Understanding the evolving landscape of passenger routines, sentiment and mindset will be essential to the public transport industry’s post-COVID recovery plan.
What could a public transport operator achieve with traveller experience, if they knew how every passenger was feeling? A tram driver or train manager can be unaware of an issue on their service — from comfort (heating, air-con, food), to anti-social behaviour, to passengers feeling vulnerable or threatened — because a passenger has no way of alerting them, or does not feel safe to do so.
When not dealt with at the time, many of these issues will manifest themselves as customer complaints. Complaints represent a real and significant financial threat to the operators and erode trust between the passengers and the transport network.
With public transport still navigating the maze of COVID-related challenges, understanding passenger sentiment in real-time has become a more urgent issue than ever before.
5G to the rescue
With the UK’s very first 5G-enabled tram, West Midlands Metro (with funding from WM5G) is at the forefront of a pioneering project that looks set to transform light rail and the wider transport sector.
As well as securing a place in the history books, following a series of trials Tram 35 now looks set to play a key role in helping the operator to fulfil its mission to deliver a safe, secure, reliable and sustainable service for the people who rely on West Midlands Metro every day.
Where Wordnerds fits in
In collaboration with mobile-technology firms GoMedia and Icomera, Wordnerds have developed an unprecedented two-way channel for conversations between the operator and customer whilst their journey is in progress.
Passengers are presented with a microsurvey when they connect to the onboard 5G Wifi, allowing them to express in their own words any issues that are bothering them. Their responses are instantly whipped off to the Wordnerds platform, where they are categorised through context instead of vocabulary, to stop any colloquialisms or misspellings from preventing people being heard. Any urgent issues trigger an alert directly to the operator, so that they can be dealt with immediately on board.
“We’re understanding what our passengers are talking about, so, for example, if a passenger said, ‘It’s a bit cold on this tram’, we’ll know exactly which tram they’re talking about, through the 5G technology, and we can turn on the heating.”
Sophie Allison, Head of Business Transformation at West Midlands Metro
All responses can also be tracked and analysed on the Wordnerds dashboard, which includes data on the respondent’s section of the line and time of post. Transport Operators can also add their social media feedback and other channels to the dashboard, allowing them to make strategic investment decisions based on genuine evidence.
We’re delighted to announce that the successful proof of concept is now complete - the tech is all up and running like a dream.
- 91% of test responses that should have triggered an alert were correctly identified by the Wordnerds platform
- The average time between response submission and alert receipt was 2 minutes - compared to 6 minutes if the passenger posted on Twitter instead
- 5G means that passengers can upload videos to evidence their concerns, something that simply isn’t practical on 4G networks
So, if you’re a TOC and if passenger experience is important to you (ha, IF!) get in touch to discuss how we can help you be even more proactive.