Arriva Trains Wales (ATW) is part of the Arriva Group, one of the largest providers of passenger transport in Europe. Always striving to offer the best possible customer service, ATW introduced a new concept in March 2015 to further enhance their customer experience – FareGo Virtual Ticket Agent (ViTA). With Scheidt & Bachmann’s newly developed ViTA system, Arriva upgraded 3 of their existing Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs) into full-fledged ticket agencies, providing their clients with live customer service facilities. The system offers passengers personal assistance from ticket office agents via full video / audio communication at the TVM. Arriva ran the ViTA system successfully with customers appreciating the remote, yet local, assistance provided by ATW staff. After using FareGo ViTA for a year, Adrian Carrington, Retail Development Manager at ATW, gave an insight on ATW‘s experiences with the system.
Arriva introduced TVMs as an additional sales channel many years ago. However, our surveys suggested there are still customers unsure how to operate the devices and consequently avoid using them. Concerns centred around a difficulty to select the correct ticket or find the best fare for their journey. Our goal was to find a solution that supports customers during their self-service purchase while increasing the attractiveness and usage of our TVM fleet at the same time. Scheidt & Bachmann’s ViTA system offered the perfect solution to improve our customers’ experience and provide additional assistance for ticket sales.
For a relatively small investment we were able to substantially improve our customers TVM experience. A major advantage of Scheidt & Bachmann’s concept is that we could upgrade existing devices, thus avoiding large capital investment. A simple hardware retrofit provides the necessary ViTA functions to the devices that are already in use and field-proven. This low risk option gave ATW the reassurance needed to push through with the project.
We equipped three of our Scheidt & Bachmann Ticket Vending Machines at Barry Dock, Llanelli and Pontypridd with the ViTA system. The retrofit kit included camera, speaker and microphone, together with software and application updates. All ViTA Ticket Vending Machines were connected to one central call centre, handling customer requests from all stations. This way, we were able to pool ticket agent resource while offering local assistance at the same time.
The TVMs customer interface provided the option to call the call centre agent whenever the customer needed help or advice during the sales process. By pressing the ViTA button, a video window popped up, enabling a remote real-time communication between customer and ticket agent just like the face-to-face experience in a ticket office. In most cases, there was no queueing! The ticket agent could not only advise the customer on the correct fare but also remotely control the user interface on behalf of the customer (with the exception of the card payment screen of course).
Our customers first had to be made aware of this new function and understand how it works. We ran a PR campaign promoting the new service and following the first learning phase our customers quickly became familiar with ViTA’s remote assistance and usage increased.
Because the principle behind the idea is one of TVM education, as opposed to simply doing it for the customer every time, we rarely saw repeat use from customers. FareGo ViTA was mainly used by customers not experienced with using a TVM, but they quickly became converts.
Yes, the effort has definitely been worth the positive outcomes. As I said before, due to the fact that we could retrofit our existing machines, the investment wasn’t very high. And although we experienced some initial difficulties – being the first ViTA user seen in the UK – overall it has been a resounding success. And the numbers prove us right.
With FareGo ViTA we not only improved customer experience through instant assistance with ticket purchases but also increased the attractiveness / usage of our existing self-service devices.
Yes, the addition of technology such as this is definitely a good thing, but it needs to be targeted based on many factors such as the needs of the local population and the physical layout of the station.
Interview with Adrian Carrington, Retail Development Manager at Arriva Trains Wales.