I’m not a fan of the Irish public transport system – I’ve lived in Germany, so I have seen the potential of a well run system and feel constantly let down by the system in Ireland. However, I’m seeing a Boy who works for Irish Rail (IR), so conversations do involve the Irish transport system the odd time. (By conversations, I mean lively debates and by the odd time, I mean frequently).
My main gripe with Irish Rail isn’t the cost or the poor service to rural towns, but the poor communication and disregard for their customers. While this is not always the case, I find too many cases of poor communication and customer service, that could be solved with a little training on the part of IR. When I noticed that IR were taking to the various social networks, I got a little excited, as I felt that this medium of conversation could be used to benefit customer service, but this was short lived. IR have a social media presence, but the brand is failing to take advantage of the possibilities offered. It’s tough to reach the full potential of social media on the limited staf that are employed by IR, but having said that, there is so much MORE than could be done and a recent article in “Rail Professional“ should be a good starting reference, from which to start.
The “Rail Professional” is not a likely title for me to read, but I’ve read the October edition, all the same. I’m not proud of it, but there you go! I was attracted by an article they ran (it’s a UK publication). It outlined how “train operators are using Twitter”. The writer, @clifton_paul, outlines how the various rail operators are using Twitter to their customers advantage and those who aren’t helpful at all. It made for an interesting read, in that, the most useful feeds were those providing the most basic and mundane information (e.g. train delays). Paul did not highlight those feeds who were running competitions or making exclusive announcements, it was the basic needs of the customers e.g. @LondonMidland who were commended for their informative and sometimes amusing feed. “They chase up on previous conversations: if someone is stuck at 11:00, they will go back in the afternoon and ask how the situation ended for them”.
I would disagree with the author stating that certain accounts weren’t “in the game”, as they only had 200 followers. It’s not a numbers game, but about offering useful information to travellers in a concise and timely manner. I personally like the useful Tweets from @AskSWT (an unofficial account for South Western Trains), and with only 699 Followers, it doesn’t take away from the practical information origination from the account.
Unlike @VirginTrains etc, @IrishRail is the only provider of rail services in Ireland and therefore has a captive audience (13, 445 Followers and counting). IR could use this account to be more helpful to their customers. I have thought about the various improvements that could be made to the Twitter account and came up with these little nuggets:
Be Personal: The founder of kiip stated, if you personalise your brand, your customers will be more forgiving – “feel or die”. Get involved in conversations
Use Hashtags: As previously mentioned, IR is the only rail provider, so there’s a lot of information that isn’t relevant to commuters from Mayo or Cork etc. I’d divide the information into the following tags : #county #DART #Train #Cancellation #Delay etc. This will enable users to filter accordingly
Giveaways: It’s not imperative, but as a gesture of goodwill, I think it would be great to have a random good news Tweet once a day and a ticket giveaway once a month. I think that something involving followers RT’ing something or Tweeting an image etc, would raise the profile of the account.
Refer to others: Why not RT a useful message by someone using the Irish Rail hashtag (if the information is useful), or a tweet by @DublinBus which will be of benefit to your followers.
Commit: Social Media is not a 9 – 5 gig, so be prepared to Tweet after “school hours”. The recent images of Bayside DART station would have been useful for those who were watching
You can read the Rail Professional article by following this link. I have to add my surprise that the article made no reference to the MAJOR sh*t storm that was caused when Eurostar misunderstood the power of communication. I could write it up, but it’s already been done by someone much more skilled that I, via TechcrunchUK. @IrishRail, happy to hear your thoughts on this article and think this link may be of interest to you.