Indian Railways may take cue from global companies to train customer-facing frontline staff like Travelling Ticket Examiner
New Delhi: The curt and often harassed travelling ticket examiner (TTE) donning a black coat may soon turn out to be all smiles and at his charming best.
The Indian Railways has been advised to follow Starbucks , Amazon, FedEx , Convergysand Toyota, which are among the top consumer-servicing companies, and make its frontline staff more customer-friendly and recognise and reward them with events such as ’employee of the month’ incentives.
While cleanliness in trains has been a priority of railway minister Suresh Prabhu, who actively addresses complaints social media, a bigger headache for the railways is how its frontline staff, especially TTEs, interact with passengers and to ensure it is friendly and appropriate.
“This is one of the major areas of concern in the rail ministry-…it is something that the ministry wanted the study to look into, especially for the TTE,” the Quality Council of India (QCI) said in a report on the issue of ‘Improvement of Frontline Staff Interaction with Citizens.’
The QCI suggested that the railways study the cases of global companies with established customer-oriented cultures such as the Walt Disney Company, Toyota Motor Corporation and Amazon as well as those that follow the ‘train the trainer’ model like Starbucks andSouthwest Airlines , to coach TTEs in customer relations.
“In order to make this training effort effective, it is of utmost importance for the TTEs to not only be trained in the right way but also be incentivised to perform better,” the QCI recommended.
The suggestions, if implemented, may prove to be a challenging task for the railways, which operates about 12,000 trains carrying 23 million passengers every day. It has about 15,000 TTEs who are entrusted with, among other things, checking the validity of passenger tickets.
So the railways could now create a team competition to encourage its frontline staff to work better and keep track of their progress through key performance indicators as well as incentivise good performers. QCI, which is a joint government-industry effort, suggested that frontline staff should be divided into zonal teams and should compete over two to three months with clearly defined performance metrics and conduct structured reviews of on-board citizen satisfaction scores through highly standardised surveys.
“The team could be led by the top performers…there should be a clear and significant reward to the winning zone,” QCI suggested. It specified that the KPIs should be comparable with external industry benchmarks and cascaded down across all levels, just as Starbucks and FedEx Corporation do for their employees. QCI cited Amazon and Toyota to recommend formal recognition events every month to motivate top performers and feedback sessions.
Convergys and Southwest Airlines were cited as examples where frontline performance is visually displayed and team competition is created to encourage staff to work.