By Marcus Leach

Transport for London (TfL) must make it simpler for people to get in touch and treat complaints as an opportunity to find better ways of doing things if its efforts to improve customer service are to pay off for passengers.

Transport for London’s customer service by Val Shawcross AM on behalf of the London Assembly Transport Committee, welcomes the improvements TfL has already introduced, but urges it to do more to streamline and simplify the system for the millions of passengers who contact it for information, advice or a refund.

With billions of passengers a year using services ranging from hire bikes to the London Underground, TfL receives around 10,000 calls and almost half a million visits to its website a day.

While many people go away satisfied, others are left confused about which part of TfL to contact, or frustrated at being transferred between departments, refused a rationale for decisions or caught up in a jumble of web pages.

The report calls on TfL to simplify its phone system and make online information more straightforward and useful. TfL should also consult passengers on a new single Customer Charter that gives people specific guarantees about the timescale and quality of its responses.

The report also recommends TfL investigate the possibility of enabling people to track their enquiries online, and of offering a dedicated free phoneline for Freedom Pass holders to support people who are most vulnerable and in need of travel advice.

Val Shawcross AM, who led the investigation, said:

“Simplifying customer service at an organisation as large and complex as Transport for London is no easy task, but passengers have a right to quick and easy contact when they need it.

“Public transport is part of most Londoners’ everyday lives. It’s only right that people get a decent response when they have a problem and a proper say in how TfL could improve the services they use and — through their fares — fund.”

To guide TfL as it continues to develop its customer service, the report sets out four key principles:

- It should be clear to passengers who they should contact and what they should expect in response.

- TfL should set itself challenging customer service targets which reflect what matters to passengers and publish performance against them.

- There should be a one stop shop for TfL customer information.

- Passenger complaints should be viewed as an opportunity and not a threat.

TfL is asked to report back to the Committee by May 2012 on the development of the ‘My TfL’ portal, which is intended to improve customer service provision for passengers, and on how it plans to increase the amount of information reported to the Board about customer feedback and complaints.

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