Customer management

  • In accordance with VR Group’s values, the customer is in the focus of all operations. The other values – safety and responsibility, goal-orientedness, self-renewal and being successful together – also play a key role in customer relationship management.

Customer service objectives

A high-quality and smooth customer experience throughout the travel path

Improving customer experiences in travel planning, during the trip and after the trip is a central goal for electronic and personal services. The goal is to offer better-quality, smoother and more personalised services and to raise the customer satisfaction of the passengers. 

Continuous development of services in cooperation with customers

Developing services on the basis of customer feedback or in collaboration with customers is the prerequisite for success. An example of this is the passenger service's collaboration with the Innokampus innovation organisation. In the collaboration, upper secondary school students came up with new ideas for train services of the future. At the same time, they also provided a glimpse of what future train passengers might be like. 

Avecra has done extensive research into the wishes and preferences of train passengers when developing its new restaurant car strategy so that it can better meet the needs of its customers. In 2016, all Avecra employees will participate in customer service and sales training to improve customer service on trains and at stations. In addition, the restaurant services and product ranges on trains will be renewed and a completely new restaurant car concept will be launched by the end of 2016.

Avecra will also try shorter concepts, such as the Robert’s Coffee train car that was launched in January 2016. Avecra wants to integrate restaurant car services into the online store for passenger traffic. The services provided at stations will be assessed by summer 2016 and the renewal of the concepts will start in autumn 2016. By offering restaurant services and products that can be preordered, travel planning is made easier and customer experiences and comfort are improved as well.

Pohjolan Liikenne has created its own service concept. Customer experiences will be improved by training drivers in 2016. In the spring, a new express coach service will be opened between Helsinki and Tampere, thus providing customers with a more extensive route network. The online store will be developed by improving its usability on various terminal equipment.

During the year, VR Transpoint provided its customers with comprehensive solutions for their transport chain needs. Transports were complemented with added value services, from planning to storage. The possibility of flexibly combining railway and road transports met the changing transport needs of customers.

VR Transpoint will collaborate more closely with its customers to develop its operations. In 2015, for different customers this meant identifying development targets in the logistics chain and making the management of the chain more efficient, customising terminal services and rolling stock, flexibly combining train and car transports, transport models that reduce travel times and more flexible loading solutions. For the future, agreements were made on joint risk assessments for rail and road traffic as well as loading and unloading processes.

In the future, VR Transpoint will make even more detailed service promises. The work for making the promises began in 2015. When the customer-specific needs have been identified, customers can be provided with promises related to punctuality or safety.

The aim of VR Track is to provide safe and high-quality infrastructure engineering services. These services are being developed in collaboration with customers on a daily basis in both individual projects as well as in alliance projects. The common goal of the parties of an alliance project is to continuously improve performance. VR Track is utilising these lessons in practice and is also refining them in its other operations.

The change programme for pricing and simplifying the product structure

A large group of customers were surveyed in the planning of the new pricing structure for passenger traffic and the permanently reduced prices, and the pricing reduction was implemented in February 2016. During 2015, various pricing methods were tested with numerous campaigns, and the Veturi loyalty programme members especially provided valuable feedback for the development of our products and pricing.

Digital services, especially on mobile devices

Travel is being developed to be even smoother and more comfortable by providing various digital services as part of the whole trip, from planning, to buying the tickets, to the trip itself and the phases after the trip is over. Different mobile network solutions, personal added services, service messages and entertainment during the trip are some of the examples of the services that are made possible by digitalisation. 

Digital services are a central development area. The customer service technology team in passenger services that began in 2015 is developing mobile services. In addition, improvements are being made to the contents, functionality and usability of the vr.fi online store. 

Renewing and high-quality operations

VR’s passenger services has renewed its organisation especially in traffic planning, pricing, marketing and online sales.

In the future, more and more different product and service concepts will be tested. 

The aim of VR Track’s development programme was to achieve long-term improvements in profitability and competitiveness. In 2015, the company renewed its management models and work practices in its project organisation. The continuous improvement of processes was also made part of the company’s daily operations.

Improving customer experiences

VR Track has highlighted its customer-oriented approach and promises to customers as the core functions of its operations. The company has been systematically developing its interaction and its collaboration with customers. In the autumn of 2015, the significance of the customer work taking place in projects was highlighted. During the project training that will be carried out during 2016, special focus will be placed on the customer-orientedness and communications of project personnel.

Developing customer service skills of personnel

The personnel of passenger services received praise for their customer service skills and expertise, with especially train personnel receiving excellent customer feedback. Customers are also served in restaurant cars, in ticket sales, on the telephone services, and online, with over a thousand customer service professionals being responsible for the service experience of our customers. There is a willingness to streamline operating models and to add new possibilities for answering the wishes of customers immediately on trains. 

Personal customer service on trains is a key competitive advantage for trains. The development of the work of conductors on both long-distance and commuter trains, training restaurant personnel and up-to-date work equipment are central projects in the development of personal customer services. 

Fast and more personal customer communications

Customer communications taking place at the right time on the right channels is becoming ever more important is this world of social media and fast information.

The Veturi loyalty programme along with its mobile applications create the prerequisites for even more personal communications online. Exceptional situations are especially challenging and the communications in them are being developed together with different actors. The winter in 2015−2016 was very snowy and the beginning of the year was exceptionally cold. Even during difficult weather conditions, train personnel received praise for their problem-solving skills in exceptional situations.

Successes and challenges in customer service

+ Customers provided positive feedback on the friendliness and service-oriented attitudes of customer service personnel - we receive a lot of customer feedback every year, and the feedback on conductors is always the most positive.

+ Customer understanding – based on the analysis of wide-ranging customer surveys, interviews and feedback, we have a lot of information on how to further develop the customer service experience in passenger services.

+ According to customer feedback, the quality of freight forwarding and customs clearance in the import and export transports of rail logistics has remained high. In addition, the customer collaboration related to the ordering and invoicing of railway transport was deepened and joint meetings increased understanding of the customer’s operations. 

+ Campaigning for growth – testing and trying different pricing models has resulted in an upturn in passenger numbers in passenger services. The results have been utilised in building a permanent pricing model.

+ Developments in the handling of exceptional situations - in long-distance traffic, a preventive and up-to-date customer communications during exceptional situations has been developed and the operating models for exceptional situations have been refined. Development work continues in both inside the organisation and in collaboration with various stakeholder groups.

+ During 2015, VR Transpoint created logistics solutions that supported the business operations of its customers for the investment project needs of the Finnish forest industry. These solutions were created in close collaboration with the customer and various partners in the supply chain.

+ The systematic development of customer work has had a positive impact on VR Track’s customer satisfaction. In 2015, the best scores were given for the service-oriented attitude, skills and expertise of project personnel as well as keeping of promises.

Alliance projects are becoming established in the infrastructure engineering field. Even though VR Track has been involved in a large number of alliance projects, continuous training and coaching must ensure the personnel’s readiness for future alliance partnerships.

Punctuality – the average punctuality of trains is on a good European level – 87.2 per cent of long-distance traffic trains and 92.6 per cent of commuter trains were on time in 2015. In long-distance traffic, the focus is on improving punctuality, on routes were delays are common, developing winter-readiness, and adjusting traffic to the maintenance and improvement work taking place in the railway network. The work is carried out in collaboration with the Finnish Transport Agency, which is responsible for the railway network. The development of the punctuality of commuter traffic is being pursued especially in the Ring Rail Line.

The high price level of passenger services and the challenging product structure – based on the groundwork done in 2015, ticket prices were lowered in February 2016. Development of the online store and mobile channel is ongoing, so that buying can become even smoother.

The functionality of the wireless onboard network is prone to disturbances during the trip – in 2015, some of the long-distance rolling stock were fitted with 4G networks and the development work continues while different ways for boosting the signal are being tested. Discussions have begun with a number of phone operators carriers on the blind spots.

VR Transpoint wants to better understand the needs of its customers. The goal is to ensure that the services available can be targeted correctly and that the operations further developed towards a direction that generates added value to our customers.

VR Transpoint’s goal is to better enhance and unify communications in exceptional situations, so that information on them and the repair work would reach customers faster and in a more targeted way. Work also continues on reliable deliveries.

Opportunities and risks in customer service

+ Train travel is safe, fast, comfortable and environmentally friendly – trains possess clear advantages compared to other forms of transport and by developing the customer-oriented travel experience, substantial growth in passenger numbers can be achieved.

+ The renewed and modernised rolling stock for passenger traffic – the rolling stock enables both fast speeds and the further development of various travel concepts. 

+ Personal service – developing personalised customer service together with customers and personnel is a focus area for 2016. Train personnel have a key role in this, and up-to-date operating models and equipment enable developing service to a whole new level.

+ Projects that aim for the continuous renewal and developing modern operating models for customer service – an agile development culture as well as open and up-to-date communications within personnel and to customers and stakeholder groups create a new and more interactive culture.

+ The continuous development of products and services from a customer-oriented perspective – several projects aimed at renewing products and services of passenger services are in progress. The year 2015 saw the introduction of a pricing calendar in the vr.fi online store, there was personalised customer communications to members of the Veturi loyalty programme and the travel network from long-distance traffic to the HSL region commuter traffic was launched.

+ Digital services – train travellers already have access to extensive digital services online and on mobile devices. The cooperation between Finnair–Allegro and the Matkahuolto bus/train ticket are examples of functional travel network solutions. In 2016, special focus will be on the development of mobile services and we are aiming for new travel network partnerships. We are constantly developing our internal digital services - in most work tasks, online communications and modern equipment are particularly important in mobile work.

In comprehensive transport solutions, VR Transpoint is part of its customer’s overall transport chain, from planning to port operations. These solutions are implemented in close collaboration with the customer and the various partners in the supply chain. In this manner, VR Transpoint can expand its potential market for both current and future customers.

New locomotives – the Sr3 electric locomotives that will be introduced in the coming years – mean more efficient transports. At the same time, new and innovative rolling stock solutions provide growth opportunities especially in new business fields, such as bioenergy.

Strong pricing competition in public transport. After competition opened up for public transport, the change has been substantial and will require agility from VR and new operating models for improving competitiveness. The competition is expected to become even tougher and we must work extensively to ensure our competitiveness.

The economic recession - reduces travel especially to the outer edges of the route network and challenges us to find even more cost efficient operating models. This means correct measurement of resources while we strive for better service experiences.

VR Transpoint must react to the changing needs of its customers and the market as quickly as possible, which requires more diverse use of rolling stock and flexibility in transport models.

The economic development in Finland and in Russia is reflected in the demand for logistics services. In this challenging operating environment, VR Transpoint must be able to find even more efficient ways to operate and to identify potential new growth areas that can be used to supplant lost revenue.

Changes in systems and structures during the review period that lead to improvements in customer service

  • In the autumn of 2015, a pilot for personalised customer communications for Veturi members was initiated 
  • A pricing calendar was launched on the Vr.fi online store to make it easier to plan trips and buy tickets
  • Several development projects were introduced in the mobile shop
  • The new marketing and online sales organisation for passenger services that includes the new customer technology team started work
  • The service areas for passenger traffic were reorganised
  • Avecra’s new train restaurant concept
  • Pohjolan Liikenne’s new pricing model online implementation
  • Installation of the 4G network in long-distance traffic rolling stock
  • The Ring Rail Line as part of the travel network – to the airport from anywhere in Finland with just one ticket, also on the Allegro train from St. Petersburg
  • During the year, VR Track implemented the project activity control system that aims to develop and unify the document management of customer projects
  • New technologies improve information flow and the transparency in operations in logistics chains. The new tablet terminal and the carriage RFID reader that is attached to it were tested in railway yard shunting work during 2015. 
  • VR Transpoint’s rail logistics successfully implemented the new ordering and invoicing systems as part of the implementation of a wider operations management system. 
  • Customer-specific service advisors will be designated for key and major customers during 2016. They will be working in the VR Transpoint's service centre and the aim is to increase knowledge about the customer’s operations and to ensure that the service is as easy and smooth as possible for the customers.