Tech and innovation can drive customer focus in rail, but collaboration is also key

Borja Saki

Corporate Communication Senior Executive, Amadeus IT Group

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The beautiful city of Prague hosted the Amadeus Rail Innovation Forum 2017, where rail industry pros gathered. 'RAILyourWAY' was the theme and discussions centered on customer needs, future trends, and how technology can drive rail business forward and solve some of the challenges faced in the industry. With innovation as the key ingredient, in a fresh approach, the event hosted the ‘Amadeus Express Hack’ contest where some participants were invited to work in small multidisciplinary teams to find solutions to these real life challenges. In just 20 hours they cooked three innovative ideas and presented them to an expert panel of judges. The winning team’s idea was ‘Share it Smart’, a convenient taxi hailing app inspired by car sharing services to let groups of travellers share taxis from a railway station to their last destination.

Tech and innovation can drive customer focus in rail, but collaboration is also key

Here are some key takeaways from the forum.

Rail APIs a way forward

Attendees talked about the need for railways to collaborate and be open to innovation. Rail operators need to make their offers simpler, more transparent and accessible in more channels to attract more travellers. Today, rail travel can be vastly different when crossing borders. APIs can be a way forward to build standards across the industry and bring flexibility and efficiency. They can also help respond to customer challenges, build quicker solutions and ultimately improve the experience. TFL (Transport for London) embraced APIs several years ago which has led to great apps to travel in the city. Railways can learn from such cases.

Technology trends to embrace

Railways need to be where their customers are and in this day and age this means they simply cannot miss social media or mobile. Amadeus’ Diane Bouzebiba mentioned how Gen Z are on 5 devices each day, and have attention spans of just a few seconds. Rail will need to adapt to this new reality offering personalised packages, including bundling hotels and air options together. Railways can use ever advancing artificial intelligence and machine learning to serve their customers better, wherever they are throughout their trip. SNCF, for example, is experimenting with chatbots as a means to converse with their customers and offer them fares, schedules and availability, as well as beacon technology to guide travellers to their platform at the rail station.

Tech and innovation can drive customer focus in rail, but collaboration is also key

Understanding traveller needs

Traveller needs are evolving. Business travellers today tend to mix in some leisure - in fact roughly 30% of forum attendees extended their visit to Prague to visit its sights. Railways need to understand this decision making process. Their customers take destination, cost, and proximity to the weekend when deciding to extend a trip. Knowing and understanding these traveller needs can help railways make better offers.

You can see more from the forum via the hashtag #Railforum17. Visit the Amadeus Rail websiteto learn about how our technology can help railways.