Kathryn O'Brien

Customer Experience Director of TransPennine Express

Kathryn O'Brien

Kathryn O’Brien is responsible for providing great customer service every day, whilst driving a programme of improvement, making sure that customer excellence is at the heart of everything we do. Kathryn has made herself an ambassador for every single customer who boards our trains, accepting nothing less than excellence, and she has devoted her career to ensuring that this excellence makes a difference.

As Customer Experience Director, Kathryn is responsible for managing, developing and inspiring TransPennine Express’ (TPE) entire customer experience team. The team of more than 600 people take pride in inviting on-board 30 million customers annually on 350 services every day, connecting the major cities and destinations across the North of England and Scotland.  

Kathryn has a fantastic track record spanning a very successful 28 years in the customer transport/rail sector within the North West. Her record of improving service, empathising with and involving customers and stakeholders in decision making, and driving business improvement stands her out from her peers. Her engaging personal style and steely determination mean she is a role model for a modern leader within the sector. 

Kathryn joined TPE as Head of Franchise Development in 2012, and was promoted to Customer Experience Director in 2014. In this time Kathryn has delivered a series of step changes to the business. More than 1,000 TPE colleagues, almost the entire workforce, have now been trained in the WorldHost Principles of Customer Service (PoCS). This training, used to train the amazing volunteers at the London Olympics, has ensured that TPE colleagues have the customer’s best intentions at heart, whether they are in a customer-facing role or office based.  

Kathryn has also developed and implemented a hugely successful customer service initiative called ‘Back on Track’, which is completely unique to the railway. The initiative allows for all TPE colleagues, no matter their role, to use their professional judgement and offer immediate compensation to customers.  

Kathryn is also a strong advocate of Women in Rail and role model to many through her extensive mentoring successes. Kathryn has been recognised for her hard work and achievements, being nominated as one of the most influential women within the rail industry, and impressively winning the ‘Strategic Leadership Award’ at the UK Customer Satisfaction Awards 2017. 

TPE is now in a period of transformation, which sees the company upgrade existing trains as well as introducing 44 new state-of-the-art trains, meaning more seats, free Wi-Fi, and more frequent, reliable services. At the heart of all of this is the customer, and Kathryn ensures that the customer is put at the forefront of this transformation, right from the initial ideas through to implementation. This approach, and Kathryn’s relentless pursuit of excellence every day, is paying off with consistent rises in TPE’s National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) customer satisfaction scores. 


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