Innovating Mobility: The Service Design Process


ProRail and Dutch Railways (NS), the main public transport providers in the Netherlands, wanted to improve the transfer process on platforms to make it more comfortable, faster and safer. We worked on innovative service concepts that contribute to a better transfer process—from the perspective of both passenger experience and business goals. In this particular project we developed service elements to improve the experience of boarding and alighting the train (and you can read more on this innovative and award-winning concept in our case study).

But while these concepts and the end result are important, I think that the process of how we developed them is perhaps even more important. Working closely with STBY, Prorail and NS, as well as travelers, ensured that every relevant party could contribute to the whole process, drawing on their own specific expertise. And the best work happens in a committed relationship.

Here’s a look behind the Service Design Process.

Start with the user

In the initial design research stage we collected customer insights on station platforms by asking passengers to share their daily experiences in dedicated diaries and interviews. Then, in co-creation workshops with ProRail and NS, we defined their main problems and worked together on possible improvements.

Based on these customer insights, we developed several possible solutions to improve the transfer process, from informing about the platforms, to mobile travel assistants, to new communication concepts preparing passengers for incoming trains.

An app isn’t always the answer

Looking at your phone isn’t always the best way to navigate through a physical space. Standing in front of a sign can feel more natural or intuitive, which is why the combination of an extended NS app and a platform screen was chosen for the implementation pilot. We evaluated and improved the selected concepts in workshops with the relevant stakeholders: communications managers, platform managers, real estate, travel information, etc. Rough ideas became more tangible, and connections to other projects were also discovered.

Testing ... Testing ...

In a 4 month test period, the use and viability of the new service was trialled in a live setting on a train line across The Netherlands (between Zwolle and Roosendaal). 11 trains were equipped with infrared sensors to measure the occupancy of each train carriage, and travelers could access this information either by downloading the app or by consulting a 200 meter long LED screen installed on the platform of the main ‘s-Hertogenbosch station.

Keeping the passenger at the center

During the pilot, we used a mix of quantitative and qualitative research methods to evaluate how travelers used the new app and the LED display. Over 700 train travelers shared regular feedback through online questionnaires. This data also allowed us to analyze the effect on traveler satisfaction, information needed to build a business case for a future roll-out of the services. Illustrating this data with personal use stories from the qualitative research made it possible to enrich the results of the quantitative data and allowed for an engaging way to communicate the services.

It’s expected that the project will get a follow-up at other stations—including Schiphol—over the course of this year, so there’s more to come.

Does your business team needs a kickstart on the service design process?

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