Managing Disruption at First Capital Connect

The most significant threat to any transport service delivery is disruption, whether planned or unplanned and sometimes best intended actions taken to recover the service can often leave customers confused. Research shows that at times of disruption customers want regularly updated information that they can trust on what is happening and what alternatives exist so they can complete their journey.

First Capital Connect (FCC) operates trains between London, Brighton, Bedford, Peterborough, Cambridge and King’s Lynn over the UK’s busiest rail network. Over the next few years the FCC route will undergo much work designed to produce major improvements as part of the Thameslink Programme. The potential for service disruption is immense – thus FCC’s commitment to exploring new ways of managing disruption.

North Star were initially engaged to carry out a review of the company’s existing systems, procedures and ongoing work on disruption management. Our consultants spent a number of weeks with FCC using our extensive experience to assess the state of play, measure this against industry good practice, and closely engaging with key managers & front-line staff, running workshops and observing how ‘live’ incidents were dealt with.

At the end of this review we produced a comprehensive report of our findings with recommendations on the production of a Disruption Management System (DMS) – a new way of working designed to ensure excellent customer information was fully integrated with existing operational procedures.

Following acceptance of the recommendations our work was the production of the DMS. North Star led a cross-functional team drawn from FCC’s ranks, working together to come up with new ways of looking at how to best manage disruption, with the customer’s interests always top priority when decision making. The end result was a systematic approach for all aspects of dealing with disruption from the Control Room to the front-line; from managing customer feedback to best use of On Call personnel etc etc

Karen Boswell, Customer Service Director at FCC said ‘At First Capital Connect we know that communicating effectively with our customers in times of disruption is of the utmost importance. I have been pleased to work with North Star’s highly experienced team, who have a passion for improving customer service. The project is vital in seeing how we can improve the management of service disruption and meet our customer’s needs.’

This system has formed the basis of FCC’s work on managing disruption since then has seen their National Passenger Survey scores on how well they handle delays increase by 6% over 12 months.