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ESA Retail Completes Important Mystery Shopping Project for the Office of Rail and Road

ESA Retail Completes Important Mystery Shopping Project for the Office of Rail and Road

ESA Retail has recently completed an important Mystery Shopping exercise on behalf of the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), the results of which have been published on the ORR website.

For the project, we worked with our colleagues at PRS, a fellow member of the BDRC group. PRS supported us in the initial planning of the survey, while ESA conducted the fieldwork, analysis and reporting. The exercise was commissioned by ORR as part of its response to a super-complaint raised by Which? and as such, the project specifications and timings were highly demanding.

The survey involved mystery shoppers visiting rail stations and travelling on trains in order to determine how train operating company (TOC) staff responded to customer enquiries regarding compensation for delays, including their response to these specific points: (1) the minimum delay length required for compensation to be paid, (2) the level of compensation payable, (3) whether compensation was available in cash, and (4) how to make a claim for compensation.

The overall key finding of the research was that in relation to these four points, only three in ten mystery shoppers received accurate information on all of these aspects of their enquiry and could therefore be deemed to have received a full explanation of the arrangements and conditions for claiming compensation.

Dr Scott Hamilton, Senior Manager, Competition and Compliance at the Office of Rail and Road, commented: “The Office of Rail and Road received a super-complaint from the consumer advocacy organisation Which? in December 2015. We had an urgent requirement to conduct a large-scale mystery shopping exercise to establish the validity of some of the issues Which? had raised. Due to the immediacy of our requirement, we used our contacts in the rail industry to identify the leading providers of these services in this sector. PRS/ESA came highly recommended to us and this proved to be an accurate reflection of their abilities. Our initial contact was with PRS who then advised us they would also be keen to conduct the research jointly with their sister company ESA Retail. These two entities subsequently worked together seamlessly from our perspective as the client. We set them demanding milestones with absolutely no scope for slippage due to the fixed publication dates we were working to for our super-complaint response. PRS/ESA delivered their outputs to us on time and in the form and style we had requested. Any changes we requested were made immediately and to specification. Overall I would happily commission PRS/ESA to work for us again.”

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