Rail Refunds Need a Customer Experience Overhaul
A report published by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) a couple of months ago suggested that over 80% of rail passenger refunds that could be claimed are never processed. The passengers just never claim the money they are owed.
Schemes like ‘Delay Repay’ have been put in place to encourage passengers to claim compensation for trains that are delayed for more than 30 minutes. The compensation is available to passengers, but they rarely claim because of a mix of lack of awareness around what they can claim for and the time and bureaucracy involved in filling forms in so a claim can be filed.
The real problem here is that the Train Operating Companies (TOCs) have thought through the processes needed to sell tickets and operate trains, but managing passenger awareness (against a backdrop of frequently changing Department for Transport policies) of when claims are possible is more difficult. Some TOCs have made great progress and actively promote a simple and clear refund policy, but there is passenger confusion because this clarity is not uniform across all the TOCs.
What is needed is a plan to introduce some uniformity across the whole UK TOC network to not only make customers understand what they are entitled to expect, what level of delay triggers refunds, and what they can do to easily make a refund claim.
The TOCs need to understand that passengers are busy. They don’t have time to wait for forms that need to be completed and filed, or for announcements to be made on the platform or on the train. If the refund process was as clear as the process of purchasing tickets then I’m sure that passenger satisfaction would be very different:
1. The customer could claim easily at anytime using their smart phone.
2. The customer will be informed by the TOC that they might be eligible for a refund – assuming the customer used a card or their phone to pay for the ticket
3. The rules on when a refund applies would be simplified so a public awareness campaign at stations can ensure that everyone knows when they are owed a credit.
Passengers are customers. Sometimes they have no choice of service so it’s difficult to vote with their feet, but on some lines there are choices. The DfT and the TOCs need to drive uniformity in process and awareness so that passengers can easily claim what is already legally theirs.
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