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What do I want from a train company? Well firstly a seat, working toilets and for it to be on time would be good.

As a daily commuter into London I may have a slightly skewed opinion of what ‘good’ looks like, so it could be argued that my opinion is not a reflection of people in general. That said, I travel on a train at least 12 times a week, so perhaps I am in the best position to have an opinion?

For a long time, it appeared that rail companies remained relatively untouched by innovation; with their old-fashioned systems and reputation for poor customer experience. And customer communications seemed relatively non-existent. It was almost as though train companies thought that a sale or booking confirmation marked the end of the customer relationship.

My experience with train travel and relationship with train companies consist of the following:

  • A daily commute into London on Train Company X (unnamed as I don’t want to limit any new client opportunities!)
  • Occasional travel on Greater Anglia to visit my family.
  • Monthly travel to client meetings on Virgin Trains

Train Company X

As I buy a monthly travel pass and regularly submit delay and repay forms I should be well known to this train company. On the whole, email communications are functional – acknowledgement that I was delayed and that my claim has been accepted and service notifications around engineering works etc. I receive a newsletter approximately once a month and as far as I can see this isn’t tailored to me in anyway.  Partly, I would assume, because they have never asked me. These normally consist of offers and inspiration around days out with children in London and the local area. Firstly, I don’t have children and secondly, I don’t plan on going to London at the weekends after travelling there every day. However, I might consider days out to local areas if there were some suggestions that piqued my interest. Suggestion: ask me what I might be interested in and who I would be going with and you may have a sale. And whilst an offer is always good, a destination will interest me more.

Greater Anglia

As far as monthly newsletters go, Greater Anglia are similar to Train Company X. So again, my suggestion would be to ask me what I might be interested in and who I would be going with and you may have a sale. In this scenario visiting my family changes where I would be interested in going and who I will be going with. Again, whilst an offer is always good, a destination will pique my interest more.

Virgin Trains

Now Virgin Trains. I am a big fan of how they keep in touch with you (through both email and SMS) in the lead up to your journey. A few weeks ago, I arrived at Kings Cross ready for my journey and suddenly realised I didn’t know my seat number. In a slight panic because of time, I joined the customer service queue to see if they could help. I had just joined the queue when I received a text from Virgin Trains to remind me of my seat number. Very good work – what a great customer experience! Outside of that I receive a similar monthly newsletter from them. Again, my suggestion is the same- travelling to some of the towns and cities they service isn’t really on my radar but come up with a good suggestion and might just take you up on your offer!

So overall my recommendation to the train companies I experience is – make the basics good. Let me know when my train might be delayed. Send me a reminder of my seat number at just at the right time. Tell me which carriage the café is in and what the WIFI code is. This makes my experience with that brand feel easy and positive. If you do want to inspire (up-sell) to me then please send me ideas and content that is relevant to me. The BBC and Amazon do it!

-Michael Wells, Business Director