31 May Wake Up Afraid!
“I constantly remind our employees to be afraid, to wake up every morning terrified. Not of our competition, but of our customers.”
That advice from Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos to shareholders in 1998 is as true now as it was then.
Amazon is widely recognised as being “disruptive” and have achieved some staggering successes. Not only with innovation in online shopping, but with subsidiaries like AWS, offering new technology solutions through cloud-based computing services. Disruption is less about innovation or even technology, though. Disruption only occurs following customer adoption. Not surprisingly, the secret to the success of Amazon’s approach? Customer obsession. Start with the customer, work backwards, and invent and innovate on their behalf.
We’re familiar with largely private sector organisations creating disruption in the transport sector (e.g. autonomous operation, ride-sharing, crowdsourced transportation), using a similar approach – technology that offers greater consumer choice and improved experience.
Australia’s public transport agencies are aware of these changing consumer expectations as well. A cursory glance of regularly published customer satisfaction tracking reports shows, by and large, customer satisfaction with Rail lags other modes of transport. And what commuters want most from those services is better information and more frequent services.
In practice, delivering on this outcome will require an increase in network capacity, significant investment in new technology, new infrastructure and specialist expertise. But the disruption will come when customers are able to rock up to a train station without planning a trip or consulting multiple timetables, and reach their destination on a safe, clean, comfortable service.
It’s clear some public transport agencies and rail operators are already engaged in that undertaking.
New South Wales is investing in an alluring vision for the future – better creating capacity, safety, and real-time user information (such as the app released last week to lets you know which carriages you’ll find a seat, and which are standing room only).
In Queensland, Cross River Rail will unlock a bottleneck that will allow more trains to run more often and will integrate with new bus-ways and new roads. It aims to almost double network capacity in the am peak by 2036 to 106 trains per hour. That’s more options, available more often across a better integrated transport network for commuters.
Western Australia recently approved its largest ever passenger rail investment in the 2018-19 budget, allocating $3.6B to new METRONET projects to upgrade stations, track, and buy 102 new rail cars.
And when these significant undertakings have been successfully delivered, do we expect that as customers we will become loyal converts? Perhaps … right up until the second that someone else offers us a better service.
The Terrace Initiative is a new generation of management consultancy quietly delivering expertise to complex, large-scale programs reshaping the future of rail and the digital environment.
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