January 11, 2018
Mohamed Mezghani is the Secretary General of UITP, the International Association of Public Transport. UITP is a passionate champion of sustainable urban mobility and it is the only worldwide network to bring together all public transport stakeholders and all sustainable transport modes.
Public transport has always been an industry driven by technical progress, chasing after all the different forms of rational efficiency engineers could quantify: costs, delays, number of passengers, fuel, operations, etc. This approach is changing and the sector is evolving closer to the essence of what its mission is all about: providing service excellence.
This user-first approach might not be new in the public transport sector, but the importance it has gained in recent years is transforming how operators, authorities and the industry are conducting business. In itself, the concept is not easy to evaluate, as the quality of the service is mostly influenced by the context within which it is delivered.
As the new Secretary General of UITP, I firmly believe that service excellence should not only be an objective to achieve within the organisation, but a culture we should value and promote in our daily activities. This is a message that I will convey with determination and devotion during my mandate, empowering employees and managers, in the key role they hold, to reach service excellence.
UITP’s experts have recently released an Action Points on the topic with recommendations for the sector, approved by our Policy board, which emphasises the need to ‘Build a culture of service excellence to develop a public transport business’. Of course, service excellence aims at reaching the highest level of customer satisfaction, but the paper highlights another objective as important for our business leaders, yet more often overlooked: employee empowerment.
Indeed, staff satisfaction is at the very heart of customer experience, as it is the expression of the motivation that drives the services provided. Although, I recognise that this might often be a challenge for managers, who sometimes have to rethink the business culture of their organisation by introducing the human factor at all levels of its structure.
But it is a challenge that some public transport organisations have accepted to face heads on. UITP’s paper provides concrete examples of how urban mobility actors are implementing changes to improve customer experience by empowering their employees.
Each company has its own strategy and specificities, but they all come to the same conclusion that employee engagement is the key to customer satisfaction. The staff should be mindful of the impact they can have in meeting users’ needs, thus stressing the importance for managers to always keep a clear and transparent two-way dialogue with their colleagues, as well as developing an ambitious human resource strategy.
This strategy should be anchored in five key elements to help staff empowerment: Hiring the right talent and assuring diversity, investing in training, allowing more autonomy by clearly defining limits, implementing a transparent rewarding mechanism and emphasising the need for the staff to remain agile in order to always maintain a customer-first culture.
I strongly believe that service excellence is the reflection of the values of an organisation. It implies that employees are considered an active and meaningful part of the mission that their organisation is pursuing. With new technologies changing how the public transport sector is operated, I encourage all industry players to keep leading the transition towards an ever more people-centred sector.