Quantitatively Measuring Customer Experience (CX) in the Rail Industry

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Nottingham University Business School


Although demand for rail travel has more than doubled over the last 20 years (Munro, 2021), rail travel in the UK is currently facing the challenge of recovering from COVID-19 (Harrington, 2022). One part of the work being done in the rail industry is focusing on encouraging people to travel by rail again. Consequently, there is a need for the rail industry to become more passenger-centric (Camacho, 2016) and to more intricately understand passenger experience (PX). Current methods of collecting CX data are conducted annually, therefore cannot offer up-to-date analysis (Focus, 2020). This PhD aims to create a tool for capturing and assessing customer feedback in the rail industry to help understand passenger experience (PX) in greater depth. The tool should also be designed to provide recommendations to industry for improving PX.

This PhD aims to create a new methodology for identifying and assessing factors of PX. The findings of this work will not be specific to any scenario but will be adaptable to other scenarios in which customer experience (CX) is to be assessed in a more customer-centric way. This methodology will be different to other, more quantitative data-driven, methods because it will turn subjective, qualitative data, into quantitative solutions. This research will initially employ qualitative methods to identify factors affecting PX, then attempt to analyse this data using quantitative methods. Furthermore, machine learning algorithms could be employed to categorise data so that the tool could run automatically as more data is received.

Research Questions

How can a tool be developed to identify and weight up-to-date factors in PX?
How can machine learning methods be used to identify key issues raised by passengers?
How could the tool be used by industry to provide effective solutions to PX problems?

Planned Impact

We will collaborate with over 40 partners drawn from across FMCG and Food; Creative Industries; Health and Wellbeing; Smart Mobility; Finance; Enabling technologies; and Policy, Law and Society. These will benefit from engagement with our CDT through the following established mechanisms:

- Training multi-disciplinary leaders. Our partners will benefit from being able to recruit highly skilled individuals who are able to work across technologies, methods and sectors and in multi-disciplinary teams. We will deliver at least 65 skilled PhD graduates into the Digital Economy.

- Internships. Each Horizon student undertakes at least one industry internship or exchange at an external partner. These internships have a benefit to the student in developing their appreciation of the relevance of their PhD to the external societal and industrial context, and have a benefit to the external partner through engagement with our students and their multidisciplinary skill sets combined with an ability to help innovate new ideas and approaches with minimal long-term risk. Internships are a compulsory part of our programme, taking place in the summer of the first year. We will deliver at least 65 internships with partners.

- Industry-led challenge projects. Each student participates in an industry-led group project in their second year. Our partners benefit from being able to commission focused research projects to help them answer a challenge that they could not normally fund from their core resources. We will deliver at least 15 such projects (3 a year) throughout the lifetime of the CDT.

- Industry-relevant PhD projects. Each student delivers a PhD thesis project in collaboration with at least one external partner who benefits from being able to engage in longer-term and deeper research that they would not normally be able to undertake, especially for those who do not have their own dedicated R&D labs. We will deliver at least 65 such PhDs over the lifetime of this CDT renewal.

- Public engagement. All students receive training in public engagement and learn to communicate their findings through press releases, media coverage.

This proposal introduces two new impact channels in order to further the impact of our students' work and help widen our network of partners.

- The Horizon Impact Fund. Final year students can apply for support to undertake short impact projects. This benefits industry partners, public and third sector partners, academic partners and the wider public benefit from targeted activities that deepen the impact of individual students' PhD work. This will support activities such as developing plans for spin-outs and commercialization; establishing an IP position; preparing and documenting open-source software or datasets; and developing tourable public experiences.

- ORBIT as an impact partner for RRI. Students will embed findings and methods for Responsible Research Innovation into the national training programme that is delivered by ORBIT, the Observatory for Responsible Research and Innovation in ICT (www.orbit-rri.org). Through our direct partnership with ORBIT all Horizon CDT students will be encouraged to write up their experience of RRI as contributions to ORBIT so as to ensure that their PhD research will not only gain visibility but also inform future RRI training and education. PhD projects that are predominantly in the area of RRI are expected to contribute to new training modules, online tools or other ORBIT services.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S023305/1 01/10/2019 31/03/2028
2607018 Studentship EP/S023305/1 01/10/2021 31/12/2025 Samuel Smith