Saturday, September 06, 2008

Connex Customer Information Centre opens

Yesterday was the first day of the Connex Customer Information Centre at Flinders Street Station. The centre is open seven days a week and is on the main concourse, inside the fare-paid area.

The opening presents a good opportunity to discuss the sort of customer service passengers need and how this is best provided.

Passengers are best divided into regular commuters (who make frequent routine trips) and occasional travellers (eg tourists and those who don't normally use public transport). The information needs of these groups vary, as per the table below.

Basically occasional passengers need detailed individual advice, while regular passengers just want their ticket or timetable with a minimum of fuss. At very busy stations it may be desirable to seperate the routine transaction from the trip assistance role so regular commuters are not delayed. The arrangements at Flinders Street appear to do this in that there are ticket windows for sales and the new information centre for more detailed queries.

Just like in a shop where you can ask questions about a product before buying, passengers need to be able to ask about a service without needing to buy a ticket first. This means that the main enquiry desk needs to be immediately outside the fare paid area, as all staffed suburban Melbourne stations do with their booking offices and Transperth does with its InfoCentre at Perth Station. Doing this makes the information booth accessible to those likely to need it (see table above).

As well as helping passengers board the right train at Flinders Street, there are other information needs that a full information centre can be expected to meet. This includes advice for the onward journey; passengers may alight at an unattended station and may need bus information for the next stage of their trip. Planning here may determine whether passengers board the next train or get a later one for a better bus connection.

Because no one (except gunzels) ends their trip at a railway station, Connex passengers alighting at Flinders Street need to be looked after for the next stage of their journey. This might include directions to a particular address or details tram and bus services. Best practice (as done in Perth) is to have all timetables available, but as a minimum in Melbourne all tram/bus timetables for the CBD, major trip generators and major suburban routes need to be carried.

Disruption information is largely electronically delivered through passenger information displays and PA announcements. An information desk may have a role, although sheer passenger numbers may not necessarily allow individual attention. The effectiveness of this depends on the extent to which information is conveyed to the staff and their awareness of possible alternative tram and bus services (both rail substitute and regular).

The concept of expanding customer information at major stations is to be commended. However placing the main information booth so it can be accessed off the street and providing tram/bus information are both essential for the idea to reach its full potential.


Anonymous said...

I notice they have computer screens at the desk, and that one appeared to be logged onto the Metlink website when I was there this afternoon - wouldn't be too hard to connect up a printer to print out PDF bus timetables from the Metlink site, or itineraries from the journey planner?

Not only saves space, but also ensures that they are up-to-date and in stock.

Bonito Club said...

There are supposedly roving staff coming to the platforms at Flinders St with hand held devices showing live train info. That's what is really needed when you're down on the platform and the train you're waiting for disappears off the screens, or the dreaded "Listen for announcements" sign appears.

Anonymous said...

Whilst it isn't a bad thing, the customer service centre should be integrated at the front of the station where the original customer service desks now stand vacant - only to be occasionally occupied by strange people lounging around there and smoking.
Also, it should incorporate information on Vline, buses, trams and all other forms of public transport - not just Connex trains.