May 4, 2023
In the Public Transit sector, enhancing the customer experience (CX) rivals delivering reliable and convenient service as one of the most important business objectives. Transportation Network Companies like Uber and Lyft offer a straightforward service – with a single button press, a car arrives, along with accurate, real-time updates and connectivity throughout the customer’s journey. The meteoric rise of companies in this sector has been driven by prioritizing convenience and on-demand service. The disruption in the marketplace has forced public transit authorities to consider ways they can strengthen their position in the changing landscape.
Delivering great customer experience in the public transit context is a complex affair. With a fusion of technology, organizational change management, and improved business and technical processes, a systems-based approach, where every aspect is considered, strengthens the potential for success. Organizations that learn to pay attention to the granular details of their business and activate key teams to work collaboratively can pass on tremendous value to their customers. Effective cross collaboration and delivery are needed in every part of the business – CX, Marketing, Communications, Engineering, Technology, Operations, Finance, Procurement, Supply Chain, Contractors, Vendors. This is a new way of doing business for most public transit agencies, and requires leadership, innovation, and complexity management.
The client required an enhancement to the rail system’s real-time customer information system. This upgrade was to incorporate modern station displays, real-time train predictions, live alerts for any system disruptions, and a multimedia interface for marketing communications. All these improvements were designed with an emphasis on optimizing the customer experience to align with the expectations of advanced smartphone users at the time, together with improving the rail operator’s experience using the system. The initial phase of this upgrade focused on the 33 primary stations. Over time, the aim is to extend these enhancements to the entire regional network, which includes over 65 stations.
The work was a blend of agile approaches for software and content, and waterfall methods for hardware. Significant learning approaches were applied to the implementation, as we were able to gain the benefits of innovation and productivity improvements throughout the project. The project delivery was a mix of fixed price and reimbursable contracts, depending on value and risk/opportunity management.
This project was very challenging to manage, as it required significant pioneering of new approaches in most aspects of the shaping and delivery, and to win the support of all involved. Key success factors included the Owner’s team of staff and the SysEne team having the experience and competence in all the aspects of the business, the sponsorship of the agency executives to endorse the approach, and the great team of contractors and consultants that were able to deliver top quality content, software, products, change management, construction work, flexibility, and systems integration.
While it is rare in the public transit business to build such an integrated and high-performance team, it was necessary and effective to drive effective decisions, shape the vision, and deliver on the needs. We were able to win the hearts and minds of the entire team.
In the end, the project was rated as the most successful customer experience upgrade in the agency’s history. Customer feedback was also highly favorable. The solution factored in many different aspects, but the customers’ needs were always at the forefront. Providing a reliable service that customers feel confident they can trust, with a host of benefits that impact the customer experience positively, was invaluable. Resilience was built into the system allowing it to withstand a multitude of events, including a major enterprise cyberattack, during which the system continued critical operations without interruption.
The success of this upgrade garnered one industry highlight and one industry award – one for overall capability from an engineering perspective, and the other for innovation in construction. The project budget and schedule performance was very favorable compared to traditional approaches, as the project was able to gain the benefit of productivity improvements and high-quality results.
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