Anatol: the travel assistant in SNCF passengers’ pockets
Improve the Customer Experience and deliver a personalized service
How to improve the Customer Experience and deliver a personalized service for a major transport brand?
Digital assistants of all kinds are creating a lot of discussion and for many consumers they’re already a part of everyday life, whether via a smartphone, a smartwatch or a smart speaker. The French national railway operator, SNCF was one of the first organizations to realize the potential benefits an assistant could bring and so the TGV [High Speed Train] customer experience management team, led by Laurence Ternois partnered with TSC on a customer travel assistant. Called “Anatol” it offers passengers timely alerts and relevant information pertaining to their journey via SMS and can also be used to ask questions.
The Challenge: to connect with travelers for a personalized customer relationship
“How do you improve the premium traveler’s customer experience once they’re boarded the train?” asks Geoffrey Boulakia, General Manager EMEA of TSC. “How do you ensure that your solution can be accessed throughout a journey and that it is both proactive and personalized? Though the idea behind Anatol was simple, its development and technical implementation were complex.”
Among those complexities presenting extra challenges to TSC’s designers and developers are the sheer volumes of rail traffic; the number of passengers on any given train; the amount and accuracy of information specific to any one journey; and access to wi-fi networks across the current rail network.
But as Geoffrey Boulakia says, these challenges made it “Complicated, but not impossible!” Thanks to the wealth of experience within the Sitel Group to draw on, as well as the close working relationship that TSC had fostered with the SNCF over two years, Anatol went from idea to reality in less than six months
THE SOLUTION: SMS messaging ASAP
Anatol blends automated SMS with human intervention, meaning that information can be sent instantaneously to any and all targeted passengers on a train. Developed to play a key role in anticipating and responding to customer needs, it can also be used to respond to users’ questions. Incoming messages are routed to an adviser based in the operations center and he or she can respond to them individually, or can transmit an answer to a train’s on-board staff if necessary.
But why should something so innovative use SMS rather than another, more modern communication channel? “Because it makes it possible to communicate with all the passengers, whatever their device, without exception” explains Sébastien Legros, Consulting Director at TSC. “To take advantage of Anatol, all you need is a phone not a smartphone, whose functionality can sometimes be limited due to wi-fi coverage on TGV lines or by the strength of the 4G/LTE cellular network.“
“SMS is simple, effective, reliable and straightforward. It was therefore the ideal system for Anatol, a real interaction facilitator for the SNCF, as well as for its customers. We also wanted a conversational mode as well as message mode, which SMS allows,” adds Sébastien Legros.
Results: on track for customer satisfaction
Since its launch as a Proof of Concept in December 2016 (Anatol went live in July 2017), more than half a million travelers have received SMS notifications; while the solution has also received 18,000 requests for contact.
Initially offered to first-class customers traveling on the Paris-Nantes high-speed line, it has now been rolled out to most TGV routes within the country.
“With an average response time of less than five minutes, and a case-by-case service in addition to better communication between SNCF and its passengers, Anatol has become a genuine real-time information channel, generating customer loyalty and satisfaction “concludes Geoffrey Boulakia.
The TGV lines will all soon feature wi-fi and once they do, Anatol will move to the Messenger Platform and will be accessed directly via the train’s wi-fi authentication portal. When this happens, the service will also get a chatbot that will be able to handle simple and recurring user requests, leaving agents free to concentrate on handling more complex questions and requests from travelers.