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can it support travel crisis and improve the rail consumer experience?

April 27, 2011
Author: Eve-Marie Morgo
Last year, Europe suffered travel disruption on an unprecedented scale. The ash cloud’s devastating effects were felt throughout the whole transport chain. As planes were grounded, passengers and freight operators looked to alternative travel modes. Have we learnt anything from this disruption? Can rail IT systems help you on managing travel crisis? 
The volcanic disruption has been travel industry's starting point to find the best way to deal with future crises. Dutch rail operator, NS was one of those who drew important lessons from the ash cloud. At last year’s Amadeus Rail Forum, NS’s Head of Sales, Ron Heeren gave us some conclusions applied to the rail industry
 
  1. It’s essential to have good managers, capable of dealing with such situations. Every situation is different and good managers are those who can deal with each and every one of them.
  2. Passengers want to be informed on the go and as such, mobile technologies are playing an important role in the travel industry.
  3. Additional capacity is important, but it’s only half of the story. Filling these additional carriages is equally important if you are to stay on top of the situation.
  4. You need a greater trained staff number and you cannot afford to depend on your core service staff. At NS, they’ve created a backup team that can be sent out into stations if needed.

The rail technology tools for disruption 

Mobile technology and social media are key in the travel industry to deal with a crisis. Social media facilitates 24h conversations between travel brands and their customers. With mobile technology, the opportunities for information on the go are almost endless.

For NS, Social Media is not a threat, but rather an opportunity: they are an additional channel through which to distribute information. And they’ve created a new social media team to do just that. Monitoring tweets and answering them on the spot. The question is whether or not in times of increased volumes, companies will be able to manage the constant flow of customer questions. Maybe working with others in the travel industry is the solution? 

Partnerships: key to deal with disruption

Ron states that partnerships are key to successfully deal with large scale events like the ash cloud. Regardless of which industry you work in, be it air or rail, you need to act together, as one, to respond effectively. Those concerned have to have a flexible mindset, willing to adopt, for example, a technology platform that encourages partnerships, whilst allowing for competition.
 
Achieving a viable model like this is where the real challenge lies, but once it’s in place, crisis management will become an easy task.
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