Customer service innovation at LOROL

Source: RTM Apr/May 16

Matt Bromley, customer service project manager at London Overground Rail Operations Limited (LOROL), explains how two new innovations are improving customer service for the operator.

Despite the intense focus within the industry on improving information for customers, LOROL’s customer service team felt that the existing technology available to train operating companies was holding us back from meeting our customers’ expectations. 

Following a commitment from our executive team to explore innovative ways of taking customer service to the next level, LOROL has become not only the first UK train operator, but the first railway company in the world to adopt some of the latest technologies to improve the customer experience.

Delivering better information during disruption 

After becoming one of the first UK train operators to invest in iPads and iPhones for customer-facing staff, LOLOL came to realise that there had to be a better way of communicating with staff that took full advantage of the latest smartphone technology. 

Traditional methods of communicating information during disruption – by SMS/email and industry systems originally developed for Network SouthEast in the late 1980s – weren’t seen as fit for purpose for the 21st century. They were increasingly failing to meet the expectations of our staff, who were in the unenviable position of often being less informed than our customers who could obtain a wealth of information at their fingertips by using their own personal smartphones. 

Following extensive research into a range of options, LOROL launched Orinoco, the first and only app for the UK rail industry that provides our frontline staff with comprehensive real-time information – journey planning, ‘CSL2’ disruption messaging, live train mapping and information from both TfL and National Rail Enquiries – linked to a bespoke control communications system that is intuitive and easy to use. 

Before Orinoco, frontline staff would have to switch between emails and a variety of publicly-available apps (such as CityMapper) to provide information to customers. In addition to improving the quality of information available to frontline teams, Orinoco has also delivered improvements in the control room. Previously, for every incident on the network, controllers had to enter disruption information four times in two separate systems. Orinoco has removed this duplication by creating a single point of entry for all disruption and station information. The system separates out information for the different recipients and automatically compiles an hourly summary for senior managers. This enables controllers to focus on quality rather than repetitive data entry. 

Orinoco was developed by Hacon, the German transport and logistics software company. Our aim from the beginning of the project was to develop a system that met the needs of our staff. 

In April 2015 we held a series of workshops with customer-facing frontline staff, controllers from our operations team as well as Hacon’s developers who put together the user specification and design. The project was delivered in two phases. The web-based Orinoco control communications system went live in November 2015 and is based on Hacon’s Hafas Information Manager (HIM) product. The Orinoco iOS app was launched several months later in February 2016. 

What’s in a name? 

We’re often asked ‘why Orinoco?’ as it doesn’t seem an obvious choice of name for a railway system. After running a competition internally to name the new system, Orinoco was selected from more than 200 suggestions from LOROL employees. Orinoco is not only the name of a Wombles character and a song by Enya, it is also a river in Venezuela and Colombia. The employee that put the name forward suggested that the app would help improve the flow of information between control and the frontline. 

It is too early to measure any specific improvements in customer satisfaction, although early signs are positive. In our most recent quarterly Passenger Information During Disruption (PIDD) Audit, station managers rated the clarity of information in Orinoco as 7.6/10. For the current quarter the score is over 9.5/10. We’ve also had some really great feedback from our frontline teams. 

“I am so impressed, it’s simply amazing. I love the live map and the final set up.… The live departure page is the best feature as it incorporates bus, Underground and Overground train times.” – Customer Host GPR, Gordon Mantey (Shepherd’s Bush) discussing Orinoco. 

“The new messaging system is just fantastic. I have been waiting for this system, well done LOROL, you all deserve a trophy! It’s quick, accurate and to the point, just what we needed!” – Philbert Lawrence (Hackney Wick) commenting on the value of Orinoco.

We are currently working on a number of enhancements to Orinoco including integration of social media information and a really exciting project to make real-time loading information available to our platform staff. 

Bringing knowledge together in one place 

We have also recently developed Lorolpedia. This provides a reference library for processes, manuals, procedures, internal communications and best practice that can be accessed anywhere our staff are working. Feedback from customers suggested that no matter how experienced and well trained, there will always be a problem or question frontline staff and managers do not know the answer to. 

Lorolpedia Image 1 of 3

Lorolpedia, developed for LOROL by London-based software agency Artonezero, is available both as an iPhone and iPad app and on the web. A simple web-based editor is used to create articles and upload other content such as videos and images. Some frontline staff have helped us to put together the articles and we hope to encourage more to do so in future. We are also using Lorolpedia as the basis for an app for our drivers to give them better access to our internal communications and other information. 

There are now over 280 articles in Lorolpedia covering every topic from delay compensation and ticket office processes to complaints handling and disruption management. In March, 173 separate people accessed the web version of Lorolpedia and we had 1,450 page views. The average person spends 6 minutes and 48 seconds browsing. The most popular article, with 5% of all views, is article number 231 on station forms! Employees can also find copies of our internal publications in the Lorolpedia newsfeed. 

Delivering a great customer experience 

Providing our people with high-quality smart devices and, most importantly, useful staff applications is a really important element in delivering a great customer experience. Customers expect staff to be better informed, particularly about disruption, than they are. You wouldn’t walk into John Lewis, Boots or another high street store and ask the shop assistant to use Google on their personal phone to help you. You would expect them to know more about their products than you and have access to better information and tools. It should not be any different on the railway. 

And that’s what we are doing at LOROL, providing our employees with the tools they need to enable to deliver a great experience for our customers.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


Andrew Gwilt   08/05/2016 at 22:58

Orinoco is the new name for innovation and customer service to passengers and commuters with LOROL (London Overground Rail Operations Limited) and from TfL (Transport for London).

A   15/05/2016 at 17:55


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