With $5 billion in annual revenue, John Holland builds and operates transport infrastructure across Australia, including Sydney Metro and Melbourne Metro trains. Director of Customer Experience Yvette Mihelic, explains how the concept of ‘customer experience’ became vital to the way the company operates.
John Holland needs to cater for the requirements of two types of customers. Firstly, they need to cater for the end users of public transport services, i.e. the people who catch the trains and light rail they build, operate and maintain. Secondly, they need to cater to their clients’ needs, which is the government or transport jurisdiction that has commissioned them to build and operate a particular piece of transport infrastructure.
Mihelic comments, “We need to provide an exceptional customer experience to the end customer, the user of public transport, on behalf of our clients, the respective government department or transport authority. It certainly adds an extra web of complexity in terms of customer experience. Our clients define the scope of what we can do in terms of customer experience. They own that voice to the customer, though we’re the ones who have to deliver on the experience.”
Customer experience has become key to the success of public transport systems across Australia.. . Mihelic advises, “There’s a common misconception that public transport doesn’t have competition. It does, and that competition is the private vehicle. To meet many of the objectives set by our clients, we want to affect what we call a modal shift, which means getting people out of cars and getting them onto public transport.”
“Buying a public transport ticket also tends to be a grudge purchase. People don’t ever say, ‘Oh, yay, I’m going to buy a train ticket to go to work today.’ It’s really important for us to design an experience that makes us the first choice for the customer and it isn’t a grudge choice either.”
The CX Journey
John Holland was founded more than 70 years ago, and customer experience was more focused on the direct client as opposed to the end user… Yvette joined John Holland in 2019 to turn around the company’s rail customer offering, to make sure the delivery of rail operations put people first.
“By it’s very nature, customer experience is very data led. From sharing this data throughout the business and demonstrating the very tangible benefits improving the customer experience can deliver, I could see people’s eyes start to light up. It allowed me to bring the stakeholders in the organisation along on the CX journey”, says Mihelic.
Improvements to overall direct client experience were also put in place with the company’s re-branding as a purpose-led organisation. This purpose is about transforming lives and putting people first – and is applicable to all levels of the company, regardless of where someone works.
Different teams for different customers
Different dedicated CX teams were established across the different operations that John Holland maintains. “These teams vary in size, objectives and function due to the size of the particular operation and what is required in a specific contract for us to deliver. So, for Melbourne Metro trains we have a commitment to engage with customers via Twitter and social media. Whereas in Sydney– the focus is more on human interaction and face-to-face customer service delivery.”
Each operation is different, but once a quarter the different teams from each operation get together to go through performance results. “We call it our circle of excellence. We not only examine our headline CX results, but also our key underlying operational metrics that inform our lead indicators, like how often was a train late or stoppages on a particular line.”
These teams have been given the resources and ROI targets to develop the experience designs and journey maps that take into account the key motivators. “When we’re designing our overall journey experience at each touchpoint, we try and look at those motivators and align them to transport customer satisfaction drivers. Generally, there’s nine key drivers that include everything from conflict and comfort to on time running, reliability, speed of journey and so on.” “The customer is now at the forefront, where the voice of the customer is at the heart of any discussion about strategy. The organisation has gone on quite a significant journey. Right now, we’re kind of around 60% of the way through. Now we’re looking at things like, how do we align our values, as a transport organisation, with that of the more broader community in our customers? John Holland is definitely more about the community, not just the customers that ride the rail.”