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Comment: engaging the customer is the challenge… retaining them is not

Smartphone ticketing and passenger information apps – such as the Bytemark app for Cap Metro – allow greater scope for passengers, operators and transit agencies alike.

As mobile payments like Apple Pay, Google Wallet and PayPal become more commonly used, the demand for mass transit to support mobile ticketing is becoming greater and greater. Mobile ticketing is the gateway to an interactive mass transit experience in which the transit agency and the customer are able to communicate in real time. A more engaged transit rider is likely to become a frequent customer. Mobile is becoming a key tool for transit agencies as they look to engage with their riders further and improve the customer experience. Smartphone and online ticketing options have become a customer expectation for public transportation.

We believe that mobile tools with integrated ticketing and payments will help drive ridership and support for mass transit. Mobile ticketing and payment apps empower riders with unprecedented convenience.
Users have the ability to purchase fares safely and securely from anywhere. For transit organisations, this means reducing reliance on ticket vending machines, kiosks, and cutting down on cash handling processes. With tools like real-time updates, trip planning, incident reporting, special offers, and other informational solutions built-in, the mobile ticketing app becomes an important utility for riders beyond just simply providing ticketing.

“Our biggest strides have been made by deploying customer service representatives during rush hours to engage with customers at stations and stops to show them how to use the app.”

First time jitters

The largest obstacle in deploying a successful mobile ticketing solution is making customers comfortable utilising this method of interaction with a transit agency for the first time. Once a commuter tries mobile ticketing, the retention rate is extremely high, but it is always a challenge to get customers to change their behaviour. That is why it is important for the agency and the mobile ticketing vendor to work hand-in-hand to create a successful mobile app deployment for customers.

Our biggest strides have been made by deploying customer service representatives during rush hours to engage with customers at stations and stops in order to show them how to use the app. By demonstrating to the customer how to utilise the app, we actively increase user knowledge about mobile ticketing.

Offering an incentive

Riders will adopt mobile ticketing if properly incentivised. An additional benefit of utilising digital tools is the ability to connect public transit services with other transportation services like Uber and Lyft, which have become more and more popular because of the ubiquity of smartphones. Studies have shown that ride-sharing and car-sharing programs actually increase the utilisation of mass transit ridership because it makes it easier for consumers to give up car ownership. We are working with car-sharing, ride-sharing and bike-sharing programmes in the US and globally to provide multi-modal integration around mobile solutions.

Effective loyalty programmes and special offers are also features that draw riders to mobile ticketing and payment applications. Rewarding customers for using transit services is important in both retaining and growing ridership. Customers are more engaged when they feel like they are a partner in the success of public transit.

By offering multi-modal integration, users can sign up for one account on one service and then utilise that account and its payment method on a variety of transport apps. We view this as the future where inter-connected transit and mobile apps help to make commuters’ lives easier and better.

This feature originally appeared in Tramways & Urban Transit – February 2015 issue (925).