Huong Vuong
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Huong Vuong

Some ideas for digital transformation in passenger transportation

For the past two days, I have woken up earlier than usual. Not for work out exercise but suddenly unable to sleep. And I was thinking about what time I did at one of the largest passenger transportation companies in Vietnam.

TL;DR: Bus travel is the most popular form of transportation in Asia because it is convenient and does not require you to carry out cumbersome procedures such as traveling by air and does not need to know technology, even without literate also.

For nearly 10 years, with the increasing development of information technology, more and more human behaviors and habits have changed, including travel habits using technology.

I have been fortunate to work in a part of the passenger transport since 2013. My main job is to build and develop software to apply to business management and operation processes. And I have summarized some ideas and experiences that will be shared in this article from the perspective of a technology engineer.

What software does the bus operator need?

In the digital transformation process, I realized that a bus operator needs at least these software to apply the technology to its operations:

  1. Vehicle management: vehicle, fleet, garage,…
  2. Ticket management: book, confirm, print ticket,…
  3. Staff management: seller, customer service, driver,…
  4. Accountant management: invoice, tax,…

And the type of software can be:

  • Offline software: install as a program on your computer.
  • Online software: web, mobile app.

How to connect this software into a whole system?

This is not an easy problem and requires a bunch of time enough to build and adapt to the adjustments. But I suggest some principles that need to be agreed before we get started:

  1. Each software should be an independent service: the technical team should have the same perception that building each software should be independent of the other software in the system. One is to reduce dependency, one software dies, the other is still alive.
  2. The software must ensure the ability to allow other software to connect and share data: data sharing is required, i.e the fare should be shared between ticket software and accounting software.
  3. No software is irreplaceable: in the transition process, certainly, there will be many change processes in the operation that will require the software to change as well. This is easy to see when your business uses 3rd party services and may change in the future when there is no need or change partners.

Is there a need to build a technical team?

Heavily, this depends on the human resources and financial factors of the business. However, in the long run, I propose:

  1. Outsource all that you cannot handle or do best: especially in server administration, I see a lot of technical guys who don’t have much knowledge about this area, so they shouldn’t try to do it. Paying for 3rd party services and using Cloud as the best solution currently I know like Google Cloud, AWS Cloud, Azure, …
  2. Build a mini technical team, at least 1 to 2 engineers: a technical team with the main responsibilities of operating and managing running software and internal network, also ensuring smooth connections and quick response to incidents.

How about e-commerce?

E-commerce may not be needed for a business with only two or three vehicles. But imagine if you have 100 cars in the future, what will you do to fill up the seats and get a lot of passengers who know your business from the internet, especially foreign traveling. And to apply e-commerce, you need at least the following:

  1. Website: introducing your business, upload new photo activities, promotion campaigns, … Especially, customers can book tickets on your website.
  2. Mobile app: one of the most popular ways to approach customers today is through their phones. Customers can book tickets on their phones also and get your promotion notification easier.
  3. Payment: website and mobile app need to support customers pay their booking tickets via payment gateway or e-wallet like ZaloPay, Mono, Moca,…Or at least you have a bank account for the customer can transfer money.

It is very necessary to build a customer care center

This is extremely important as your business grows, leading to a lot of problems that need to be dealt with every day, including solving your customer problems.

  1. Call center: build a call center to help your customers can raise their problems easily. Example: they can not book tickets on your website/app due to a software issue or corrupted when paying,…I know there are many cheap VoiceIP cloud solutions you should consider when building a call center.
  2. Online supporters: if your business is operating stability and you do not want to break existing processes, then when you apply e-commerce you will also need to build a dedicated support team for the e-commerce segment.

Automation day by day

The best way to save operating costs I suppose:

  1. Software integration: one of the responsibilities of the technical engineer is ensuring software does not dies and smooth connections. They need to set up a monitoring system & setting automatic alerts when software gets high load. There are some tools can help like Datadog, Grafana, LightStep, PagerDuty,…
  2. Operation processes: a typical example like passenger check-in flow, it can be done automatically via a touch screen located at a bus stop or automatic ticket scanners such as taking the subway. And the embedded software for these machines is connected to your system.
  3. User experience: today we are required to use GPS on cars from gov and we can use GPS for other purposes also like sending a notification to a passenger when the bus is coming to the stop.

Some of these ideas are for you to imagine the digital transformation process in other transportation businesses. It's difficult to say whether the process will be difficult or easy. Because it depends on the thinking of the leader and the adaptability of the staff. But people say:

If you don’t start, how can you get it?

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