New technology enhances customer communication on the Overground
8 December 2015 • Author(s): London Overground Rail Operations Limited (LOROL)
This year has seen London Overground Rail Operations Limited (LOROL) develop and rollout a series of technology-led innovations that will enhance passenger communications by improving the availability, accessibility and accuracy of information for frontline staff. In this article, Matthew Bromley, Customer Service Project Manager at LOROL, outlines these innovations which are already having a significant impact on the availability, accessibility and accuracy of information for frontline staff.
Targeted information for frontline staff
Earlier this year, LOROL became the first UK train operator – and one of the first customer service businesses – to introduce interactive ‘smartwatches’ to frontline Customer Service Ambassadors (CSAs) as part of an ongoing programme of customer service innovations.
The Pebble Time smartwatches connect to the CSA’s iPhones via Bluetooth and display email, SMS and other notifications, such as service updates and disruption information, on the colour e-paper screen. The watches were introduced following a successful trial of the Pebble Classic watch earlier in the summer and a smart watch app and bespoke watchface are also under development to display local next train and disruption information to staff.
Feedback from staff on the innovations has already been extremely positive and, importantly, the watches ensure that, even in the most challenging circumstances, frontline teams can maintain customer service standards.
Following on from the smartwatch rollout, Lorolpedia was launched to LOROL employees in October 2015 and the easiest way to describe Lorolpedia is that it is a Wikipedia just for London Overground!
Lorolpedia – information knowledge base for London Overground staff
It is a searchable knowledge base that holds all the information staff need to do their jobs well and is a new way of sharing information among employees. Lorolpedia, available as a web and iOS app, provides information on everything from customer service and complaints management to fare evasion and ticket office processes.
Just like Wikipedia, Lorolpedia is changing the way that LOROL shares information with staff. Employees can write and edit articles and are encouraged to recommend topics that aren’t yet covered or need updating. It has also been a great way of encouraging dialogue about the way we work and the business is confident about the positive impact that this dynamic resource will have on service delivery and customer communications.
Unveiling a new standard in customer communication
Building on the customer service culture that has been bolstered at LOROL this year, the release of Orinoco in November 2015 is setting new standards in customer communication, particularly during times of service disruption.
Orinoco – Control Information System and app for frontline staff
Orinoco is a new Control Information System and app for frontline staff that is designed to improve communication during disruption by providing Controllers with an intuitive system that is easy to use and customer facing staff, with a simple and informative app that will enhance levels of customer service.
The app includes a number of innovative features that are new to UK Rail including a live map that plots the real-time location of all the National Rail, Overground, London Underground, London Buses, Tramlink and even London river boat and Emirates Airline services!
Orinoco, developed in partnership with HaCon, the specialist software developer for the traffic, transport and logistics industries, has specifically been designed for LOROL to supersede the industry’s standard control communication system Tyrell IO.
It works by combining the latest open data from Transport for London and National Rail Enquiries and overlays it with disruption information from the LOROL Control Room to give staff access to the timely and accurate information about all transport modes in London. And most importantly for LOROL and its customers, Orinoco has empowered Control to do what they are there to do: manage incidents rather than focusing on repetitive data entry.
Not all plain sailing
A great deal of effort has been invested to make Orinoco as accurate as possible and it’s fair to say that there have been a series of challenges to overcome to ensure that it provides correct, up-to-date and accurate information.
One of the biggest challenges for the LOROL and development team was the lack of a single source of transport information in the UK. Some of the available data feeds, for example, are London specific and do not incorporate National Rail services, while others are not real-time and therefore do not include cancellations and other disruption information. Most public transport apps only provide information on National Rail or TfL services, not both at the same time, or in case of apps such as City Mapper, they provide information only on a single geographic area. Employees using these public apps to support their customer service delivery are often forced to switch between then to help customers so by delivering an app that accurately uses different forms of data and makes it available in a single place has been a challenge, but one which was important for us to overcome!
There was also an element of risk involved in developing our own Control system and app moving away from an industry standard system. These risks included retraining our staff and establishing new ways of working. However, the risk was balanced by the advantages of ‘starting from scratch’ with a new system that enabled us to take advantage of changes in technology and create a system that more closely matched the needs of staff and ultimately enable us to deliver the best experience for our customers.
A future focused on quality communications
With the launch of Orinoco and underpinned by Smartwatches and Lorolpedia, the information that LOROL manages, shares and receives is arguably of a better standard than it was previously. The innovations mean that LOROL can now manage and deliver that is accurate, timely and useful to a much greater degree than before.
Of course, the development of all of LOROL’s customer service innovations could not have taken place without the support of frontline customer facing employee from across the business who have been involved every step of the way during the development process.