There’s no denying that delays and cancellations are commonplace across the UK rail network. Train companies are battling hard against the knock-on effects of bad press and negative customer perception. A less-than-positive reaction from customers is understandable – by October 2018, delays for that year had amounted to a staggering 32 years of passenger time.
Of course, a great deal of those affected would be eligible for compensation, and in compensating them, rail companies are able to make amends for any inconvenience – helping turn a negative view of their company into a positive one. Under the Delay Repay scheme, customers can claim 25% of a journey’s fare if delayed up to 15 minutes, 50% if between 15 and 30 minutes and up to the entire return ticket cost for longer delays.
Despite this, only 1 in 3 actually claim – a figure that Transport Focus intends to change with their recent launch of the ‘Make Delay Pay’ campaign. They aim to increase awareness of compensation, encourage more claims, and ensure that train operators simplify the process.
So why is the claim rate so low? The reasons stem from a few main issues; many passengers are unaware they can claim, and those in the know often feel it would be too complicated, time-consuming, and unlikely to be worth their while.
Improving uptake on claims is good for passengers – and has benefits for operators, giving a chance to save and improve customer relationships, helping retain and attract business. So the question is, how do you make delay compensation more customer-friendly?
Ensure that passengers are aware of their right to claim
18% of eligible passengers who didn’t claim mistakenly believed that they couldn’t. A further 21% blamed a lack of any information.
Improving customer awareness is important, so provide them with the information that they need. 4 in 5 eligible passengers didn’t hear any announcement regarding compensation. Customers would prefer to be notified of eligibility by announcements, followed by distribution of paper forms and text messages.
Clear information needs displaying online and in stations – two thirds of people were unable to find adequate information.
Make registering a claim quicker & easier
According to Which?, train companies are making it incredibly difficult to claim, by requiring excessive amounts of information.
A third of journeys weren’t claimed for as it was too much effort, and 1 in 7 felt it would be too difficult or time-consuming. Simplifying the process would vastly improve these figures.
Ensure high-level service & prompt compensation
Quicker resolution results in far higher customer satisfaction, and increases trust. However, only 69% of people were happy with the speed of their compensation payment.
Good service also has an impact – a customer’s emotional state when interacting with your company, including during the claims process, affects their loyalty.
A good rail-specific CRM system is a vital tool for staff – not only does having all data in one place allow staff to deal with claims more quickly, but the progress of each claim is easily viewable, and the system can flag up any that are behind schedule.
Consider automated compensation
Both Transport Focus and Which? are calling for compensation to be automated – as is already the case with some operators. If delay repayments were automatic, then the hassle of claiming would be removed altogether.
If this is not possible, then simplifying and improving the process would be a huge step in the right direction.
However hard we work to improve things, delays can never be eliminated entirely – there are just too many factors outside our control, so it’s important to compensate those who are affected. There are many issues with the current Delay Repay service for passengers. In order to combat negative customer perception, as a rail industry we need to implement a customer-focused approach. It may have been a long time coming, but unlike a problematic train service, it’s never too late.