Customer experience is about relevancy.

Many providers of services are finding that generational relevancy is a new factor they need to consider and one that likely requires a good deal of investment.

It's not prudent to avoid investment and hope that being a second or third mover will keep your digitally-demanding customers just sweet enough.

The fact is, if you improve the customer experience without even changing the service you provide, customers will be happier. They'll think they're getting more for their money and they are.

I'll give an example. First UK Bus introduced mobile ticketing in spring 2014. There's an mticket app on which tickets can be bought, stored and activated. For those of you not in the regions of the UK, these buses were often cash only (smart cards, similar to London's Oyster, are yet to be rolled out).

Here's why this mticketing works and why more companies should be moving sooner.

Transforming the company image

First Bus has produced some nice outdoor advertising to promote its mticketing.

This is, of course, to make sure people are aware of the service. But it also has a secondary effect of making the brand look like first movers (no pun intended), at least when it comes to regional bus services.

This is the same reason Virgin Atlantic trialled Google Glass, to make its staff look better than other airline staff, better equipped and more knowledgable.

First Group provides a range of services and it's not inconceivable to think that other parts of its business will benefit from an improved customer perception off the back of First Bus' innovations.

first bus mticketing

Operational savings

Less money to account for, fewer rolls of ticket paper to buy, lower average time to serve each traveller. All these metrics are important, especially the latter during rush hour. It's what necessitated Oyster and contactless card payment on London buses.

Frontline morale

It's no stretch to say that mticketing saves me a lot of time and money. No more do I have to buy something from a newsagents with a £20 note so I can use the change for the bus.

Greater convenience for the customer means less hassle for bus drivers. Greater job satisfaction has tangible benefits for any company.

Selling more tickets

Alternative methods of payment allow for greater sales. This means that a tired but cashless customer might jump on a bus to take them a mile or two by using their mobile app.

Additionally, the company may poach travellers from other services with a campaign/CX such as mtickets. Of course, nobody would switch to First Bus unless there was a route that took them where they wanted to go. But it's conceivable that someone might ditch taking the Metrolink in Manchester (it gets busy in rush hour) and take the bus instead if this campaign makes them more aware of the benefits.

Thirdly, there are likely to be tickets bought on mobile that ultimately aren't used.

first bus mticket

Cashless society is coming

Whilst my grandparents pay for everyday purchases in cash and wouldn't dream of leaving the house without any, younger generations are different. Growing up with contactless cards, chip and pin and email ticketing for a diverse range of services (cinema tickets to long distance coach journeys) has left many young people with the feeling that there will always be a contingency.

Make of that what you will, but it's engrained. We assume there'll be a plug socket somewhere for our phone, too.

That means a whole tranche of people are beginning to look at industries such as travel out of the corner of their eye, thinking 'Hang on, I'm paying X amount, increasing above inflation every year and I can't pay or be ticketed in a way I find convenient?'

It's exactly this that led me to take the National Express coach to Bristol last weekend for a stag do. I didn't want to risk losing a return train ticket in the midst of partying and have to shell out again, whereas on the coach I can use my phone and the journey is only slightly longer.

Informing the customer

Smartphone users look at their devices consistently throughout the day. First Bus mobile apps colonise my smartphone and allow me to be kept abreast of bus times and travel news that are sure to decrease the likelihood of me standing and waiting interminably at a bus stop.

Conclusion

Some conservative companies that don't take risks will likely see some of my reasoning above to be fallacious. I don't think it is. Though First Group will have to have the last word on how successful the app has been.

If businesses begin to offer the customer not just the service they want, but the delivery method of their choosing, everyone's a winner.

Why not check out the Econsultancy Mobile Web Design and Development Best Practice Guide.

Ben Davis

Published 17 October, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (4)

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Henry

How was the stag do?

over 3 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff

@Henry

The people of Bristol were very friendly, thanks.

over 3 years ago

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Alex Stewart

Ben, thank you for your endorsement of mobile ticketing. At Bytemark, we are seeing a real appetite for our intermodal ticketing and payment app solution from transport operators of all sizes. The operators are now able to use mobile ticketing in partnership with other operators and event organisers giving their customers a far richer experience.

over 3 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and GDPR Geek at Fresh Relevance

Re: 'Hang on, I'm paying X amount, increasing above inflation every year and I can't pay or be ticketed in a way I find convenient?

That's exactly what I thought this morning, as I wandered around Winchester railway station's huge almost deserted car park, looking for a meter that accepted cash. (There aren't any)

Once you've had a card cloned once - and discovered how many of your friends had the same thing happen - you get a bit suspicious about putting a card in a random slot, or trusting pay-by-phone instructions to be accurate and not a scam. For small payments, the risk it just not worth it.

Fortunately one of the meters had a built-in phone and the support center told me where I could buy a parking ticket for cash - not in the car park, but from the middle one of the machines that sells train tickets in the main station.

==================

This illustrates the down side of "relevance": adding choice makes the buying process more difficult.

In my case, it was almost impossibly complicated. I shouldn't have to phone a support line to park my car. It's absurd.

In your case, the company is doing better by producing customer training materials, or as you put it, "First Bus has produced some nice outdoor advertising to promote its mticketing".

Marketers need to bear in mind that making something "relevant", by adding choices, conflicts with "keeping it simple" and will lose some sales, as well as having the advantages that you describe.

over 3 years ago

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