“It becomes easy to overlook the end user who we are ultimately trying to help. Therefore the biggest challenge is keeping in mind that lack of knowledge when we are trying to craft and deliver new solutions...."
As this week draws to a close we bring you the latest instalment of 5 minutes with… This week, SmartRail World Editor, Luke Upton took some time out with Will Phillipson, the co-founder and president of SilverRail Technologies, a fast growing company that has brought a simplified and integrated platform for booking tickets (similar to how you’d book a flight) to rail passengers across the world. Taking what they learnt from selling cruises online, Phillipson, and business partner Aaron Gowell founded SilverRail ( @ ) in 2009, and are on their way to creating a global marketplace for sellers and suppliers to connect, a feat historically close to impossible in the many faceted world of rail. So with this in mind we found out what drew Phillipson to rail and what he think the future holds…
LU: How did you get into the rail industry?
WP: It was by accident really - after leaving ITA software, a travel industry software division of Google, I was looking around for other opportunities and stumbled upon rail. It quickly became apparent that none of the infrastructure that supports the sale and distribution of tickets existed for rail like it did for the airlines, and I thought - we can do that!
LU: What do you like most about your job?
WP: We work in an extremely complicated industry, but one that impacts millions of people on a day-to-day basis, and so the potential to make a real difference is quite significant. However, for me it’s all about the people – we’ve assembled a remarkable team – and so the favourite part of my job is being able to work, day-in and day-out on these complicated challenges with a great team, whilst making tangible progress. To me that’s extremely rewarding.
LU: What’s the biggest challenge in your role?
WP: Not losing sight of what real customers experience. Once you’ve been working in this industry for a while, you start to learn how and why things happen the way they do. You even start to use a different language, using abbreviations and station codes instead of full names for example. Eventually you become desensitised and it is easy to assume that everyone understands the complex nature of the industry. It becomes easy to overlook the end user who we are ultimately trying to help. Therefore the biggest challenge is keeping in mind that lack of knowledge when we are trying to craft and deliver new solutions.
LU: What will be some of the biggest differences between rail now, and in 10 years’ time?
WP: If we’re successful, the biggest difference will be the positive shift in people’s confidence when travelling. This rise in confidence will be a direct correlation of the following changes.
Firstly, the pricing of rail tickets will be demystified, or irrelevant, as ‘account based ticketing’ becomes the norm and improves the door-to-door journey experience for transport users, by providing a customer centric approach to transport delivery and journey management.
Secondly, customers will finally be recognised as customers – rail companies will have full visibility of their customer base, giving them the ability to distinguish between their most loyal and one-off users. This will enable them to put their most valued customers at the heart of their business, and provide a personalised experience for each customer, for example personalised travel updates, offers and promotions.
And then rail will have finally caught up!
LU: Finally, what is your favourite rail journey?
WP: It has to be the Canadian Rockies on board the Vancouver - Edmonton train. The scenery is spectacular.
Spanning from river valleys, rainforest, dramatic rock, and luminous stars at nightfall - the glass roof carriages ensure you don’t miss a moment of the mountains and make it the ultimate experience.
LU: That's great, thanks very much for the time today!
5 minutes with… You? Each Friday the team here at SmartRail World will bring you a great new 5 minutes with... interview. This fun, fast-paced feature will help you get to know more about personalities across the industry, their ideas and experiences and of course their own favourite rail journey! Want to take part? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Last week's 5 minutes with... Shyam Kannan, Managing Director of Planning at WMATA.
Next week's 5 minutes with... Joshua L. Schank the first-ever Chief Innovation Officer for the Los Angeles County Metro.