Apps, websites, digital information boards at bus stops; providing information to travelers is complex, but essential. Besides the Operational Control Center and our Customer Service Center, there is another important link in the information chain for drivers and, more importantly, for passengers, the Travel Information Officers.
Chaniel Bulwant is Travel Information Team Leader at the Operational Control Center in Nieuwegein, in the Netherland. Together with his colleagues, is responsible for ensuring that the flow of information reaches our customers.
The customer comes first. It is of enormous importance to inform them properly, because without the customers we have no business.
The Travel Information Team has been active since 2014. « We started as a pilot in the North Holland province at that time. An important reason for starting the pilot was to improve current travel information at stops; the existing travel information in the event of disruptions did not always score well in satisfaction surveys. Social media were also increasingly used by passengers to contact the company, but there were also opportunities for us using social media the other way around. At first mainly from within customer service, but later we became much more independent. What started as kind of Social Media Managers has now grown into our Travel Information Team.
Chaniel Bulwant, Travel Information Team Leader
Managing Social Media is still part of the job, especially outside office hours. But in addition to this form of contact with customers, the Travel Information Officers also keep the customers informed in other ways.
« Actually, our work is twofold, » Chaniel explains enthusiastically. « On the one hand, we work very reactively; we come into action the moment there is a sudden substantial deviation in the timetable, such as collisions, obstructions or incidents. This is usually passed on by our drivers; they really are our eyes and ears on the road. We communicate such disruptions via the Dynamic Passenger (‘reiziger’) Information System, or DRIS signs. These are digital information panels at bus stops and stations that show the expected departure time of upcoming lines and provide space for additional announcements. For example, we use it to list replacement stops in the event of a detour or, currently, the call to comply with the COVID-19 measures in public transportation. »
In addition to these unplanned disruptions, there are also disruptions that are announced with great regularity, for example in the case of planned construction work. « These kinds of situations, too, must of course be communicated to travelers in a timely manner. We can also use the DRIS signs for this purpose; we put up an announcement, such as the duration of the disruption and any replacement stops. This, along with updates via the websites, apps and Social Media, ensures that customers are well informed. »
In addition to providing travel information, Chaniel and his colleagues have other responsibilities as well. For example, they also handle technical malfunctions of the DRIS signs and provide support for our various ‘flex’ products such as Overalflex and AMLflex. « We have a controlling function in that. We check, for example, that the subcontractors carrying out these products comply with the agreements. That too is an extension of our service to the traveler. We also recently served a ‘help desk’ function for Brengflex, offering support to the drivers on the road. I do think we have proven that our department can also excel in that kind of work, » he says proudly. According to Chaniel, ‘his’ team is the result of a motivated group of people who really want to add value to our customers’ travel experience. « I first worked for Connexxion Taxi Services, in the same building as the Operational Control Center. I stuck around; the OCCs work floor is now also that of the Travel Information Officers. We were created from a young, fresh team in which everyone wanted to prove themselves. There was a great drive to do so. »
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, major projects are on hold for a while, but that doesn’t mean that the Travel Information Officers aren’t developing themselves. « We are constantly trying to improve. For example, a travel information expert group has been set up internally, the aim of which is to map out processes and improve them in order to serve the traveler even better. The various transport companies also tend to think mainly of themselves, whereas strong cooperation can lead to more uniform information for the customer. Think about the provision of information in the event of severe weather or strikes, or about the corona measures. That’s where we can definitely make improvements. »
The fact that communication between the operator and customer is already much easier these days is hugely valuable, according to Chaniel. « You have to cherish the customer. In fact, we should listen to them well. We can learn a lot from the needs, wishes and questions of our customers. »
Chaniel visibly enjoys his work, and that’s especially noticeable when he talks about his profession.
It’s an incredibly fun job, which is different every day. We have a very competent and committed team, I am very proud of that. Also, the cooperation with other departments within our company is an aspect I am very happy with. From the communication department to customer service, from the marketeers to the transportation experts; we have good relations with everyone. And I think that is also our strength; connecting with each other makes you stronger!
Chaniel Bulwant, Travel Information Team Leader