Changing futures: the future of customer-centric transportation

Across all sectors, we have seen customer expectations increase dramatically over the past few years. Indeed, areas of service that once delighted customers and gave them a 'wow' moment, are often now seen as the bare minimum service offer with customers noticing and complaining if their expectations are not met.

The transport sector has not been immune from this trend and customers are demanding ever more from their service providers. Somewhat unfairly, customers are judging their travel experiences – commuting, taking the bus, tube etc. against the very best experiences they have had elsewhere - even if these are outside of the transport sector, e.g. at their award-winning online-only bank, in their local high-end retailer or on asset-light disruptor apps.

This behaviour shift is coinciding with a decline in overall reported/surveyed customer satisfaction levels, particularly for national and regional rail and bus operators(a), as well as at TfL(b). It seems, that in addition to demanding more, customers are increasingly reporting their dissatisfaction if their experiences do not meet their expectations. One only has to look on Twitter occasionally to know that this is certainly the case!

KPMG in the UK has undertaken significant customer insight analysis, both across sectors, and more specifically in Transport and Mobility. We have identified some key trends:

Overarching customer trends:

  1. Experiences are capturing an increasing share of the consumer wallet
    • People are generally spending increasing amounts of money on activities, creating memories and experiences rather than on owning physical 'things' and 'stuff'.

  2. Instant access to information has become the norm
    •Through increased smartphone usage, instant internet access and on-demand media, people have a wealth of information available to them at all times. Organisations that are slow at providing information or appear less transparent are falling out of favour with customers.

  3. Seizing customers' attention has never been harder
    • In a crowded marketplace, grabbing peoples' attention and getting their loyalty is more difficult now than ever before. Focussing on a single channel approach rather than providing multiple customer channels can reduce the risk of an organisation's message being lost.

  4. Expectations of personalisation are rising
    • Customers want to feel valued, and expect a personalised service for each interaction they have with an organisation, without necessarily wanting to pay for this extra level of service

  5. Purchasing behaviour is fundamentally changing
    • Increasingly, purchasing behaviours are moving online, away from physical premises and organisations. New currencies and payment platforms have emerged and are now in wide-scale use globally.

Transport & Mobility customer trends:

  1. Mobility platforms are transforming the industry
    • There is a trend towards Platform providers owning the customer relationships, whilst not necessarily owning the assets. This enables people to book travel much more easily than was previously feasible. We note that, platform providers are starting to plan to buy out assets and increase their presence even further in the market. An example of this is Uber's drive towards acquiring a large fleet of autonomous Volvo and Toyota vehicles to remove drivers from their business model(c).

  2. Data is fuelling new services and business models
    • Increased access to and creation of data is enabling transport service providers, as well as OEMs and public transport authorities, to provide new and different services to customers, with new business models being created in some instances. For example around different vehicle ownership structures.

  3. External collaboration is driving successful innovation
    • Collaboration is driving business change across the transport industry, for example between platform and transport providers, enabling demand responsive transport to serve areas previously unserved by bus or rail due to lack of clarity around customer demand.

  4. Human interactions are ever more significant in the era of automation
    • Whilst automation and the development of technology has drastically changed the customer experience within the transport sector, those organisations providing the best customer interactions have utilised technology to enable staff to provide a more personalised experience for their customers.

  5. The future demands more sustainable use of resources
    • Sustainability within transport is a key focus area for customers – 'how is my journey impacting the environment?' Failure to address customer concerns around the sustainable use of resources can negatively impact upon an organisation's reputation.

With changing expectations and technological advances, it is both an exciting, and a challenging time, to be involved in developing the customer experience within transport. Some organisations are doing well at adapting to customer needs, whilst others have a way to go and are struggling to keep up.

What is clear is that customer expectations will only continue to build as time goes on. Therefore, creativity and innovation will be key to the success of those organisations that deliver the best service going forwards. However, having a distinctive customer vision will not be enough in itself. In a rapidly changing consumer landscape, a vision must be coupled with a strong ongoing understanding of who an organisation's customers are, what they are experiencing, where their issues lie and what they want and expect. Only when armed with this information will an organisation be able to produce a winning strategy.

KPMG is in the vanguard of customer experience research and design, whether in the transport and automotive sectors, or across other major global industries. We would be keen to share our expertise with you. Our annual KPMG Customer Experience Excellence Report, which covers the Travel sector can be found here.



Dr Marty Herbert is a Global Experience Design Lead at KPMG and Thomas Davey is in the Transport Customer Experience Design team at KPMG