information. She joined TfL in 2003 and has worked on improving provision of customer information in a variety of roles. She was Business and Strategy Manager for the delivery of iBus, the world’s largest implementation of an Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) and Real-Time Passenger Information (RTPI) system (£112 million contract). She was responsible for the policies and strategies, budget and business case for the ‘Countdown II’ project (budget £32 million), which provides real-time bus arrival predictions for buses at 19,000 bus stops across London, on the internet, SMS and via other digital channels including a data interface supporting over 100 independent smartphone ‘apps’. In 2015, Silke took on the responsibility of developing and implementing the pan-TfL Customer Information Strategy, with the aim to continually improve and innovate the way TfL provides customer information across its services. Before TfL, Silke worked for the Great London Authority and KPMG Management Consulting.
Issue 1 2016
Transport for London (TfL)