The following is a transcription of the Interview Gregory gave in French to Vincent Berthe from SNCF Digital Innovation. if you want to read the original you can find it here.
Located in the US and France, SmartNotify is a communication flow management platform. SmartNotify, offers its customers the guarantee to send the right messages, at the ideal time and this, via the optimal communication channel for each recipient. An innovative service that has not escaped SNCF’s interest. The founder of SmartNotify, Grégory Menvielle , explains why.
What is your partnership with SNCF?
SNCF, like other major groups, is confronted with the multiplication of communication channels. Whether the company targets its customers or its employees, the challenge remains the same. It is a challenge of identifying, according to the message as well as the recipient, the best way to reach its target. SmartNotify does that for them. Our role is to dispatch the information on the right channel according to the recipient and then to analyze the answers received.
For the moment, we are at an experimentation stage focusing on specific train lines:
Grenoble-Lyon in TER
Paris-Lille in TGV
Our role is to communicate around delays. Our integration with the SNCF API gives us access to real-time information. In the long term, we would also like to give the crew or the stationmaster the opportunity to trigger the broadcast of certain information directly.
What are the first lessons of this experimentation?
First, we got confirmation that while people want to receive notifications about alerts, the nature and time-sensitivity of the alert is what matters the most. Second, you must adapt your channels according to the connectivity-level of the traveler. For exemple, older customers like voice better than SMS or push that are preferred by the younger travelers. This is an example of improved customer relations, an critical point for SNCF. But, we are also working on optimizing internal communication. In particular, when railway workers are in poorly covered areas or abroad.
What started this partnership with SNCF?
In the United States, we are involved in a program to prevent accidents in public transport and freight. This attracted some attention in France and particularly within SNCF. Our first contact dates from July 2016 and as of the beginning of the school year, we had launched the prototype. SNCF Innovation was very reactive!
** Of course we started small, that’s by design, but we already know that a scale-up will not pose any major problems.
** We were also glad to see that SNCF shared our concerns about securing information and respecting privacy.
What are the initial objectives?
Travel information should be as fluid and clear as possible. And in times of crisis, treating the responses should be seamless. In case of an emergency, equipment failure or other problems, it is critical to relay as quickly as possible solutions and alternatives. And of course the transmission of information must also benefit all the agents/staff who should not find out information from the public first!
What worked best in this collaboration? And what should be improved?
SmartNotify has the advantage of integrating into existing systems. For this experiment, SNCF was able to choose precisely the departments in which we can bring the greatest added value. In the near future, we would like to be more in touch with the agents on the ground. Their feedback would allow us to optimize our tools and to better adapt the agents’ daily needs . Automating and managing alerts for railway workers is the other key axis of work. Especially when they are operating in a somewhat hostile environment.
What digital innovation would you like, or would you have liked, being at the origin?
Electricity, even if it does not sound very digital (laughs)! Seriously, how exciting would it be to witness Thomas Edison or Nikola Tesla doing their magic in their labs? What were their experimental approaches? How did they manage to rebound after a failure and finally find the solution? I would have liked to see it live.
And finally, if you were a connected object, would you?
Those used in neonatal services to ensure the well being of premature infants. Placed near the cradle, they ensure constant monitoring. They provide a constant, watchful eye on the infant, it's great.