Southeastern’s Problem Reporting Application

2016-03-31 11.01.25 - copyMembers of the Southeastern Community Panel have been taking part in an eight-week trial of a feedback application.

It’s a good idea, but its execution needs more work on usability, feedback, social engagement, gamification and transparency.

We used the version of the Feedback App that was available for an Apple iPad. It was an easy download from the Apple AppStore that install a generic application from a firm called Reactn, and then one had to enter a code to use it for Southeastern problem reporting.

The application was reasonably straightforward to use once we got the hang of it. Specific areas for attention before wider release included:

  • We could not get the iPad camera to work with the application at all.
  • The colour scheme – very light blue on slightly less light blue in the Southeastern colours – had low contrast, and some people could find it difficult to read.
  • The navigation buttons (Back/Next) are arrows at the top of the screen. On first use it took some time to realise that this was the way to proceed; most users would look for the buttons at the bottom of the screen.
  • The navigation to pin down the type of problem was not intuitive – it took several attempts to find the correct route to report a blocked train toilet as a Toilet problem rather than “Something Else”. It needs a navigation that makes sense to non-railway people.
  • The application needs to connected to the internet to work. That’s a problem when Southeastern have so far failed to provide WiFi at any of their stations or on any of their trains, and when 3G data connections on trains between Sevenoaks and London are unreliable. It needs to be able to store reports until later – as the Facebook applications now do.

Submitting a problem report always led to a quick email (from Reactn) saying that the problem had been noted and passed on to Southeastern for action. The text in each case was different and the email signature varied; it seems likely these were genuine human-generated emails rather than the programmatic response one gets from the Southeastern Contact Centre.

We consider that feedback applications such as this create a useful alternative channel to reporting problems for those who want to do so. But Southeastern need to go further to make it genuinely transformational:

  • There’s no feedback the problem has been fixed. Despite the promise in the initial enrolment (you must give an email address so “Southeastern can then inform you when the issue has been dealt with”), we received no further notifications about any of the issues. Experience with the contact centre or Southeastern’s twitter team shows that many of these problems “passed on” are not acted upon.
  • There’s no social engagement. Where’s the button to put on Twitter and Facebook that one has reported a problem – demonstrating one’s community action and encouraging others to do so? That’s easy to do from within the mobile platforms, and is increasingly expected.
  • There’s no gamification. Where’s the prize for reporting five blocked toilets in a week, or for being the first to report a problem on a particular coach, or for being in the top 10% of problem reporters (cf Trip Advisor)? Gamification is known to help build engagement and keep users interested. It is not as though there is a shortage of problems!
  • There’s no transparency. There is no visibility of problems that others have submitted, and the extent to which they have been acted upon.

In short, this is another case where Southeastern have had a good idea but failed to understand that design and implementation are not just an issue of technology. There has been no learning from the success of Fix My Street or (in the United States) Open 311. Southeastern’s half-million customers, from one of the most talented parts of the world, are an incredible resource. The company need to do better than this to engage and use them more effectively to help improve their rail service.

Did you also take part in the trial? We would interested in your experience, and for the thoughts of other customers. You can let us know here.

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