One word improves the travel experience


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I recently gobbled up Gregory Ciotti’s wonderful post The 5 most persuasive words in the English language.

It’s no surprise that word number 3 is ‘Because‘. As he points out, “people simply like to have reasons for what they do”. “Because” answers the implicit question people have (“why?” “Because…”) and keeps them from thinking up their own answers.

Because…a person jumped on the track

The Dutch National Railway (the “NS”) has recently discovered “Because”, as Reinier Kist reports in the Dutch newspaper NRC next.

Despite recent improvements to on-time performance, delays still happen due to weather, technical issues and even railway suicides. And when there’s a delay, the passenger blames the NS.

This is when “Because” works its magic. Now, instead of just informing the traveller of the delay, NS enters into a conversation with the traveller, pro-actively answering the delayed traveller’s questions (Why and how long is the delay? How can I best get home?) through Twitter, Facebook and the announcement system.

Example of a tweet from the NS to a stranded passenger.
“I expect this is due to a signal fault between Apeldoorn and Arnhem. Delay is 70 minutes. “

In so doing, the NS is transforming itself from a faceless, public transport company to a professional organization that cares about the welfare of its passengers.

Because and the airline industry

The same holds true for flying. We interviewed delayed airline passengers and measured how they rated an airline’s performance in handling the delay. The most important criteria to getting a solid score on the Experience Scan was whether the airline fully explained what was going on: on average passengers who were informed on time rated the experience a B+ vs. C- for those who were not.

Additionally, when the airline didn’t fully answer the “why is my flight delayed” question beyond the standard “technical issues” answer, passengers filled in the answer themselves. This asked for trouble.

“They say the flight is cancelled due to technical issues, but I honestly don’t believe that: probably they just couldn’t sell all tickets and don’t want to fly a half empty plane. Meanwhile my whole business schedule is messed up.” – delayed traveler

Why write about this? Because…

…many companies don’t explain to customers what’s going on. This is often because front-line staff don’t realize how important “Because” is for travelers, so, without a structural program like the Dutch Railway’s to ensure that they do, the customer remains in the dark.

Another reason companies may not explain is because back-end and legacy systems prevent the company from giving information to customers. Think, for example, of the airline industry where travel agents make a booking and have the contact information about the traveller, but don’t share that with the airline.

But both can be fixed. And it seems that the Dutch Railway is doing just that. By structurally bringing “Because” into the dialogue with the traveller they’re building trust and improving the overall experience, at the most distressing of travel moments.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Lea Ward
Director at C.Note, a customer experience design & strategy firm based in Amsterdam. Active blogger & author of Trust Equity: How to create products & services that matter. Award winner IxDA 2012.


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