Hello London: Customer Experience Training for TfL

Designing, delivering, implementing and reinforcing an engaging customer experience programme for all 26,000 drivers, managers and garage support staff on London’s bus network.

About Transport for London

Transport for London (TfL) is responsible for delivering the Mayor of London’s strategy and commitments to transport. The scale is enormous: Passengers take a combined total of over 31 million journeys every day across its network,with 8,100 buses operating across 675 routes and 19,000 stops. These are run by ten different bus operating companies.

The Project

We were appointed to design, deliver, implement and reinforce an engaging customer experience programme for all 26,000 drivers, managers and garage support staff on London’s bus network.  The programme was to help the workforce adopt a more customer-centric mind-set, and to help bring about sustainable behavioural change within the industry. Customers are at the heart of what TfL do, and they work hard to listen to, and act upon, feedback.  There was a consistent theme noted in the feedback received around customer service and although this was a relatively small number of complaints given the number of journeys made, they were keen to make improvements based on their key value: that every journey matters.

Therefore, the customer experience programme we created (named ‘Hello London’) was designed around the customer’s perceptions of the service that they receive and it focused n the following themes:

  • Buses not always stopping.
  • Drivers could be more helpful and acknowledge their customers.
  • Drivers could be better at managing conflict – and sometimes left customers with the perception that the driver had been rude or showed offensive behaviour.
  • Customers could be better informed about their journey by more driver announcements being made.

The project’s key objectives were centred on the four issues highlighted above. This is because the drivers themselves would all have direct influence on whether the feedback could be improved.

Ensuring the programme would bring about sustained behavioural change was a priority, and that meant the programme had to be relevant and tailored to resonate with each participant who attended. Therefore, we spoke to 150 drivers and operating staff, as well as key personnel at TfL’s bus directorate, the trade unions, passenger groups, to build a thorough understanding of the current culture of the London bus industry.

In order to make the shift to a customer-centric culture, we firstly delivered a programme for all garage managers and support staff in May 2016 (1,000 participants in total). This allowed all participants to share, discuss and challenge each other to fully understand their role in supporting drivers to deliver an excellent customer experience. The “commitment to making changes to supporting the driver’s delivering excellent service” created by these participants as part of the programme was to be shared with the drivers’ during their sessions – and this link between the two programmes enamelled the start of a conversation between managers, support staff and drivers about changing the culture within their garages.

We then embarked on the 2-day driver-focused programme in June 2016, running all the way through to March 2018, training over 23,000 drivers throughout this period. This vast scale programme invited all drivers from the 10 operating companies, 100 per session, to share their experiences and challenges of safely driving the travelling public around London 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 364 days a year.

Our Approach

Using our Steps to Change methodology, we took the drivers on an interactive and varied learning experience. They took part in interactive quizzes, watch live drama (to see the impact of their behaviour on others), share thoughts and ideas in forum theatre (interactive scenarios) and work in small groups to role play and practice other ways of behaving.

Stephen Covey’s Circles of Control and  Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis acted as a foundation for the course to empower drivers to bring their “best self” to work more consistently.

Live It Activities 

The final stage of our Steps to Change methodology focuses on Live It activities to really embed new behaviours in an organisation. To harness the desire for change that is created on the programme, in partnership with TfL, we developed a comprehensive sustainability plan including:

  • Senior Leadership garage visits to appropriately challenge thinking around the sustainability plan for the programme.
  • The appointment of champions and ambassadors to embed the Hello London learning.
  • Champions training to set them up to succeed and deliver the above outcome.
  • Follow up practice sessions at garages to build confidence around making live announcements.
  • TfL also followed up the drivers suggestions asked at the event, with a “you said we did” campaign.
  • An embedding Hello London programme, with video resources and Trainer packs following a comprehensive Train the Trainer programme, for Bus Operator Trainers. These programmes continued to be delivered beyond March 2018, are still being delivered today.

Results 

23,099 drivers  completed their training between June 2016 – March 2018 and the results of the programme were compelling:

  • 95% of drivers rate the course facilitation as either excellent or very good.
  • 94% of drivers say they are “highly” or “fairly” likely to apply learning from the training to their work.

We saw remarkable, immediate improvements in key behaviours and attitudes (measured at the beginning and the end of the course) such as:

  • Personal motivation to deliver the best service – 15% increase in positive responses.
  • Importance of acknowledging and helping customers – 20% increase in positive responses.
  • Confidence in using PA system for announcements – 18% increase.

The improvements seen from the 2-day programme were also tracked in TfL’s Bus Customer Satisfaction Survey, and the results as of Autumn 2019 were :

  • Driver friendliness and helpfulness increased by 12%.
  • Customer complaints were down 41%.
  • Customer commendations are currently at their highest level since the survey began, with a 77% increase.
  • A 12% decrease in customer complaints about buses not stopping
  • A 57% increase in drivers making announcements when needed.

Through the above sustainability plan and the Bus Operators own Hello London intiaitives, customer commendations particularly around the helpfulness and friendliness of drivers) have continued to grow.