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Voyages-SNCF is investing in both smart and conversational tourism

  • Clock logoJuly 25, 2017
  • Eye logo3546

A joint presentation given by Julien Nicolas - Country Manager France and COO,, and Vanessa Boudin-Lestienne - General Manager EMEA, Founder of The Social Client

Inspiring, innovating… travelling

As Julien Nicolas tells us by way of an introduction, “Voyages-sncf has secured a particularly strong position in France: we sold 83 million trips last year.” But the French heavyweight’s reach now extends far beyond France with a footprint in 25 countries thanks to its Rail Europe subsidiary and business conducted in 40 different languages, its revenues have now topped the €4 billion mark.

Vanessa Boudin-Lestienne points out that “the customer journey used to include only three stages – selection, consumption and return to starting point – but now it comprises six.”

First off, there’s inspiration, usually via the social networks. Then we do a search and make a selection before booking the trip. So, there’s the actual experience of the trip itself and then the final stage of sharing this experience. Vanessa Boudin-Lestienne stresses that, “40% of people that travel are willing to share their experience, mostly on the social networks, and this feeds back into the first stage, i.e., inspiration.”

In line with these new trajectories, Voyages-sncf have devised an omni-channel strategy that leverages the contributions of customers based around personalising the customer journey.

Read our article on Arnaud de Lacoste’s opening keynote address: “Customer relations businesses and the challenges of Artificial Intelligence” 

Activating a community of travellers

The brand used the services of IFTTT [If this then that], a form of code that can be used to offer a certain number of services based on customer actions. “We use #OpenVSC, our internal community, to inform customers of our services. We show them our POC [Proof of Concept], they react online and we make changes accordingly. Instead of keeping our innovations hidden in-house, we take the covers off and share them. This allows us to learn much faster from our customers, as we did with our first Messenger bots which we were able to deploy rapidly on our VSC platform.”

Voyages-sncf also uses the #ONYVA programme to handle all feedback. As Julien Nicolas explains, “feedback is used for customer experience and is subsequently leveraged for inspirational purposes and helping other customers to make decisions and purchase trips. We want our customers to be able to share the best offers and coolest ideas. It’s peer-to-peer recommendation of batches of ideas.”

Personalising the customer journey using an omni-channel strategy

The brand’s services have been rolled out to all of the social platforms – the web, mobile apps, The Responsive Web , messaging, etc. – so as to be accessible to customers at all times “All of the conversational part is now also available on Messenger” adds Julien Nicolas.

The brand is striving for maximum responsiveness: “Once you have completed your purchase, your details are automatically updated based on your journey. On the day of your trip, you will be presented with appropriate services for making the whole experience as smooth and “smart” as possible: iDCAB to get you to the station, or the number of your platform around an hour before you leave.”

Personalisation underpinned by innovation

After pioneering France’s first Messenger chatbot, figuring among the first beta-testers of the Messenger for Business app, and just recently rolling out the Messenger Extensions module, Voyage-sncf is in the process of launching a conversational interface using Amazon Echo before the device even arrives in France.

A smiling Julien Nicolas winds up by explaining that “the idea is to move very fast. We need to test all of these conversational technologies to understand their impact on our value chain. This is what we did with our mobile app which has been downloaded over a million times by our French customers. The same goes for virtual reality. For Amazon, our POC makes it possible to book a train ticket directly on Echo. We too have benefited from inspiration as Echo will be rolled out in France early next year!”

Watch the entire keynote address 

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