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CX Surveys

Statistically-sound customer surveys should be the cornerstone of any CX program. The main objectives are:

  1. To identify the top pain points to remedy; and

  2. To gauge the success of CX initiatives over time.

Your customers may experience hundreds or even thousands of pain points, but a CX Plan can only focus on a small number. Otherwise, an organization may spread itself too thin. It's often said that if you try to do everything for everyone, you'll end up doing nothing for nobody. It's best to tackle and solve a few issues at a time, then move on to the next set. To identify top pain points to remedy first, a comprehensive Customer Experience (CX) survey is essential. The CX survey should be a random sample survey that is representative and inclusive, and has a high response rate to minimize bias. The gold standard is to distribute and collect paper surveys from all passengers who board randomly selected buses and trains, along with a contest to incentivize customers to participate.

LA Metro Customer Experience Survey for Bus Riders
excerpt from LA Metro 2022 Customer Experience Survey for Bus Riders

After all the surveys are administered and entered in a database, something called a Quadrant Chart can be created to identify the top pain points that are most in need of improvement (see chart below). The Target Issues in the upper left quadrant are the issues that are most important to customers but which get low ratings on the survey. In LA Metro's 2020 CX Survey, for example, the top pain points related to public safety, cleanliness, and delay advisories (see red arrows in the quadrant chart below).

LA Metro 2020 Customer Experience Survey Quadrant Chart for Bus Riders

Looking beyond the top left quadrant, we also flagged with yellow arrows bus stop shade and lighting, which are among the three lowest-rated items out of the 40 items in the survey.


The blue arrows flag two other pain points outside of the Target quadrant: sexual and racial harassment. The reason we flag these is because when we drill down into the diverse needs of diverse riders these points shift into the Target issues quadrant. For example, women, younger women in particular, and people who identify as nonbinary, rate safety from sexual harassment much lower than men.


And finally, the constellation of four service attributes shown by the green arrows all relate to travel time competitiveness, which was not a huge issue in the rider survey, but is a core issue for non-riders (from another survey that was conducted).


Based on this analysis, along with a companion analysis of rail riders, LA Metro selected five pain points to tackle in its 2022 CX Plan:

  1. Public Safety

  2. Cleanliness

  3. Communications (including real time delay advisories)

  4. Bus Stop Shade and Seating

  5. Travel Time Competitiveness

These five come from the Quadrant Chart analyses. We then worked collaboratively across the agency to develop and fund Action Items to address each of these issues.


A few tips:

  • Involve knowledgeable transit research professionals to ensure your survey is statistically sound. This is especially important for your first CX survey because it will serve as your baseline against which future survey results will be compared. It is best to use sound methods at the beginning and to carefully replicate those methods in future surveys. That will ensure that year-to-year comparisons are accurate.

  • Direct your research team to give you accurate results, and give them independence to serve as truth-tellers. Pain points should not be swept under the rug, but rather tackled by the organization.

  • Consider releasing the survey results at the same time as you announce initiatives to address the top pain points. That way everyone can see that your organization listens to input and takes action.

  • At the bottom of your questionnaire, ask riders to provide you with contact information and permission to contact them for future research. Supplemental on-line surveys can delve deeper into pain points and obtain detailed comments from customers about pain points. Those comments are essential for diagnosing issues and developing solutions. For example, if customers rate cleanliness low, customer comments can shed light on what aspects of cleanliness most need attention.

  • Unfortunately, there's no national standard for CX surveys that allows transit agencies to compare detailed results with each other or with other industries. It would be helpful for the industry to establish a standard survey method, a core set of standard survey questions, and a data repository to facilitate comparisons.

  • To strengthen a customer-centric culture, consider inviting staff to fill out a form to predict customer survey results - and award prizes to the staff who most closely predict the results.


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