Monday, 9 November 2009

15 years of Eurostar

Can it really be 15 years since the French joined the British by train thanks to Eurostar? The butt of many jokes before it was launched and saddled by enormous debt, it could have been a huge disaster. Instead, it is an exciting and efficient method of transport that allows its customers to get into the heart of 4 major city centres in the time it takes you to get into the Heathrow car park.

When it was launched in November 1994, the age of cheap air travel was arriving with Ryanir already carrying 1.6 million passengers a year. London to Paris is a mere 40 minute flight so why take the train?

It’s just a far better customer experience all round.

1) Leave right from the heart of Paris or London. Paris’ leading airport, Roissy is a good 45 minute train journey from the centre of Paris and is vying for the crown of “most depressing airport in the world”

2) Check in only 20 minutes before

3) Keep your bags with you and not have them thrown around by a grumpy air baggage handler

4) No deep vein thrombosis or earache - have a walk down the train to stretch your legs and definitely more leg room than easyjet or ryanair.

To celebrate its 15 years, Eurostar are planning a new press, radio, outdoor and digital campaign by Fallon to encourage viewers to visit their social media site

It seems like Eurostar are emphasising the ease of travel and promoting shorter trips if not day trips. One execution will read ‘Paris for an anniversary gift; Paris because it's Saturday'.

All good stuff, it is just a shame that their booking system is still so clunky I tried to book a ticket once and gave up. Once you have chosen a couple of tickets, you have to start again if you want an earlier or later train and the site makes it difficult to see the cheapest return options. When I clicked on “Continue booking” as a guest , there was a system error. The time before that the whole booking engine was down.

In conclusion, it really is a great actual customer experience once you are at the station and is so efficient that I even have a friend who lives in Peterborough and commutes to Paris to work. What’s more, the trains even run when the French transport workers are on strike.

However, the online customer experience needs a lot more TLC.

Hope the people from Eurostar sort that out before they spend millions on a swish advertising campaign and then lose a signficant % through poor usability. Can anyone afford that in these hard times?

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