The changes impacting our industry are picking up incredible momentum. It reminds me of when sweeping technology and customer behaviors changed other stalwart industries and our culture some 20 years ago. Hard to imagine now, but back then only a few folks had cell phones, all retail shopping took place in brick-and-mortar stores, and most news was consumed watching the 6 p.m. news and reading the local daily paper.
When glimpses of big change to come first started for those industries, the future — a new normal was uncertain. It’s the same for the transportation industry now. The path forward is still being shaped. New mobility modes will continue to be introduced and tested, old modes will be updated and improvised, and some modes will become extinct. These are exciting times to be in the transportation industry, even if we can’t entirely see how it is all going to shake out. This I can tell you though — through all the change yet to come one measure of service will always remain our industry’s constant bellwether — customer satisfaction.
Never lose sight of your customer satisfaction data.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about customer satisfaction and its role in our industry. The way I see it, customer satisfaction data generated by a properly executed customer survey is a powerful tool in a management team’s arsenal and can be used to directly impact ridership and bottom line numbers.
Keeping in mind that customer service is what the transportation providers do, and customer satisfaction is how they are measured for performance, customer satisfaction may be the tipping variable that brings a new customer to your service or keeps an existing customer from exploring the myriad of other options. Poor customer service can absolutely be a deal breaker for discretionary commuters.
Monitoring customer satisfaction
I’ve been a proponent of customer satisfaction monitoring for more than a decade. When I managed a New York transit agency in the early 2000s, we took customer satisfaction very seriously. We measured it on the quarter, and we were the first in the nation to use the Net Promoter Score (NPS) system to measure how our customers perceived our service.
NPS is a simple formula of promoters, passives, and detractors that calculates one number — a score — from -100 to 100, indicating how well you are perceived by your customers. A score over 0 is considered good. The best companies in the world score in the 70s. A score below zero indicates you have work to do.
NPS was first introduced by Fred Reichheld. In his 2003 Harvard Business Review article, "One Number You Need to Grow," Reichheld described how this simple calculation can help brands evaluate customer loyalty by the likelihood of them recommending the brand to a friend. Reichheld contends that it is significantly more cost effective to retain existing customers than it is to acquire a new one. His research also shows that an increase of only 5% in NPS can increase profits between 25% and 95%.
The Net Promoter Score formula calculates how customers feel about your brand. For the transportation industry, NPS could help public transit providers secure a lasting place in the current mobility.
Access to real-time data
While tracking the NPS for your organization a smart move, especially with the sweeping wave of change we are riding in the transportation industry, consider how the tool becomes even more powerful for our industry when we can compare NPS outcomes in real-time across our sector. The industry could be elevated if transportation providers were given access to a central repository for real-time NPS and other high-quality customer survey data. This data could easily be spun into powerful information for transit leaders to rely upon when making the kinds of decisions that will keep customers loyal and win new customers.
Consider how the transportation industry’s collective and connected efforts to achieve high-quality customer service could help us drive impactful positioning amid the mobility-for-services crowd.
With the coming transportation industry changes, customer satisfaction will be more important than ever for customers and for transportation agency management. Indeed, these are exciting times for the transportation industry and staying focused on your customer satisfaction data is a must.
Mark R. Aesch is CEO of TransPro Consulting (@MarkAesch).