Insight Intelligence Market Research Summit 2016, 9 – 10 May, London

Workshop session

The poet Maya Angelou once said: ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’

One could be forgiven for failing to make any connection between this statement and rail travel. However, any seasoned commuter will know that the daily to and fro between home and the office can occasionally feel like an emotional rollercoaster. Could the emotional impact of rail travel have a lasting effect on passengers’ attitudes and opinions towards the organisations tasked with getting them to work on time?

If Angelou’s maxim is to be believed, this is very much the case. But while passenger satisfaction has been explored in depth, much less has been done to capture how rail customers emotionally feel about their travel experience, how this impacts their behaviour and, indeed, the reputation of and trust in the train operating companies (TOCs).

Increasingly there is a desire to go beyond that mainly transactional measure of rail satisfaction and delve into how passengers implicity feel about their travel experiences. Research is therefore starting to focus more on measuring the non-rational, non-verbal consumer experience of products and services, and interest in new methodologies such as app-based surveys to capture real-time responses has grown.

In December 2015, Transport Focus commissioned Populus to trial a new survey approach of this nature, one that evaluated and monitored the emotional dimension to rail travel using a passenger-friendly, non-verbal and ‘in the moment’, app-based methodology. The objective being to move away from the standard satisfaction scaler questions, to allow passengers to describe their experience in a more natural way.

Populus carried out an initial pilot survey that covered a busy commuter route for a period of four weeks, with a full project following across five additional routes. The key to success of the pilot was the ability to capture the most athentic record of rail passengers’ emotions as they were being experienced, i.e. when passengers are held up due to delayed or cancelled trains, or when they unexpectedly get a seat.

The approach taken was a multi-stage design that involved creating and validating a new non-verbal emotional scale, and capturing these emotions in the moment via an in-app survey.

Read the full report written by Ian Bramley (Populus) and Emma Bramwell (Transport Focus) here.