Delays and attitude of staff hold up satisfaction improvements for the transport sector

9th Mar 2016

Customers are more satisfied with organisations in the transport sector than they have been since January 2013, but reliability, the attitude of customer-facing staff and complaints are causing serious delays to further improvements.

The latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI), published by the Institute of Customer Service, reveals that even though the transport sector shows signs of improvement in almost every metric, it remains in tenth place out of the thirteen sectors measured. The best performing transport organisation, the only one to appear in the UK top 50 index for customer satisfaction, is Virgin Atlantic, which is placed 14th in the index of all UK companies.

Quality of service and punctuality are the two issues that cause most dissatisfaction amongst customers, but staff attitude and competence are also in the top five most common complaints. Customers gave members of staff working for transport organisations a lower score than employees of any other sector for competence and helpfulness.

The transport sector scores 73.5 points for customer satisfaction, up 1.2 points on January 2015 but 3.5 points behind the UK average in The Institute of Customer Service’s research. Organisations in this sector are amongst the most improved across all sectors - Ryanair (up 6.4), Abellio Greater Anglia trains (up 6.2) and Southeastern Trains (up 5.9). Overall the transport sector improved in 30 of the 35 metrics used to measure customer satisfaction.

One of the new measurements in this year’s UKCSI reveals that organisations that ‘get it right first time’ have far higher levels of customer satisfaction, however nearly one in five customers (18.2 percent) say that transport organisations fail to do this. 

When customers have to make a complaint the most common responses from members of staff are negative. They are likely to either make excuses (32 percent) or seem uninterested (30.7 percent). Over a third (34.4 percent) of customers were forced to escalate their complaint, a lower proportion than the UKCSI average, and the same proportion of complaints (33.3 percent) remains unresolved. 

Through analysing the experiences of 1,500 consumers the UKCSI identifies that, in the three months up to January 2016, the number of complaints in the transport sector increased to 15.4 percent from 14.9 percent. On a positive note however, satisfaction with the way complaints were dealt with remains stable and the speed of resolving problems is improving slightly.

There is still a worryingly large proportion of people that experience a problem with a transport organisation that decide against reporting it (36.2 percent), with the majority of those (65.9 percent) doing so because they are convinced it will make no difference.

Jo Causon, CEO of the Institute of Customer Service CEO, says: “Improvements are being made but there is still some distance to go, as  the transport sector still underperforms compared to the UK average. While reliability might be one of the more difficult items to manage in this sector, supporting and improving the skills of employees  and reviewing the complaints procedure is not. These are key areas that transport organisations need to work on and are considered as ‘hygiene factors’ in the best performing sectors - skills that are basic requirements in any business.”

“Leaders of organisations in this sector must find new ways to motivate, engage and empower members of staff if they are to deliver real and sustained progress. These are areas that can be improved effectively with the right culture and focus from the leadership teams.”

Research from the Institute of Customer Service identifies that staff, attitude, behaviour and complaint handling are amongst the most important drivers of customer satisfaction. This is reflected in the fact that despite wholesale improvements across most metrics the transport sector remains amongst the poorest performing sectors. Only by improving these key elements can the Transport sector deliver higher customer satisfaction and benefit from increased customer retention and recommendation that inevitably follows.


Notes to editors

For further information please contact:
Mike Petrook
E: [email protected] 
T:  020 7260 2631

About The Institute of Customer Service
The Institute of Customer Service is the professional body for customer service delivering tangible benefit to organisations and individuals so that our customers can improve their customers’ experience and their own business performance.  The Institute is a membership body with a community of over 500 organisational members – from the private, public and third sectors – and over 4,000 individual memberships.  For more information about the Institute of Customer Service go to

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