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Unique transport passenger insight despite Covid-19 restrictions

dark haired woman wearing a pink mask waiting for the subway during covid times.
Unique transport passenger insight despite Covid-19 restrictions
February 11, 2021

Kolumbus is the only Norwegian public transport company to have beacons installed on all their vehicles. With more than 20,000 unique users sharing feedback, on more than 20 million travels each year, Kolumbus has a finger on the pulse despite infection control considerations.

– Customer surveys have always been, and always will, be important. When Covid-19 hit it became imperative to find out what our customers experience and believe. This in order to provide proper and reassuring follow-up of infection control, amongst other things, said Espen Schiager, Research Manager at Kolumbus.

The Kolumbus’ real-time travel app has an integrated customer survey program. This means it can automatically trigger surveys to consenting customers when they are on board a vehicle. The customer then conveniently answers via their smartphone. This enabled Kolumbus to continue surveys even when others have had to subside due to infection control.

– We started with automated customer surveys in March 2020. We get more accurate results when customers are not affected by a person conducting the interview. It also makes more sense to conduct surveys in areas where it previously had been challenging to send research personnel. These areas are, for instance, rural areas with fewer routes and less passengers, or on late night departures, Schiager reveals.

The digital solution also makes it possible to listen to customers and discover changes in personal travel patterns.

Infection control obstructs traditional customer satisfaction surveys

Public transport companies rely on customer surveys to form the basis for future decisions. This might include rewarding operators on excellent customer service results, or elevating specific criteria such as cleanliness, driving capabilities, precision and so on. It can also map out travel behaviour which can impact planning. As well as validate reasons for routes being altered or stops being moved. Surveys used to be conducted with personal interviews. Travel habits were then mapped based on the travellers’ recollection at the time.

Kolumbus has installed beacons on all buses, trains and boats in their service area, and is the first Nordic transport company with this specific type of complete coverage. The beacons notify Kolumbus’ travel app that a customer is on board and automatically triggers a customer survey via the same app.

– Kogenta’s technology offers a cost-effective solution that provides the opportunity to get answers without rescheduling, or putting personnel or passengers at risk. Another major benefit is that passengers can provide a timely, more neutral assessment of their experience. This is arguably very valuable, said  Ulrik Prøitz, SVP Nordics.

The use of location services, in the app, along with sensors also adds important contextual information such as; temperature, delays or information about the number of people and capacity of each vehicle. These are all factors that can affect the customers’ experience on board.

Feedback opportunity on low-traffic routes

Automating surveys in the real-time travel app has given the company new flexibility. In addition, the aptness allows them to set up new surveys quick and easy at any time in its service area.

– It’s easy to argue that a certain routes should be closed if frequency and number of passengers are low. However, those routes might be imperative to those who live in the area. Conducting customer surveys on these routes has historically been complex and challenging, e.g. due to personnel coordination and time restrictions. Automated surveys are not bound by geography or distance, and can provide more opportunities for adjustments, and a higher quantity. A personal interviewer can only interview one person at a time, Prøitz says.

Current surveys are easier than ever

Major or minor events in society, and the world, can almost instantly affect our travel patterns and needs. Covid-19 was certainly proof of this. It is essential for public transport companies to be at the forefront of challenges in their day-to-day business. Administering thematic surveys can uncover what type of needs that may arise when society around us changes.

– Ad hoc surveys, or thematic surveys, previously required a lot of resources and time. Surveys had to be planned and designed, and interviewers hired to carry them out. It also took much time to gather input. In the current automated surveys, this process is cut down to hours or even minutes. Surveys can now be activated and triggered automatically to passengers straight after it has been decided, and can easily be altered after the fact if needed, Prøitz concludes.

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