As Virgin Trains' retained partner, we were super-excited to help launch the company's first voice experience for customers. We were especially excited about making journey booking even more accessible to all, backing up the company's commitment to passengers of all abilities.
Despite being excited by the possibilities offered by Amazon's voice interface since its launch, we were all unsure how or if customers would use a Virgin Trains voice service.
Our main objectives were to:
Work out if an Alexa Skill would be easy for customers to use and trust, and increase ticket sales.
Carry out a period of rapid research to identify customer needs and goals, and therefore the tasks for which they might use Alexa.
Identify and understand the marginal tasks or edge cases i.e. the kind of scenarios or user needs that don't occur often, but that can be just as important as most common tasks.
Ensure the skill is intuitive and negates the need for customers to switch from Alexa to a different method of booking, as well as allowing customers to speak to customer services.
What we did
After our planning workshop with the Virgin Trains team, we mapped out our approach to achieving the key business outcomes we collaboratively identified.
We spent time with the Virgin Trains team, based in Euston Station, shadowing staff at the ticket office and on the concourse to hear first-hand how customers interacted with them.
By running this ethnographic research we gained amazing insight into customer priorities and combined this insight with data from many other sources we have. It was clear to us that the main use case was going to be for regular travellers and commuters checking whether their train was on time.
We then worked closely with Virgin Trains' technical lead to develop a prioritisation matrix. Features were developed and prioritised based on usefulness to users, business value, and technical difficulty.
For example, we tried to avoid using external APIs are they tend to be more complex than data coming from internal sources, meaning increased cost and reliability issues.
We created user journeys for the most important features to fit with customer needs, demonstrating how key conversations would work with Alexa. We identified the 'happy paths' as well as mapping out interactions where customers might speak in an unexpected way. We also incorporated error-handling.
With the launch of this innovative collaboration, customers can now book Virgin Trains Advance Single tickets using just their voice via Alexa-enabled Amazon devices.
In its first iteration, the Virgin Trains Alexa skill provided users with information they needed about their train service, along with alerts so passengers could know of service disruption.
In line with the roadmap, Virgin Trains' Alexa Skill now includes ticket booking and payment, including a world first of offering Amazon Pay, which is already helping to reduce average booking times.
With an emphasis on innovation and a commitment to ensuring train travel is accessible to as many people as possible, Virgin Trains continues to iterate and improve the Alexa service.
The travel company has since gone on to integrate its ‘JourneyCare’ Alexa feature for disabled passengers, with Inviqa having provided the user testing support. This service, for people with special requirements, could previously only be booked by completing an online form or calling a helpline after train tickets were bought.
The Skill is just one of many Virgin Trains' products we've partnered with them on, helping increase ticket sales and conversions, whilst providing amazing customer experiences.