By Daniel Hunter

The passenger transport industry may be missing out on sales to the tune of £1.2 billion by failing to connect effectively with customers digitally.

New research conducted for O2 by expert analysts Conlumino found that passenger services companies, such as rail and bus operators, are struggling to harness digital technologies despite the fact that the majority of passenger spend — 64% — is now influenced by these digital channels.

From comparing prices and planning routes in advance to checking for delays whilst travelling, mobile apps and online sites are now a crucial part of a passenger’s journey. Whilst 30% of transport operators think they are doing a good job in adapting to new technology, customers disagree, with 96% of consumers dissatisfied by some aspect of their digital journey:

· A large majority (84%) are confused by websites and apps
· 87% are frustrated by the lack of real time travel information
· Almost nine out of ten are annoyed when prices aren’t consistent across different outlets, highlighting the need for a truly multichannel experience

With the number of Brits planning ‘Staycations’ rising year on year[1], bus, rail and coach companies are set to benefit from the millions of additional journeys being made over the summer months. This presents passenger transport operators with an opportunity to boost their bottom line through digital engagement. The study shows:

· Digital is the preferred way to find passenger transport operators: Over 80% of people have used digital channels to plan journeys and look up prices
· The station is no longer the place for purchases: more people are now buying tickets via websites and apps (66%) than in person or over the phone (53%)
· Real-time information crucial: 65% have used digital methods to check for travel news updates - four times the number of people who still rely on more traditional services such as station updates or over the phone information

Passengers are telling the industry what they want; a more informed, integrated experience, where they can manage tickets and access current information, not only about their journey but the destination too. Companies such as rail and bus operators need to keep pace with the rapid evolution of mobile technology and ensure the right support is in place to adapt and ensure passengers can receive real-time updates on any device.

“Passenger transport companies have embraced many aspects of digital, but there is still a huge amount of scope to transform the services provided to passengers. With the arrival of 4G, ubiquitous connectivity will only make these technologies more central to the consumer experience," Ben Dowd, Head of Business at O2 commented.

"From providing reliable real-time information and ensuring customer services embrace social media, to creating a consistent multichannel experience online and en-route, the impact of successful digital services will be the deciding factor when it comes to engaging and retaining customers.”

Anna Holness, Managing Partner of O2’s Passenger Services commented: “Nearly all of us have used some form of digital technology to plan journeys or buy tickets, so we understand how convenient digital services can be in today’s busy world. The industry is making efforts to provide passengers with the digital tools they want; however there is still room for improvement. The priority now is to create a seamless experience for the customer offering real-time, multichannel information which will ultimately improve the passenger journey.”

The rapid evolution of mobile technology has the power to transform the passenger services industry. Data and analytics tools are available to provide a deeper insight into passengers’ behaviour and needs to inform marketing plans and improve services overall. Mobile technology is becoming indispensable to employees too; companies that equip teams with smart devices and the right digital tools will be ahead of the game in delivering a seamless and enjoyable service for passengers.

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