Railinc is the railroad industry's reliable resource for IT and information services, and our work is 100 percent data-driven. But how do you apply logic and bytes to the human aspects of customer service?

The answer for us was an internal education and advocacy campaign that bolstered the customer service approach of our tech-focused employees. And it’s easy to see that the effort is paying off.

After holding steady for a few years, our product satisfaction scores have improved, and our Net Promoter Score® (NPS) rose 40 percent since 2012, from 45 to 63. That puts Railinc’s NPS in the range of some of the best-known brands in the world, including Southwest Airlines (66), Netflix (50) and Google (53), and ahead of many others.

Looking at Railinc Through Our Customers' Eyes

The NPS survey asks one question: “How likely are you to recommend my company to someone you know?” (You can learn more about the NPS score and how it’s calculated here.) It focuses on the overall, long-term happiness of a customer and not just their latest transaction. We survey our customers every six months to gain insights and perspectives across a wide range of products and into overall company performance.

“We had to look at our applications from the customers’ standpoint,” said Paul Gaglione, Railinc’s director of customer experience. “The key was developing close relationships with our customers and delivering on their expectations.”

That might sound like a simple business philosophy. Simple, maybe, if you’re manufacturing bars of soap and can track customer satisfaction through sales. But Railinc has a unique array of more than 40 products and services, many of which have been railroad industry standards for years. We serve a mix of longtime legacy customers, along with new clients who are experiencing our products for the first time.

We knew our products were popular, but we also wanted to improve the total user experience for customers. We launched our first product-satisfaction survey in 2010 and included the NPS component. We have used the same survey for the past five years to gather information, establish benchmarks and track trends.

Railinc Focuses on Improving Customer Experience

At the same time we began using NPS, we also put together an internal team with experience in customer service. The diversity of their business backgrounds—Gaglione had once managed nightclubs!—helped Railinc develop best practices it could apply to all products and services.

The team realized that internal deadlines or technical solutions often drove product-design decisions. But we needed employees to become more focused on how satisfied customers were with our service.

Railinc kicked off an internal campaign in 2013—supported by the newly created Customer Experience group. The project began by asking employees to focus on:

  1. Developing a relationship with the customer

  2. Understanding the customer's needs and expectations

  3. Delivering on your promise

“In 2013, we were all about changing the mindset of our own people,” Gaglione said. “It’s everything from the way we answer the phone to how we walk customers through our upgrades. A red button on an online dashboard might sound like a great change to us internally, but if customers are used to a blue button, then it could be very disruptive for them.”

Close Customer Contact Drives Results at Railinc

Using a product satisfaction survey helps Railinc quickly respond when changes are needed. In 2012, we saw scores drop for one product following an upgrade. So we reached out to that product's users with additional surveys. Then we assigned technical staff to make quick adjustments that better met customers needs. The scores for that product were on the rise within six months.

“We all saw the benefit of that,” Gaglione said. “I use it as my shining example of what happens when we listen to the customer.”

Railinc also invested in quality assurance to improve overall customer satisfaction. “We want to wipe out problems in the design phase,” Gaglione said. “Our goal is to never have problems reach the customer.”

Product Support has also focused on reducing the time it takes to respond to and resolve customer concerns. Many of these are thorny technical issues, but we’ve succeeded in cutting the resolution time in half. We are also using a new post-incident survey to help us monitor product satisfaction between the semi-annual NPS surveys.

All the customer-service initiatives are delivering results and changing perceptions of the company.

"From 2013 to 2014, our NPS score took a huge leap," Gaglione said. "We're very proud of that, but the work is not finished. We have to continue to educate and advocate for a customer-centric workforce.

“I tell people it’s simple: If you don’t know what the customer needs, just ask.”

—Railinc Corporate Communications

*These comparative scores were published by Satmetrix Systems for 2013.

Net Promoter, Net Promoter Score, and NPS are trademarks of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company, Inc. and Fred Reichheld.