Customer Experience for the Transportation Industry
  • Customer Experience for the Transportation Industry

    Globally, the market size of the transportation industry was over $206 billion USD in 2021, and that number is growing. The transportation industry includes airlines, rail systems, road and marine transportation, air freight and logistics, as well as complex transportation infrastructure. That makes for a broad scope of customer types and customer needs, as well as significant challenges to create the seamless transportation customer experiences those individuals require.

    Transportation industry customer experience investments improve experiences for all those who use, rely upon, and work with the complex transportation systems that connect our world. Impactful customer experience investments in the transportation sector include CX strategy, journey mapping, customer experience design, digital and physical space design, technology, communication, and employee training. When these elements are infused with a customer-centric mindset that prioritizes seamless, guided journeys, they create a sense of place, and the reliable, world class transportation experience all transport systems (and their customers) want.

    Why is Customer Experience Important for the Transportation Industry?

    Customer experience drives more loyalty than advertising and marketing efforts can promise. According to Nielsen data, 92 percent of consumers trust friend and family recommendations more than traditional paid advertising. Those recommendations are built on the experiences customers have with a brand.

    Moreover, globally, more than 44% of organizations consider customer experience a "primary competitive differentiator." For a sector the size of the transportation industry, with its scope of customers and range of needs, the value of customer experience is all the more significant.



    What is good CX in the Transportation Industry

    In the transportation industry, good customer experience prioritizes safety, sustainability, accessibility, and on-time performance. It is driven by brand and organizational culture, as well as technology and innovation. Good transportation CX uses customer research to design seamless, intuitive experiences, and infuses hospitality in every customer interaction.

    Good customer experience is necessary along every touchpoint in the complex transportation ecosystem. CX design for the transportation industry begins with understanding the complexities, and the range of needs of transportation customer personas. Efficiency, seamlessness, clarity, and reliability are requirements for all customer types, across transportation modes.

    Those experiences are differentiated for air vs train travel, and for B2B logistics vs consumer and commuter travel. However, technology that promotes ease and efficiency; employees who transmit hospitality; physical spaces that promote simple navigation; and communication that supports guided journeys are consistent hallmarks of good customer experience in the transportation industry.

    Good customer experience in the transportation industry limits customer complaints, increases revenue, promotes ridership and utilization, and supports the positive growth of a critical, multi-billion-dollar global industry.

    Top 5 Things that Drive Bad Transportation CX

    Operational Inefficiencies

    The complexities of the transportation industry across geographies and modes (air, highway/street, train systems) present significant operational challenges. Too often, the consequence of this is delays for consumers. Delays are a critical customer painpoint for commuters and travelers. In the UK, rail companies cause sixty percent of passenger delays. Efficiency improvements, streamlined operations, and applying a holistic approach to serving the defined customer journey all contribute to reducing passenger delays, increasing customer satisfaction and, ultimately, increasing ridership.

    Disconnected Journeys

    Disconnected journeys leave customers feeling alienated and frustrated. They allow for the complexities of the transportation experience to outweigh the connectedness that is the core value of the industry across systems. Guided, personalized, seamless journeys need to replace disconnected or inconsistent customer journeys to improve customer experience across the transportation sector.

    Disoriented customers are unhappy customers. Transportation systems that fail to communicate with their passengers clearly see significant dips in customer satisfaction and utilization. Across the transportation industry, Wayfinding is a central mode of communication. It must remain top of mind in all customer experience and design strategies for transportation systems around the world.

    Wayfinding elements help orient customers, provide navigation, and give brands the opportunity to tell a story that keeps customers connected and guided along their journeys. Wayfinding, digital and physical signage, and mobile messaging via apps and other technology tools, are all ways to create consistent communication with customers. The challenge transportation systems face is designing, building, and managing those assets in a way that is valuable for audiences across languages, accessibility ranges, cultures, and other factors. Piecemeal approaches to communications tools lead to confusing journeys and unhappy customers. At the end of the day, having the tools is not enough. Deploying them as elements of a cohesive, customer-centric strategy makes the difference between good customer experience in the transportation industry and bad.

    Insufficient or Underutilized Technology

    Integrated technology design improves accessibility and creates ease along the customer journey across all modes of transportation and types of physical space. The customer experience breaks down when physical space and technology design fail to include DEI elements. Further, bad customer experience in the transportation industry happens when technology is not integrated across the journey. Or when technology procurement operates outside of the experience design process. In these cases, technology fails to meet customer need. Or that technology has been purchased for its own sake, and its utility is never maximized to meet CX needs and experience design possibilities.

    Poor Management of IROPs

    Not every day is a “blue sky day” for transportation systems. Weather events, natural disasters, security threats, and unexpected staffing challenges all impact transportation operations. IROP, an abbreviation for “irregular operations,” refers to these conditions, when transportation users encounter a system that has to operate differently than it does in ideal (what we often refer to as “blue sky”) conditions. These conditions can affect on-time arrival, cancellations, and other significant customer painpoints.

    Poor IROP management is a prime driver of bad customer experience in the transportation industry. In fact, according to the United States Department of Transportation, consumer complaints about air travel are up more than 300 percent post-pandemic, largely due to the handling of IROPs. While it is impossible to control many of the things that affect operations, it is necessary to have a clear strategy for managing irregular operations to ensure customers are informed, cared for, and guided along their journeys.

    Proper IROP management includes clear policies and procedures, employee training, and consistent, relevant communication (both to employees and customers). In fact, when IROPs are managed well, they are an opportunity to increase customer loyalty and positive employee experiences.

    How to Measure Customer Experience in the Transportation Industry


    Surveys measure customer happiness at multiple points along the customer journey. Surveys provide data for how the actual experience of a customer compares to the designed or expected customer experience. Because authenticity is a key value for surveys, avoid using incentives to encourage customer participation in surveys. Rather, design simple surveys that do not get in the way of (or delay) a customer’s journey. Build easy to understand, straightforward surveys that are quick to complete. A good example of this is the single question interception survey. Design and deploy single question surveys to intercept customers at important steps along the customer journey.


    Follow-up surveys serve multiple purposes in the transportation customer experience ecosystem. Follow-ups make it possible to collect more relevant, authentic customer experience data. They also create an additional communication channel to connect with and support a positive customer-centric relationship. Follow-up surveys should be used to measure customer experience and brand loyalty. Remember, an effective survey is one that is not only useful for data acquisition. An effective customer survey is relevant to your customer. Respect customer time and honor their gift of feedback. The best way to do this is to use customer feedback to make visible improvements to the customer experience.

    Transportation Industry-Specific Metrics

    Specific professional organizations within the transportation industry offer metrics for determining the quality of customer experience. ACI ASQ is one such example. Metrics to determine the quality of operations and experience are particularly helpful for understanding and making improvements to the transportation customer experience across sectors. Use these metrics to help set and measure standards for customer experience, and to track the performance of improvements.

    Net Promoter Score (NPS)

    NPS, the acronym for Net Promoter Score, measures whether a customer will recommend and return to a brand. As a key CX measurement across industries, NPS is particularly important in the transportation industry that serves diverse customer types along complex journeys. To maximize the impact of NPS data, track customers who report they plan to return. Find the data to understand who returns and why. Then utilize this information for customer loyalty program modeling.


    4 Steps to Improve Customer Experience in the Transportation Industry

    Get Real Customer Feedback

    Because seamless, personalized journeys are key to customer experience in the transportation industry, it is important to gather real customer feedback through a variety of channels. One such channel is customer diaries and journals. These enable customers to provide in-the-moment descriptions of their actual commutes, for example. Daily commuters who travel through major transportation hubs on a regular basis can provide real-time descriptions of issues that arise in the physical space, in interactions with technology (such as ticket purchasing kiosks), and in one-on-one interactions with system employees.

    This kind of data is essential to capturing real-life customer painpoints, and for developing solution scenarios to resolve those painpoints.

    Infuse Hospitality Training

    Design and lead hospitality training sessions, and create core hospitality standards that empower employees to express the designed customer experience, and to deliver the intended customer service. Employee hospitality training, in addition to employee technical and skills training, establish an environment of consistent hospitality, seamlessness and ease. It is in this environment that employees are the most satisfied and productive, and customers are the most comfortable and confident.

    Design Seamless, Intuitive Experiences

    Customer experience design with impact grows from actionable and clear design principles. Guiding principles of good customer experience for the transportation industry focus on seamless customer journeys that promote accessibility and ease, and fuse together the digital and physical space experience in a way that is useful, comfortable, and guided. Seamless, intuitive experiences enable self-service, and resonate with digital native customer personas. At the same time, they offer ease of interaction with employees who are empowered to deliver the experiences customers need.

    Additionally, seamless, intuitive experiences leave room for the “Wow Moments” that generate good customer experience, customer loyalty, and Instagrammable/shareable moments that increase ridership. These moments include the introduction of art installations and dynamic public spaces for customers to enjoy, learn, and connect with each other and the unique value of the place they are encountering.

    Design and Deploy Technology Strategically

    Technology is a CX generator. When designing and deploying technology solutions across the transportation industry, identify the ways in which tech enables self-service and other ease-of-use moments along the customer journey, and how technology creates operational efficiencies on the inside. Coupled with customer experience design, strategic technology design and deployment resolves the drivers of bad CX in the transportation industry.


    How to Create World Class Customer Experience with The Petrova Experience

    World class customer experience in the transportation industry means understanding the complexities of connected journeys and seamlessly connecting the touchpoints along those journeys. Data-driven approaches help define seamless, personalized experiences that promote customer satisfaction across transportation experiences.

    In services of world class transportation experiences and in pursuit of customer happiness, The Petrova Experience designs the following solutions:

    Customer Experience Diagnostic for Transportation Systems

    Customer-Centric Design of Physical Space

    Phygital (physical-digital) Experience Design

    Technology Design and Implementation

    Customer Experience Program Design & Support

    Hospitality Training

    Customer-Centric Communication

    CX Measurement

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