Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Technology: Help! New train ticketing software

Today the Dutch Railways (NS) had new software on their ticketing machines.
I got to know about it because the lady in front of me said the machine was not working. It normally asks you for the first letter of the city you want to travel to. Then it gives you the options of the various cities starting with that letter. With the new software, it still asks for the first letter of the city you want to travel to; but then it asks for the second letter. On top of that -totally unexpected- question there are only few letters of the alphabet you can chose from (for instance if you chose D from the Hague, you can only chose the a, o, e and i. So the lady kept on repeated her first letter again and again, and the machine did not react. Later in the train they announced the introduction of the new software because they had a lot of questions about it.

It's a story about how easily people get used to routineous use of technology and get upset when things work differently. Or a story about how to upset the Netherlands (people are no longer upset by train delay....)

I just discovered you can practice with the ticketing machines online. A nice exercise for people abroad who intend to travel to the Netherlands. Unfortunately it still runs with the old software.


hoong said...

A few months ago Zoetermeer town council renovated the library. With the renovation they brough in new way of operating the library. They streamlined the coin-machines where one can purchase tickets/time for using the computer and internet, printing, photo-copying, and paying for the books one borrow etc.

Since I basically only use the place to do my printing (I do not have a printer at home), it improves somewhat but also creating other problems. At least for me. BUT ...

... the way they carried out implimenting the changes is very efficient. For about 2 months there were extra help showing and helping the customers to adjust to the new changes. I am very impress.

Perhaps NS can learn a thing or two from the Zoetermeer library.

Joitske Hulsebosch said...

Nice to hear that they did it so well. For the NS it would already have helped if they had a banner stating the questions have changed. (don't think they should even say the software has changed, for most people it doesn't mean anything)

hoong said...

The policy of NS is to 'FORCE' changes to her customers. They took away all the ticket offices from Zoetermeer except one. That was not the problem. The problem is, they EVEN TOOK away the agentship from the newsagent selling tickets. They expect we all have chip or ATM cards to buy ticket from the machines. BUT the machines (those that we have at the 2 stations near me) are old ones, that mean they do not give me the flexibility to purchase ticket that I have to change via another station, or purchase ticket NOT Zoetermeer as a starting point.

Looks to me NS has very little interest in understanding their customers. They are even going to take away all the international offices next year (I think). They expect foreign travellers buying tickets online, or by phone.

Technology is good. BUT if it is not properly manage, technology becomes a monster. Not the fault of technology, but the people who are incharged of making things work. They forget, at the other end of technology, is a HUMAN user.