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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Shipper survey shows Thoroughbred is making service-improvement strides


More shippers are giving Norfolk Southern Railway the thumbs up on service and customer satisfaction, according to recently released results from the Class I's annual customer survey conducted in May and June.

The overall perception of NS' service improved 5 percent compared with the railroad's 2002 survey, says Rob Martinez, NS vice president of marketing services and international, adding that such recent service initiatives as Thoroughbred Operating Plan have helped increase reliability.

"Customers will overlook little things, such as billing errors, if train performance is there," he says.

Using a five-point scale, the survey enables shippers to rate NS' performance in overall transportation, equipment availability and condition, pricing, marketing and sales support, freight claims, billing, e-commerce and customer service. Most categories showed improvement, Martinez says.

"Billing was significant — we showed a 20 percent improvement," he says. "A Customer Facing Improvement Team worked on reducing bill errors by showing customers how to read their bills, and getting customers to stop faxing bills and use electronic means."

However, a majority of survey respondents said the railroad's demurrage charges still were hard to understand.

Out of a 1,000-customer base, the survey's response rate was 46 percent compared with 48 percent in 2002.

"We use an outside party to conduct the survey so shippers can remain anonymous if they choose," says Martinez.

Jeff Stagl

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 11/4/2003