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First Great Western plots omnichannel transformation to tackle train delays

First Great Western has launched an online hub to help passengers overcome disruptions to their train journeys and ease frustrations that could harm the brand.

It is billed as the first site of its kind to aggregate several travel feeds in an industry where operators have traditionally settled for a landing page that links to the National Rail site. Data from channels such as Transport for London (TfL) and JourneyCheck are fed to users through a revamped interface on the operator’s site.

This move from the “lift and shift” approach to data, claimed First Great Western’s digital marketing manager Jason Ali, gives passengers “unprecedented” access to real-time live departure boards, re-routing, train schedules across the Western network and running data. Twitter is also integrated into the hub to push live updates as well as a personalised response to disruptions.

Some 18 months in the making, the ORM-created platform tries to tackle the lack of transparency around disruptions to train journeys. The frustration from passengers was damaging the brand experience, claimed Ali, at a time when the business wants to lift sentiment through its “Be A Great Westerner marketing campaign.

“We have the largest and most complex UK rail network but weren’t handling the transparency of information well especially through disruption,” said Ali. He hopes the hub’s sentiment score hits 80 per cent by the end of April, paving the way for updates on planned engineering work information.

“At a very high level this strategy is about creating a prioritised roadmap of activity because by combining the data we’re now getting we’re able to understand what’s really important for customers. Everything we do is tied into one strategy. Creating an omnichannel approach,” added Ali.

First Great Western’s take on omnichannel marketing revolves around being primed to action customer requests on any channel in almost real-time. The approach is key to efforts to manage customer expectations in an industry blighted by all manner of disruptions, both planned and unforeseen.

Most recently, the Great First Western brand was thrust into the media spotlight after the travel plans for thousands of people were thrown into chaos in December after the operator cancelled all its services running to and from London Paddington due to overrunning engineering works.

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