Railroads Are Entering a New Era of Customer Centricity

By Jamie Peters, assistant vice president-Corporate Strategy

Large Retina | Inside Track: Insights: Era of Customer Centricity

Customer Centricity at Union Pacific has evolved dramatically since the creation of the Transcontinental Railroad. 

The relationship between railroads and their customers has historically been a matter of convenience… for the railroads. And it’s the reason why the map of the United States looks the way it does today.

Think back to how railroads began, how Union Pacific began back in 1862. Before that, in 1859, President Lincoln stood on a bluff in western Iowa where Council Bluffs now exists and looked across the Missouri River toward what would become Omaha, NE. Wherever the railroad went, towns sprouted like fresh crops in the un-tilled soil. If you wanted to do business with us, you came to us or you built by us, and the railroad actively cultivated that relationship, essentially creating their customer base.

But with the development of the Interstate Highway System – and deregulation brought on by the Staggers Act – railroads found themselves with real competition from competing railroads and from the trucking industry. Customers suddenly had choices they never had before, and railroads were forced to take their first steps to defining customer centricity.

Now railroads are faced with providing a new kind of customer centricity, driven by a technology-driven consumer experience, accelerated by a pandemic that created a new set of expectations not only for consumers, but for businesses who expect a level of on-demand service from railroads that they receive from any other online experience.

Here at Union Pacific, our goal is to have a deep understanding of how our customers’ needs are changing, the pain points in their processes, and how we can create value for their supply chain. Creating an organizational culture of customer centricity is the foundational element to achieving this.

It means we are:

  • Committed to listening to, learning from, and collaborating with customers,
  • Utilizing customer feedback to drive improvement,
  • Enhancing the customer experience at every touch point,
  • Developing metrics to measure what the customer values most, and
  • Harnessing the power of technology and data to deliver new solutions that help our customer’s business succeed.

We know shipping by rail may seem complex, but our goal is to make it easy, so shippers big and small can access the economic and environmental benefits we have to offer. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to shipping. As such, we work with customers to determine the best door-to-door options to make their supply chain efficient, resilient, and sustainable. We want to be integrated with our customers, partnering to create and deliver value to their supply chains and helping identify and reduce waste (and costs) along the way.

The right to serve our customers is earned every day by:

  • Delivering a safely executed and reliable service,
  • Providing competitive schedules that can optimize the customer’s transportation network,
  • Expanding the customer’s reach into new markets by pioneering integrated solutions, and
  • Making it easy to do business with us through effortless interactions, proactive communication, and exceptional exception management.

Put simply, it’s doing everything we can to help our customers succeed, as if we are an extension of their own organizations. At Union Pacific, our employees already are on that path, a path that’s a departure from where railroads first started, but it’s a route as clear as the one President Lincoln saw from that fabled bluff 160 years ago. 

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