From high quality food and drink, to special ‘quiet’ carriages, on-board entertainment and Wi-Fi, rail passengers are increasingly expecting a first-class, holistic customer experience pre-, during and post-travel writes Simon Pont, CEO, ECR Retail Systems in our latest guest feature.
A growing number of companies in all sectors are using customer data to enhance their business decision-making, and the rail industry is no exception. In today’s challenging environment, train operating companies need to embrace new ways to maximise profits. The most progressive operators realise that adopting the latest technologies will help modernise the on-board passenger experience, as well as grow new revenue streams for operators. Modern, secure and convenient on-board payment services are already becoming more commonplace, and sophisticated business intelligence facilitates new opportunities for expanding retail sales.
One way of developing incremental revenue is, of course, to match the increasing demand from customers for better service and an overall optimal travelling experience by selling additional services. Technology is impacting every aspect of travel, including real-time journey updates and automated refunds. Customers now have a wide choice of how to buy tickets and there are often opportunities, across the customer journey, to market and sell ancillary goods and services alongside. Rail companies need to track the points at which they can offer personalised goods and services such as consumables, seat upgrades, and even insurance and destination attraction tickets.
Capturing relevant information such as passenger needs and preferences across the entire customer lifecycle is vital to support sales campaigns and deliver better customer service, which will ultimately drive business growth. Big data analytics can be used to predict customer-specific purchase behaviour, allowing businesses to offer customers increased personalisation and encourage customer spend on-board.
Some companies are already at least starting to do this including: Virgin Trains East Coast, SNCF / Newrest Wagons-Lits, Irish Rail, Northern Irish Rail, Rail Gourmet, East Midlands Trains, Trans Pennine Express, Grand Central and GWR.
The right on-board Point of Sale (POS) and business intelligence allows rail companies to manage their stock control effectively, even during long train journeys which include multiple stops, crew and passenger changes, often spanning different networks and country borders. Good on-board POS systems offer speed and accuracy in understanding huge volumes of data. They can open up opportunities for analysing each data stream for greater insight regarding stock, product price, and customer purchasing preferences, all of which can positively impact business growth.
The first step is to ensure that appropriate ecommerce, personalisation, analytics and logistics technologies have been implemented. The next is to look at whether a rail company’s payment technologies are suitable for the modern passenger and are helping operators drive revenue streams. Questions to ask include:-
- Can they support, various payment types, for example multiple currencies, vouchers, and across different rail networks?
- Can their on-board mobile point of sale (MPoS) systems support contactless and the latest mobile wallet payments?
- Does the rail firm’s overall payment strategy meet customer expectations?
The Mobile Point of Sale (MPoS) systems used by the rail industry need to meet not only the Payment Card Industry’s standards, but also VISA and MasterCard’s contactless mandate. This states that merchants that accept payments from these global payment networks must establish contactless payments as a standard by the end of 2019.
Some older devices which include some two or three-piece MPoS systems - MPoS, card reader and receipt printer - have poor connectivity and energy usage. The more modern, all-in-one, contactless, MPoS technologies which support personalisation, sales and a better customer experience are now becoming essential.
With the government’s recently announced £80 million investment, to accelerate the abolition of paper tickets on UK trains, rail companies need to start updating their systems now. Passengers will be able to use mobile phones and smartcards to travel across most of the network by the end of 2018. Smart ticketing will become the norm as mobile phone smart cards and mobile barcode tickets will soon be accepted by every operator in England and Wales and be interoperable across different franchises.
With these new initiatives, and in a world where personalisation and a good customer experience is now routinely expected, rail firms must consider whether their offerings will match demand and whether their payment options, including MPoS strategies, are really delivering value for both the modern rail customer and the rail companies themselves.
By Simon Pont, CEO, ECR Retail Systems
As a global leader in Mobile Point of Sale (MPoS) payment technology, and specialists in the rail sector, we are modernising the on-board experience for crews and passengers, and growing new revenue streams for rail operators. Running RailPoS, software developed by ECR for TOCs, the ECRGo2 is the industry’s first fully-certified, all-in-one contactless, handheld mobile point of sale (MPoS) device for the rail industry. Proven to increase revenue, improve staff efficiency and drive the customer experience.. Learn more about their work and book a free consultation and demo here.
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