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Jo Foxall's team leads the way with emerging tech

As Director of Customer Experience at Transport for Wales (TfW), Jo Foxall and her team are leading the way in utilising the opportunities presented by emerging technologies to enhance the customer experience, without losing the human element. Claire sat down with Jo to get her thoughts on the evolving world of CX and what’s next for TfW.

Jo, you have now worked in customer experience (CX) for over 20 years, how have things changed in that time?

The world of transport has certainly changed significantly during my career in the sector, with the arrival of different opportunities for customer contact, such as social media in the first instance. Coupled with challenges such as financial crises and the pandemic we have had to be extremely adaptable to the changing needs of our customer base. Now with emerging technologies, such as AI, we are seeing additional avenues for engaging with our customers and streamlining our customer contact processes so that we can respond quickly and efficiently to the most common customer queries. We understand the need for and are committed to always providing the option for a customer to speak with a member of staff to provide that personal touch where needed.

 

You are very passionate about providing an incredible experience for your customers, what do you love so much about working in CX?

I have always appreciated the variety a role such as mine brings, as every day is different when you are engaging with so many different stakeholders, and across so many different channels. I also get a lot of job satisfaction from problem solving which can be a big part of the job. There are often many merits to the feedback we receive and by taking the time to listen, analyse, reflect and act we can often come up with elegant solutions to every challenge.

I also feel by always retaining a touchpoint with the end consumer my team and I are able to develop solutions based on real customer insights, that we have gained personally, as well as through the available data.

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Where do you feel other organisations should be placing their focus when it comes to CX?

I believe one of the most important aspects of CX is the need to manage expectations, and this is often where businesses fall down. Since the pandemic and lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 everyone in the sector has had to recognise how adaptable their strategies need to be. We saw a lot of changes in a short space of time, changes that we may have thought would have taken much longer to implement if the necessity hadn’t become crucial in such a short space of time.

We were able to pivot and move our completely office based contact centre to a home based model. This has enabled us to develop a far more agile model where we have been able to upskill colleagues and move them around contracts and channels as and where we are seeing spikes.

For our sector, communication and process are so important, to ensure we are always managing our customers’ expectations, such as wait times. We have seen increased demand for customer contact in recent years, particularly linked to Transport for Wales’ transformation of the rail network. That has posed challenge for us in terms of resource, however has forced us to better manage our communication with customers to ensure they know the best ways to contact us for quicker responses, but has also allowed us to review our systems, processes and ways of working to focus our human resource where it is most needed and use technology to manage contact where a lighter touch is needed.

As with many other publicly funded organisations, we are committed to delivering all of our services bilingually and our North Wales based contact centre team, as well as many of our South Wales teams are able to deliver high levels of customer service in both English and Welsh.

Who do you feel does CX really well?

I am particularly fond of the experience I get from brands such as John Lewis, Disney, Barclays and Amazon. What I get from all of these is good communication, consistency and the desire for a long-term relationship. They deliver on their promises to ensure a lifetime client, rather than treating the relationship as transactional, and this ensures we keep coming back.

For me this approach to building relationships and the benefits of that to a business, was one of the first and fundamental things I learnt when I started my career in marketing and customer experience.

You are also the Wales Lead for Women in Transport, a growing membership for women in sector, providing support and development opportunities for women in the sector, do you CX challenges and opportunities are high on your members’ agenda?

We are seeing a variety of themes coming from our Women in Transport members and one of the key things they are wanting support in is connecting with other women from other organisations who they can engage with, build relationships with and learn from. We are also seeing keen interest in menopause and other mid life challenges that women are facing in the workplace and how organisations can better support women and retain women at mid life in their organisations such as delivery of training and workshops on understanding menopause, implementing adjustments to uniform policies to support women experiencing physical symptoms related to their cycles and menopause. We are also seeing increased requests for support with self esteem, imposter syndrome and being authentic in the workplace. There is a huge amount of help and support out there for women working in the sector through both Women in Transport and Women in Rail and we would encourage any women and men who are keen to learn more, to reach out to us and get involved.

jo foxall transport for wales

Where is your focus for the CX team at Transport for Wales this year?

Our current priorities are developing our customer proposition and contact centre strategy, and to do this we have to instil a company-wide customer culture, it cannot just be one team driving the change, we all need to lead with the customer at the heart of what we do and be prepared to listen and empathise with our customers – as no customers means no trains or buses!

To do this we have to take the team on this journey with us, so that they understand how emerging technologies can elevate what we are already doing and to ensure there is consistency across the business, and with over 4000 team members that is no small feat!

We have recently recruited 20 Travel Companions who will be based at our stations and interchanges across roles. These are blended roles which will support our Passenger Assist service, helping customers with additional requirements, at our stations and on to our services, but also supporting our customer teams handling complaints and customer contact. This is a really important and exciting role for us as these colleagues will be living the customer experience on the ground.

We also have some great innovation programmes in place through our Lab at TfW, with teams dedicated to working on our problem statements, so that we have personnel focussed on what has already happened, what is happening real time what we can see coming down the tracks – pardon the pun!

 

What does the future of CX look like for TfW?

It’s a really exciting time for transport, with the transformation of our rail network and TfW 2.0 which will see us move into multimodal transport and bus franchising, as well as with the availability of so many new opportunities to help our customers, both through in person interactions and enabling them to self-serve.

We have to listen to what our customers want, and support any additional needs they may have as well as using data and insights to inform and shape, own and improve the customer experience. We do not want to remove the human element, rather use emerging technologies to enhance our existing processes, not replace.

The audience need across the breadth of Wales varies dramatically and we have to cater for everyone who is using our services, as well as working closely with partners and stakeholders such as Transport Focus and our regulatory body, The Office of Road & Rail (ORR) and so our commitment is to keep listening, keep reflecting and keep acting, delivering the best experience we can for our brilliant customers.

Thank you Jo, it is reassuring and inspiring to hear you have such a laser focus on the customer experience for the customers making two million rail journeys each period with TfW and we look forward to seeing how the experience evolves as a result of your investment in innovation.

You can find out more about the Women in Transport Network here.

 

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