The news that London Underground are to close ticket offices (www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-25025888) is set to change the nature of the "ticket" and the interaction between operator and customer.
The days of the little bit of paper clutched in our hands are clearly numbered. Tickets moving onto our smart mobile devices creates a range of opportunities to enhance the passenger experience by offering a more joined-up, journey-orientated service.
With a ticket on a smartphone, the operator knows who you are. This could be an enabler for more personalised and individual services. Preferences, likes & dislikes can all be remembered and bookings and offers tailored accordingly.
The operator might also know where you are. This might allow individual travel information to be pushed to you as you enter the station - "Welcome to King's Cross, your 12.43 train to York is running 5 minutes late and will be ready for boarding in 10 minutes from Platform 6".
Knowing where you are could help eliminate the current advance booking of seats that sit empty for the journey. The system would only allocate the seat as you enter the station. This could also provide more flexibility for you to change seats or even change which train you are going to get. This could be the end of the ticket barrier too - no need to go through a gate as the "station" knows that everyone on the platform is a valid ticket holder. No more ticket inspections? Wouldn't that be nice.
This kind of consist information could be really useful to train operators who currently have no idea who is on their train. It can help with ensuring passengers are spread through the train and enable a range of new personalised services to be offered on-board.
The removal of the ticket office could change the nature of the interaction between passenger and staff. The current mode is very "over the counter" and is transactional in nature. Removing the physical separation might allow more of a personal concierge-style service to be provided which is of more value to passengers.
The only loss is the old romance of that collectable bit of paper. But that probably disappeared long ago anyway.
Let's hope that as this technology becomes more widespread, operators take the opportunity to provide genuinely better services to passengers and do more than get rid of some staff, sell us a ticket and push loads of advertising to our phones.
Labels: customer service, passenger experience, passenger information, personalisation, rail, railway, service design, ticket, ticket machine, transport, user experience, wayfinding