The year of the connected (and satisfied) consumer


Covid-19 disrupted the transportation industry in unimaginable ways. Even now passenger numbers are 20-30% lower than pre-pandemic peak figures, impacting public transport operators worldwide.

However, operators are nothing if not resilient and took time out to rethink customer engagement; ensuring that their post-Covid operations were more aligned with evolving passenger expectations, and delivered continual improvements to the customer experience.

In 2023, this customer-centric approach will continue as transport providers enhance their customer, technology, and asset management services to boost customer engagement and build confidence in public transport use.

Whether that’s utilising automated technology to inform and enable passengers or leveraging technologies to pull together different modes of transport, offering passengers more integrated journey options while simplifying how users book and pay for transit and other ‘last mile’ services will be key.

Let’s take a look at just some of the ways transit agencies will be looking to step up a gear when it comes to executing the delivery of truly frictionless travel in 2023.

Using smart micro-apps to transform the customer experience

Today’s consumers have high expectations when it comes to how they engage with service providers. Whether that’s being able to book journeys on-the-go, get instant answers to travel queries or receiving live service updates that empower decision-making and keep them informed. No matter what the transportation mode, passengers expect to encounter service interactions that are modern and fast.

Which means that riding, paying, and getting help needs to be as easy as tapping, swiping or messaging.

The good news is that today’s cloud-powered micro-apps are enabling operators to deliver truly immersive digital experiences that support the self-service expectations of riders. Accessible from any connected device, consumers can access their account from anywhere to instantly check their balance, add or modify products and undertake account management actions like updating their information details, payment methods or undertaking password resets.

Handling everything from account initiation to responding to traveller questions and queries, in-app chatbots provide instant resolution and feedback together with live service updates 24/7. All of which helps elevate the journey experience for users.

Operators can even utilise these AI-enabled micro-apps to initiate value-add and meaningful engagement with transport users. For example, as a passenger heads to the station, they receive an instant message ping advising them that a lift is out of service together with a recommendation for an alternative stair-free route. Or they may receive a prompt that reminds them to top up their account before arriving at their embarkation point.

Similarly, operators can leverage these micro-apps to proactively offer discounted fares that either incentivise passengers to travel at off-peak times or try out new or additional transit usage with the offer of free rides for selected initial periods. An approach that enables operators to encourage consumers to engage or re-engage with new commute or leisure travel routines that feature public transit.

Delivering highly targeted information and functionality, micro-apps enable operators to communicate at scale in a highly personalised way. Making it possible to influence travel behaviours, and gain a greater understanding of how individual passengers use their services, while optimising each and every journey experience.

Putting passengers in control with multi-modal service options

Around the globe, operators are pulling together different modes of transport and leveraging technology to make it easier for people to leave their cars at home.

From collaborating with other providers to give travellers more integrated journeys featuring the best combination of public and private travel options for their needs, to apps that make it easier for travellers to plan and pay for their journeys across multiple forms of transport.

To make this mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) vision a workable reality, operators are using automated technologies that enable them to harmonise previously siloed systems and leverage new integrated functionality and capabilities with partners.

So they can support everything from delivering a single charge to travellers, to handling contactless and automated embarkation for users and seamlessly sharing passenger journey information and bookings with all transport ecosystem partners.

These MaaS platforms are already enabling real-world creative partnerships that are set to revolutionise public transport networks for the benefit of consumers.

Enabling public transit operators to become true ‘mobility managers’ that can combine and orchestrate transport solutions at a city, regional and even national level.

Addressing the last-mile issues that frustrate transit users

With the concept of sustainable travel riding high for consumers, especially those based in metropolitan locations, addressing challenges associated with the last mile is becoming a critical must-have for incentivising more people to make use of public transit options.

Today’s operators are utilising mobile apps and interconnected MaaS platforms to enable everything from car-ride sharing to smarter park-and-ride options to and from points of embarkation. Making it easier, more predictable and affordable for travellers to plan and book the start and end of their journeys and address the last-mile commute challenges that are a frustration for transport users.

TfL's Santander Cycles membership

For example, Transport for London (TfL) has initiated a new cycle hire membership scheme and app that makes it easy for users to hire a bike and get release codes, check bike availability, search for docking stations and plan routes.

Users can also check charges, distances travelled and calories burned. Improving the availability of docking stations across 775 terminals led to a 157% increase in bike hires in a 12-month period, with 40,000 hires reported on a single record-breaking day. Adding lifestyle choices as part of the journey experience and using technology to ease the adoption of choice enriches the customer experience and drives engagement.

Today’s transit firms are exploring partnerships with other micro-service providers to make advance booking for options like taxis and scooter hire available via integrated travel apps that incentivise consumers to book and use public transport and handle getting to/from transport hubs in a more connected, streamlined and automated way.

Dave Rayner is director of service solutions at Cubic Transportation Systems

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