The United Kingdom’s train industry has long grappled with challenges, from cancellations due to lack of staff to frequent strikes, leading to a surge in customer complaints. And the traditional customer service systems have struggled to cope with the volume and complexity of these issues. Ticketing systems are too slow to respond, and customers are frustrated by not being able to just talk to a person.
So how does automation play a role in resolving this problem? Train operator companies have to modernise and revolutionise the way they operate but automation can help make that change less disruptive by taking over outdated and clunky processes.
The Importance of Customer Service
Before delving into the ways AI and automation can enhance customer service for train companies, let’s first understand why exceptional customer service is crucial in this industry.
Many brands see customer service as an afterthought, especially because a full customer care team can be an expensive investment. But, with the help of automation and AI, a business can significantly improve the efficiency of its team without damaging the customer experience. This reduces operational costs and frees up resources that can be reinvested in improving other aspects of the business.
Customer Loyalty & Spending
High-quality customer service is paramount for ensuring customer satisfaction and building long-term loyalty. Satisfied customers are not only more likely to become repeat passengers but also more willing to spend on additional services such as upgrades, onboard dining, and merchandise. And they’re more likely to speak positively about the company, both online and offline, enhancing the company’s overall brand perception.
Safety and Security
Many train operator companies are subject to strict regulations and safety standards. Maintaining a high level of customer service helps these companies stay compliant with industry regulations. Effective communication and support services are essential for passenger safety and security. In the event of unexpected crises or emergencies, such as accidents, natural disasters, or disruptions in service, customer service teams play a vital role in managing the situation and providing passengers with the necessary information and support. Effective crisis management can mitigate damage to the company’s reputation and ensure passenger safety.
How automation can transform customer service for train companies
Simple AI and automation ensure that customer service is available round the clock, even during strike actions or when stations are fully self-serve. Through enhanced mobile apps, passengers can access assistance when needed, reducing frustration and improving overall satisfaction. But it’s essential that human agents are also available – preferably 24/7 – because there’s nothing worse than spending time talking to an AI, only to find out your problem is too complex but there are no human operators available.
Automating Routine Tasks
There are many routine tasks that automation and simple AI can take from the advisor, such as information gathering before the interaction, wrapping up the interaction, and even sending follow-ups if needed. All of these take time for the advisor and eat into the time they have to actually help customers. Automation can handle these tasks with ease and with little to no margin for error, so your customers are always in safe hands.
Efficient Handling of FAQs
Automation and AI can play a crucial role in addressing the most common customer queries, such as ticket pricing, schedules, and station information. Chatbots and virtual assistants can be implemented on train company websites and mobile apps to provide quick and accurate responses to FAQs, reducing the burden on human agents and giving time back to them to focus on the customer.
Streamlined Complaint Management
The complaints process for train companies is often outdated, utilising a ticketing service that takes days – sometimes weeks – to get back to the customer. Workflows can make this entire process automated, providing almost instantaneous refunds and solutions to routine complaints. More complicated matters can be given to a human operator, categorised and prioritised by a decision-led AI so no problem goes unanswered and the most serious complaints are handled first.
Personalized Customer Experiences
AI can help train companies personalize customer experiences. By analyzing data, AI can suggest relevant travel options, recommend services based on individual preferences, and even offer advice for people who need extra help, such as those with disabilities. This personalization not only enhances the passenger experience but also demonstrates a commitment to customer satisfaction and could help to boost customer loyalty in the long run.
Adapting to the Changing Landscape
As many train companies in the UK are reducing station staff or moving towards fully automated stations, the need to enhance online contact volumes and customer service is now more critical than ever. Automation and AI provide a lifeline to address this challenge efficiently. By implementing these technologies, train companies can not only improve customer service but also optimize their operations and reduce operational costs.
Balancing Automation with Human Touchpoints
While automation and AI offer numerous benefits for improving customer service, it is crucial to strike a balance with human interaction. Train companies must continue to offer the option for customers to speak to a live person when needed. Here’s why:
AI and automation systems may struggle to handle highly complex or unique customer queries. Human customer service representatives excel in understanding and resolving intricate issues, providing valuable assistance to passengers.
Human agents possess emotional intelligence, allowing them to empathize with passengers during stressful situations or emergencies. AI lacks this emotional understanding, making human intervention necessary in certain cases.
Establishing trust is crucial in the transportation industry. Passengers may feel more comfortable and secure when interacting with a human agent, especially when dealing with sensitive matters or unexpected problems.
Everyone likes to feel heard and seen. Although automation can gather the kind of information necessary to make each interaction unique, it takes a human touch to deliver a personalised experience that resonates with passengers.
Humans can adapt to changing situations and requirements more effectively than automated systems. They can make quick decisions, think creatively, and offer innovative solutions when needed.
The UK train industry faces numerous customer service challenges, including understaffed stations and frequent strikes. Automation and AI offer a promising solution to these long-standing issues. By reducing FAQs, streamlining complaints handling, and more, automation can enhance the passenger experience and reduce customer frustration. However, it’s essential to strike a balance between automation and human touchpoints to ensure that passengers can always speak to a person when they want to. As train companies in the UK continue to reduce station staff and embrace automation, the time to improve customer service is now. By investing in automation and AI technologies, these companies can provide passengers with efficient, reliable, and personalized service, ultimately leading to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty in an industry that has long faced customer service challenges.