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As a blogger, I have a responsibility not to get personal and not to write with righteous indignation.
However, I also have the pleasure of being able to write about experiences I have had that bear on digital marketing and ecommerce.
After my stag do this weekend, I lost my paper return train ticket from Devon to London and had to pay for a new one.
In my opinion this revealed a disjointed multichannel offering because lost paper tickets cannot be reissued, but mobile tickets effectively can be (by logging into an app on another mobile device).
So what can we learn?
Price demands service, mobile shouldn’t reveal a problem
For all train operators in the UK, the National Conditions of Carriage apply.
Tickets cannot be reissued to customers as, unlike airlines, the tickets are not registered to customers individually.
However, if that’s the case, why are train tickets billed as non-transferable and why do mobile tickets come with instruction to carry the booking credit card with you for inspection?
Whatever the facts, I had to pay for a new paper train ticket back to London, knowing full well that mobile ticketing may have prevented my extra expenditure.
To me, this revealed a flaw with paper ticketing. Cross country train tickets are now so expensive that a customer realistically expects the same service that an airline provides, not a blank face from a station master who thinks he’s the one having a bad day.
What that means is I expect a reissued ticket.
At the moment, I’m disadvantaged by choosing one particular channel
I love the mobile ticketing option, except when it’s not available. But even where both are available, doesn’t this create an uneven field for customers?
What about customers without a smartphone, should they be disadvantaged? Do the T&C’s need to change in light of new technology?
Mobile is now an absolute priority in travel
Mobile ticketing is brilliant because it effectively solves the reissuing problem. Losing tickets is no longer technically possible (as admitted by First Great Western in the screengrab above).
And yet mobile ticketing isn’t possible with each train operator and even some that do offer it don’t offer it on all routes.
So, why hasn’t every train operator done their utmost to implement mobile ticketing?
Airlines have realised that mobile boarding cards are an expectation, even if they pose some additional infrastructure problems (user error, dead phones etc). Train operators need to realise it, too.
Technology can easily solve a problem, so solve it
To reissue my ticket all that needs to happen is for ticket-checking on the train to be done electronically. Each ticket could have a unique code on it for scanning.
That way, to reissue a ticket, the original could be made electronically void and I could get a new one, providing I give enough notice.
Surely the only reason this isn’t implemented is cost. However, customers no longer find that acceptable.
A train ticket is not a commodity
This last point is quite a philosophical one. The notion of a ticket is disappearing. Tickets now often exist virtually, so losing a piece of paper hurts more than ever.
I realise I am the schmo in this scenario, the guy who can't keep a ticket safe but isn't transparency and digital in business leading to a world where these customer headaches are resolved to the benefit of all?
For more ideas on multichannel marketing, check out the Econsultancy Multichannel Marketing Trends Briefing.