This blog post is by Dave (DH) about the direction he hopes to see LNER go in the future and views on the Save East Coast Rewards rebrand. Part 1 looks at the history of Save EC Rewards and VTEC.
LNER and the future
My aim is simply to ensure that LNER offers the best service on the National Rail network, a service that both passengers and staff can be proud of. I have written some of the reasons I want the best for East Coast last year, as well as wanting to ensure the high standards we are used to, I want to ensure journeys on LNER remain enjoyable. As a regular traveller between London and the north it's important to me that travel is never a chore.
As well as the personal reasons it's also important to have excellent transport links between London and the north if the area is to grow both from a business perspective as well as tourism. I originally left the north east for London due to the limited number of suitable jobs in the area and it's good to see the technology sector growing in the north over the last few years, it's important to have good transport links to sustain this growth.
What I'd like to see from LNER is a commitment to ensure that the basics are dealt with and also a forward thinking outlook. One of the key things that's needed to ensure rail travel is accessible to all is ensure maintenance is improved on the existing fleet so fewer accessible toilets are out of order. They also need to look at how disabilities (including disabilities that are not visible) can affect travelling on the network. The more that we understand the needs of those with disabilities the more we understand what can be done to improve their travel experience and therefore open up rail travel to a wider group.
As well as accessibility there's also the importance that trains and stations have the required number of staff so that passengers can get the level of expected service. I've experienced long waits at ticket offices recently and there's still occasions where the full service can't be offered on-board due to staff shortages although it does seem to be improving.
Technology should be used to genuinely improve the passenger experience. An example of this would be someone who books direct can automatically be allocated a seat (if available) on the next train if theirs is cancelled or if no seats are available have the option to either take a chance on the next service or reserve on the first train that has seats available. This should be possible with the roll out of sensors above every seat giving a realtime availability of each service.
Ultimately it would be good to see a class leading loyalty scheme return, as well as offering regular rewards it could also take advantage of other data learned about the passenger such as if they always select a particular seat to default to selecting that one automatically if it's available. The loyalty scheme would need to be competitive with frequent flyer schemes and provide a genuine incentive to get people off planes and out of their cars, taking the train where possible.
The future of the campaign formerly known as SECR
In the blog post 'more than a rebrand' I mention that it's planned for a rebrand of Save East Coast Rewards that goes beyond a new name and look for the website. The exact details are still to be discussed with those who have contributed past and present but the idea is to indicate that we're about more than just Rewards. I will refer to the new site as SECR even though in reality the name is unlikely to have 'Save' or 'Rewards' in it, it might still contain 'East Coast' though! The branding will be sufficiently different so you can tell we're independent of LNER. Therefore the logo will NOT look anything like this...
The following are my thoughts only and will most likely change once we've had discussions on the future direction.
I'd like to see SECR evolving into something which is more like an online passenger user group where passengers can share ideas as well as any frustrations and suggestions they have. This would have to be achieved by a website that allows multiple users to collaborate and discuss experiences. Whether this is via a forum or other means this needs to be looked at.
The amount of involvement would depend on what LNER decide to do. If they provide the tools needed for passengers to share ideas in an open manner it would mean we didn't have to. Some train operators (SWR comes to mind) provide an online customer forum that allows passengers to share ideas and experiences. LNER has 'Viewpoint' but currently the forum functionality of the site is disabled which stops the sharing of ideas.
Allowing more collaboration would also make it easier for people to get involved and reduce the amount of time I commit to SECR. It would have to be open in a way to ensure that passengers knew we were taking all opinions on board.
Other ways to gain insight on opinions would include online polls and surveys and it would also be good to have a knowledgebase of useful information contributed by passengers. There could also be a status board where passengers could report defects and the defect would be logged with us as well as automatically informing LNER. This could be used to track issues that are known and see if they're affecting others.
The exact direction it would take would depend on how much LNER would be willing to engage and what levels of engagement they were planning with their own customer panel. One of the aims would be to fill in the gaps if we believe LNER is not reflecting passenger voices adequately.