Case Study: National Rail Enquiries

How we help National Rail Enquiries to keep their customer service on track while driving down costs.

The Problem

National Rail Enquiries (NRE) is the definitive source of information for all passenger services on the national rail network in England, Wales and Scotland, handling on average 1.5 million journey enquiries every day through contact centres and self-service channels. Their website is classified by the government as a super-site.

NRE operates one of the busiest numbers in the UK. They were not able to alter this mission-critical service themselves, and often had to wait hours for their supplier to do it for them. Since passengers do not want to wait hours for information, NRE needed a solution that would help them automate the process of answering enquiries, to provide a better service at a lower cost.

In addition to calling or using the web, busy passengers on the move want to check train times via SMS. NRE needed to offer instant, automated SMS information with optimal relevance and accuracy, without exceeding 160 characters.

The Solution

We began by using the storm® platform to buffer NRE’s contact centre infrastructure, providing access to effectively unlimited capacity in the cloud and the ability to provision targeted IVR messages, protecting contact centres during high-volume incidents.

The service grew to include TrainTracker Text™, which uses keyword recognition to enable customers to get live journey info via SMS. Through integration with NRE’s Live Departure Board (LDB), storm provides this real-time travel information automatically, while integration with Online Journey Planner (OJP), which calculates the optimum route between stations, means users get the same answers whether they text, call or go online.

Compaction rules ensure the messages always fit into 160 characters, and a learning system identifies regular users and popular journeys, assigning priority to particular stations when responding to messages containing errors.

The Problem

National Rail Enquiries (NRE) is the definitive source of information for all passenger services on the national rail network in England, Wales and Scotland, handling on average 1.5 million journey enquiries every day through contact centres and self-service channels. Their website is classified by the government as a super-site.

NRE operates one of the busiest numbers in the UK. They were not able to alter this mission-critical service themselves, and often had to wait hours for their supplier to do it for them. Since passengers do not want to wait hours for information, NRE needed a solution that would help them automate the process of answering enquiries, to provide a better service at a lower cost.

In addition to calling or using the web, busy passengers on the move want to check train times via SMS. NRE needed to offer instant, automated SMS information with optimal relevance and accuracy, without exceeding 160 characters.

The Solution

We began by using the storm® platform to buffer NRE’s contact centre infrastructure, providing access to effectively unlimited capacity in the cloud and the ability to provision targeted IVR messages, protecting contact centres during high-volume incidents.

The service grew to include TrainTracker Text™, which uses keyword recognition to enable customers to get live journey info via SMS. Through integration with NRE’s Live Departure Board (LDB), storm provides this real-time travel information automatically, while integration with Online Journey Planner (OJP), which calculates the optimum route between stations, means users get the same answers whether they text, call or go online.

Compaction rules ensure the messages always fit into 160 characters, and a learning system identifies regular users and popular journeys, assigning priority to particular stations when responding to messages containing errors.

Before

After

NRE’s contact centres handled tens of thousands of calls daily, but this could triple during incidents such as heavy snowfall, overwhelming their available capacity. storm® scales instantly to accommodate the massive peaks in call volumes, enabling customers to self-serve via automated interactive voice response (IVR).
NRE were unable to view real-time stats or make changes to the service themselves, resulting in delays in critical updates being made available to customers. NRE can access current data and make changes from anywhere using secure portals or via a secure phone service, improving both admin efficiency and quality of service.
NRE’s TrainTracker Text™ service, which provides journey information via SMS, could not be updated easily; some modifications required several weeks to turn around. NRE can use the same self-service tools for voice and text; their admins can typically make more than 50 updates in a single day, resolving any issues identified immediately.
If the service failed to interpret an SMS, a free error message was returned; with thousands of texts being processed daily, service failures meant lost margin for NRE. The service is over 90% accurate, and expected to rise to 95%. Continual optimisation means an ever-improving user experience — and more margin for NRE.

How it Works

  1. Service building & provisioning of custom messages.
    Customer accesses information via automated IVR or sends SMS enquiry.
  2. storm® interprets SMS and interfaces with LDB & OJP systems for access to same information available in stations and online.
  3. storm pushes relevant information back to customer automatically in a single 160-character message.
  4. Any calls not handled automatically routed to contact centre, currently via premise-based call distribution (ACD).
  5. Unified real-time & historical reporting across contact centre operations and all voice & SMS enquiries.
storm®’s drag & drop interfaces are fast and highly intuitive, and being able to self-service so easily has saved us a vast amount of time and effort. Real-time information means we can be more responsive to changing patterns of contacts, helping to refine and adapt our service to current demand. Using the same interface to handle voice and text interactions has helped us realise further cost savings, and we anticipate additional benefits going forward as we migrate more of our estate onto storm.”

Tejpal Singh, Head of Contact Centres, National Rail Enquiries (NRE).

Learn More

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