TransLink team reviewing customer journey map

TransLink Customer Experience Research

Helping TransLink deliver a world-class transportation experience by mapping what their customers do, think, and feel.

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People waiting for TransLink public transportation

Public transportation plays an important role in making cities more sustainable, liveable, and accessible. However public transportation is only one way for people to move through cities—as organizations like TransLink compete with and compliment ride hailing, car sharing, cycling, and car ownership—making customer experience increasingly important. OXD helped TransLink establish a shared understanding of transit customer experiences across the large and siloed organization while delivering insights for a future state that would inform their Customer Experience Strategy.

TransLink worked with OXD to explore and develop customer experience opportunities for inclusion in their first ever Customer Experience Strategy, using cross-organizational co-design workshops, mobility archetypes, and journey mapping.

TransLink is the transportation authority responsible for providing safe and reliable public transportation across Metro Vancouver as well as expanding and maintaining the region’s transportation network. TransLink operates across an 1800 square kilometre service area and has 350 million boardings per year.

Establishing a shared understanding can be challenging for large, complex organizations like TransLink.

Internal silos create a disjointed customer experience.

TransLink delivers its services through a number of operating companies, subsidiaries, and contractors. Together these different bodies deliver the region's transportation system. Getting stakeholders from as many as 16 different teams in agreement was challenging but necessary as customers may not know they're interacting with more than one company over the course of their commute.  

It's hard to design customer-first in a systems-centred organization.

Like most large organizations tasked with providing a service for the masses, TransLink was used to taking a 10,000 foot view.  It's common for planning and transportation agencies to look at the macro instead of the micro. People within TransLink looked at how the system operates as a whole, and much less so at the experience of individuals. Before creating a Customer Experience Strategy, they needed to reframe their thinking.

TransLink had a history of emphasizing quantitative data.

Zooming in on the individual customer experience meant creating space for qualitative data, which could do more to express the experience of the service. TransLink's teams were already well-versed in working with quantitative data, but had little experience with qualitative. To create personas they needed to embrace nuance within this large-scale system context. Rather than using this qualitative data to generalize the population we sought to empower deep, critical analysis of the themes that emerged.

Three TransLink personas, circles with photos of a person in each and then a quote in a quote bubble.

How to gain valuable insights into customer experiences

Work with frontline staff.

Drawing upon the insight and experience of frontline staff was key informing research and developing personas. Our narrative workshops revealed a number of issues and themes, values and anti values. 

Conduct observational field research.

We conducted observational research to better understand the lived experience of transit customers and inform our journey maps. This empathetic research helped us understand customers at an emotional level and supplement existing market research.

TransLink public transportation train underground

Avoid the mythical average users.

Our teams extracted customer behaviours, attitudes, and beliefs to develop nine archetypes that represent people who use TransLink's services. Focusing on extremes instead of averages helped us plan for variety and make sure everybody's needs were considered. We then tested the completeness of these archetypes against the Seven Demands of Service.

TransLink journey map icons on a grey background

Think holistically.

Our journey maps—structured visualizations of the customer experience—allowed TransLink to see the entire service experience for their customers, taking into account the needs of both the customer and the service provider. By looking at the five phases of TransLink's customer journey we discovered both issues and opportunities.

The value of taking a qualitative, user-centred approach to understanding customer journeys

Increased capabilities at TransLink. 

Incorporating ethnographic and qualitative research gave TransLink's customer experience teams an opportunity learn to use new tools and language.

Established a shared understanding within a siloed organization.

We worked across teams to get people aligned. A shared understanding and starting point was necessary developing a strategy that would improve the way TransLink delivered its services. Personas helped TransLink's team develop more empathy for the customer's lived experience. 

Set the stage for an enterprise wide customer experience strategy.

For TransLink this work was the first step to becoming a customer centric organization. Our work together provided TransLink's teams with actionable tactics to evaluate in their upcoming planning cycle.

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