Disruption, delays & unavoidable issues

As I write this during a heatwave in July, I’m already hearing reports that there are train delays on many of the train routes across the UK. It seems that our tracks suffer with excessive heat as much as many passengers do, even without delays due to climate.

As many would accept as being good business practice, regular communication is a good thing. Rail travel for some is not a joyful encounter and therefore providing travellers with timely information can help reduce stress and improve their overall experience.

One situation – delays, causes avoidable stress. This stress can be somewhat reduced by keeping passengers informed of reasons for their delay and therefore enables the temperament of the passengers to be kept at reasonable levels. In a recent news report, on-board passengers who were well informed as to why their train was being delayed were reasonably happy but a change of train crew who were less communicative caused frustration and anger and many took to social media to voice their opinions.


In a world that has numerous communication methods within easy reach it would seem senseless for valuable information not to be conveyed in a timely fashion.

As a marketer I know that getting the right message to the right person at the right time has always engaged an audience. This mantra is even more important when people are preparing to spend money on your website.

Within online retail, it is the norm to notify visitors that items of a particular colour or style are out of stock or on extended delivery times. It should be the same for rail travellers too. I know that seats on a train are not guaranteed but giving potential passengers a warning during the booking process that their particular train is busy and recommending reserving a seat would be prudent.

It’s not beyond the limits of technology to use urgency messaging (you know, the ones that tell you ‘how many people are looking at this item now’) in a slightly different way – not to scare people into a panic purchase but to make them aware of things that may impact their journey.

A bespoke solution

Here at Webtrends Optimize we’ve taken this further and have helped a rail partner to provide disruption messaging within their booking funnel process. One that doesn’t need web developer expertise but offers a pre-configured series of messages that can be displayed at relevant times during the booking.

The messaging is delivered when certain criteria are met – as an example when a train or trains are expected to be very busy due to a sporting or concert event. In this particular instance advice can be proffered as to either taking an earlier or later train or booking a seat it they are still available.

Testing different banners for both content and colour, depending on the nature of the message helped identify which combinations resonated with the target audience better.

The disruption messaging is most often utilised to present planned engineering works and potential crowded trains, but are also used to promote extensions to off-peak train times and highlight promotional seat pricing for that particular journey etc.

In summary

Whilst disruption messaging alone is not a silver bullet to overall customer satisfaction, when used as part of a programmatic approach to enhance customer experience it often lays down the expectation with potential customers that you are placing their needs ahead of your own.

If you’d like to explore using our disruption messaging solution on your site or understand what else can be done, feel free to get in touch.