It's time to speed up with the under 35s

by Grant Klein Partner

Email +44 (0)7730 146631

Changing customer expectations are directly impacting regional bus and train operators. Unless they act now, they’ll continue to lose their passengers.

It used to be good enough for a bus or train operator to provide an on time service to and from set destinations. But passengers are becoming increasingly disgruntled and declining passenger numbers and satisfaction scores in the under 35s, especially outside London, tell us that customer expectations are now radically different in these generations.

Operators need to move fast to attract and retain these passengers.

The idea that buses or trains can be unpredictable or late, or that their operators fail to communicate and explain delays, and still expect to retain their passengers has long gone. People are even more dissatisfied where operators don’t make the journey totally clear so that people know where they are or offer information on any connections.  

We are now in a world where everything is increasingly on demand, personalised, connected and environmentally aware - and operators have to adjust to this new era.  Even 17-19 year olds are already prepared to pay an extra £2-£3 for the convenience of a door-to-door service.

It’s time to recognise that disruption has already begun.

Our own polling shows that 60% of people would use the railways more if they knew sooner about service disruption. And 70% of 18-34 year olds would use the railways more if the stations provided more facilities that suited busy lifestyles.

So here’s our top three tips for regional transport operators who want to act today to prevent - or at least arrest - declining usage and satisfaction scores:

  1. Help customers control costs by using Smart Ticket capabilities:
  • Have a Best Price Promise (‘the smart travel system charges me the best fare possible for the journeys I make’).
  • Provide fare capping (enable people to pay-as-you-go and apply daily/weekly caps if limits are hit).
  • Enable top-up with credit (top-up a smart device (e.g. card or phone), allowing budget control of spend on transport).
  1. Get your service as connected as possible:
  • Online access to real-time information about timetables, delays and route options, and how to use the service is a hygiene factor - a ‘must do’.
  • Provide accounts with automatic top-up, automatic refunds, journey history and r beplacements of lost smart cards.
  • Wifi and charging options are becoming normal - the under 35s are especially sensitive to options for maintaining battery and staying connected!  
  • Have a backup plan though; the under 35s express a real worry for relying solely on their phones for smart ticketing and will pay cash or card as a backup.
  1. Recognise that lifestyles have already changed:
  • The growth of zero-hours contracts, home-working and flexible hours means a move away from the regular commute. Your smart travel system should offer loyalty benefits including carnets and automatic savings for travelling during the off-peak.
  • More than most, Gen Y will use their smartphones to select and purchase transport options. If you’re not on this channel to market you cannot attract them to your service.
  • With door to door services offered by ride-hailing companies, autonomous vehicles on the way, and rising congestion, car ownership is in decline in the under 35s. Operators should be able to convert this into new customers, but only if they get the basics right.

Smart Ticketing is the new normal when it comes to customers’ expectations and our research shows that under 35s are prepared to use substantially more public transport if operators provide smart travel online services in support of their journeys. Operators must adapt to these changing expectations or be prepared to  start to lose this passenger group now and potentially forever.

by Grant Klein Partner

Email +44 (0) 7730 146631

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