Research by Transport Focus among Abellio Greater Anglia customers has offered insights on how train operators can build stronger brands



Research by Transport Focus among Abellio Greater Anglia customers has shown passengers are confused by the Abellio brand and that the business has been unable to capitalise on potential brand advantages. It also highlighted issues where Abellio, and the rail industry as a whole, could add value to services to address weak brand relationships with consumers.

The research showed the vast majority of customers who took part in the focus groups were unaware that Abellio is a Dutch company, with most thinking it sounded Italian, and some associating the brand with bus services more than rail. When told Abellio was a Dutch company, customers had an immediate positive impression due to perceptions of high quality public transport in the Netherlands, but felt there was little evidence of it being translated to Abellio Greater Anglia services.

In addition, most customers were unfamiliar with the Abellio brand, despite services being announced at stations as Abellio Greater Anglia, and those that were aware of Abellio had no strong feelings about the brand – good or bad.

The research still noted that this was generally a favourable impression compared to other rail industry brands, and that awareness of the Abellio identity was relatively high for a train operator. However, overall, Transport Focus concluded that “there is little evidence passengers hold any overt allegiance or emotional attachment to the Abellio Greater Anglia brand”.

New personalised, value added services identified in the focus groups were viewed by the watchdog as an area which “could be instrumental in helping the TOC to establish and build relationships with passengers” during the next East Anglia franchise, due to begin in autumn 2016. They include:

  • a lowest fare guarantee following the introduction of smart ticketing;
  • a season ticket carriage to maximise chances of getting a seat;
  • a family carriage for leisure users;
  • a membership or loyalty scheme;
  • free refreshments or newspapers for season ticket holders.

However, Transport Focus noted that the new franchise would need to address a number of more basic areas to build trust and provide a foundation for stronger relationships with consumers, including improving poor perceptions of punctuality and rolling stock as the top priorities.

“Trust needs to be earned through the provision of a consistently high level of service delivery for commuters,” it commented.

In addition, the focus groups showed a desire for more detailed, clearer reporting on punctuality and progress on delivering franchise commitments. Abellio Greater Anglia’s annual report to customers had not been seen by any of the focus group members and generated “low enthusiasm”.

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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