SBB takes its customers on a digital journey

Christof Zogg, Director of Digital Business at SBB AG, interviewed on the background and objectives of relaunching sbb.ch.

  1. What were the main reasons for having SBB.ch redesigned?
    Before the redesign, SBB.ch consisted of a desktop version with the entire content offer as well as a separate mobile website, which, however, covered only some 10% of the contents. In the mobile-first world, customers gradually want more and more information to be provided to them on their smartphones, and this specifically applies to SBB as a leading Swiss mobility company. Further, it was important to tackle the accessibility issue since public enterprises are obliged by law to ensure accessibility. And finally, looking at SBB.ch we noticed that its visual appearance had become somewhat outdated.

  2. What were the Project objectives?
    For that reason the project objective was to develop a responsive website which would operate on all device classes – from a smartphone or a tablet to a PC with a high resolution screen, which would be attractive and modern in appearance to its users and at the same time which could be used by people with impaired vision thanks to its compatibility with so-called Screen Readers. Of course, quantitative objectives were defined too, for instance the demand, the annual user growth rate by ca. 5% and a further increase in the customer satisfaction.

  3. For me as the user, it is the visual changes that have predominantly caught my eye. But what is behind the new website?
    Under the modern designer cover, SBB.ch today features the latest version of the Adobe Content Management Systems. But for the customers it is undoubtedly more relevant to be able to use the new web shop for buying travel tickets, which has been designed from scratch. Here we offer for example a new seamless integration of the travel itinerary and the ticket purchase option, which ensure that customers will be prevented from buying tickets taking wrong routes; a strongly optimised purchase process to save our customers many unnecessary clicks as well as a dozen of other improvements. The functional and attractive access points to hundreds of offers of how to spend your free time and holidays are also a new feature provided.

  4. SBB.ch has been online since 6 April 2017. How do you rate the success of the new website?
    With the launch of the redesigned core website presentation in April, we had achieved the first important milestone. In mid-August we could then finally launch all the new ticket sale functions, and by the end of this year we would like to obtain the accessibility certification. The Project is still not completed yet, and will never be, because SBB.ch should be continuously developing further. The most important success for now is that we, again and finally, have a web presence which we can be proud of.

  5. What was the reaction and comments of the customers?
    Design changes of newspapers and of websites always require some certain time for the customers to get accustomed to them, which is sometimes not appreciated by all customers. Looking from this point of view, it was nice that we received so few negative customer reactions in the initial stage. But of course the evaluation of the customer satisfaction after the launch will be more important to us. We are hoping for a significant increase in the figures there.

  6. Your customers have both digital as well as physical points of contact available with your company. How can you ensure consistency of the experience?
    The consistency of our sales channels is important but probably not as critical as in the retail trade, where customers today expect all types of channel combinations, such as for instance online purchase with collection at a physical shop or being able to have a look at a product in the local shop and order it there but have it delivered home, etc. With us the customers are expected to pass through our channel offer quite sequentially; users who understand how a ticket machine works would rarely visit a counter; customers who have installed a ticket purchase option on their smartphone will not use a ticket machine.

    Therefore, when redesigning the purchase process we have focused on the successful and award-winning SBB Mobile App, but of course we have also made some web-optimised adjustments. Thanks to a bigger screen surface, which is available online, both the outward and return journey can be selected on one screen. And complicated products such as for example international passenger transport tickets can only be purchased on SBB.ch.

  7. Can you reveal to us the next steps on the way to digitisation?
    SBB would like to redirect its customers to digital channels for two reasons; on the one hand digital sale is more cost efficient, on the other the digital channels and in particular our App SBB Mobile are winning the highest customer satisfaction ratings for the ticket purchase activity.

    For this reason we have undertaken two types of measures. On the one hand, we have rebuilt from scratch our digital sales channels SBB Mobile and also SBB.ch; on the other we are strongly investing in communication of the benefits of the digital ticket sales, and there our communication measures go far beyond any classic marketing communication means. We organise over 100 courses for elderly people per year, during which we offer support to our older customers the «Silver Surfers» in Neudeutsch – during their first digital purchase.

  8. And to what extent will that change the Customer journey in the future?
    In our field, most changes will become available with the new possibilities of the smartphone. On one side we will allow the SBB Mobile to grow from ticket machines stuck in the pocket of your trousers into personal digital journey companions. Already today the users of our Test-App SBB Mobile Preview can optionally make themselves tracked by the App in order to see at the end of the month in the travel cockpit how many kilometres by train they have travelled and how much CO2 emission they have spared. On an even more practical note: those customers will receive automatic journey tips, such as for instance individual recommendations on connecting trains in the event of any possible delays or hints as to possible changes in the travel class in the case the second class is fully occupied. On the other hand, in 2018 we will introduce a so-called automatic journey log system in our App. It means that customers will not have to buy a ticket in advance anymore, but with one swipe they will be able to check in on their smartphone and check out again at the end of the journey in order to eventually receive an appropriately calculated ticket.

  9. What have you found particularly successful on the new website?
    The new responsive websites often display a tendency where the configuration possibilities of the small screen can strongly influence the desktop design or even dominate it. Such websites can later look on the PC as a blown up telephone display. In my opinion, this challenge has been brilliantly overcome with the new SBB.ch presentation: the website uses almost the entire screen size on the desktop for navigation purposes, thus providing the user instantly with the access on two content levels. On the smartphone the design adjusts itself perfectly to the small, vertical screen, and can be easily operated with one finger.
    Personally, my favourite feature is the animation shown during the waiting time, which pops up during more complicated reservation and journey itinerary inquiries, and which symbolises in an abstract form the discs of a flashing by Intercity train. Sometimes I almost wish that the animation, which due to the high-performance backend systems pops up only rarely and for a short time, could last longer.