How can a rail company improve travellers’ experience on-board their trains?

How Deutsche Bahn used market research to improve their passengers’ journeys

By Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s national rail company, and Ipsos, a leading worldwide market research company.


Understand needs of passengers and customers

Deutsche Bahn used Ispsos to help evaluate the comfort, tidiness, safety and communications on their trains, to better understand the needs of passengers and optimising their service for them.


Focus groups and ethnographic interviews

A combination of focus groups and ethnographic interviews were used. Ipsos wanted to create a real life setting to get spontaneous and authentic feedback in order to gain deeper insights. They used a train carriage as a location for the study and used role-play for various scenarios, such as a real life train attendee, actors posing as drunken hooligans and the presence of a untidy environment often found on trains.

In parallel, passengers of Deutsche Bhan were encouraged to use the ‘streetspotr’ mobile app to collect pictures inside the trains and to share their experience on the app. This was then used as discussion points for the ethnographic interviews.

So what?

New passenger policies and trains design

The unconventional methodologies and on-site interviews lead to a much higher level of engagement and much richer feedback from participants than had previously been observed in such studies. Deutsche Bhan gained unprecedented insight into overall travel experience of their customers, and were able to incorporate this knowledge into updating their employee-training and passenger policies.

Furthermore, elements of its train design were tweaked according to respondents’ feedback, with the inclusion, for example, of armrests between seats. Deutsche Bhan travelers now benefit from a more comfortable and improved train journey.