TfL's Chris Macleod on being always-on for 30m 'contacts' a day

With 30 million "customer and user contacts" a day, Chris Macleod, Transport for London's marketing director, wants to "surprise, delight and innovate" but knows the basics come first.

TfL has over 30m 'contacts' with customers and users per day
TfL has over 30m 'contacts' with customers and users per day

It’s the planning season. Like many businesses, our financial year begins in April, so over the past few weeks, and for a few more to come, I am working through marketing plans.

Peak London

It’s sometimes hard to believe it’s 2015. When I was a growing up it was often a year when sci-fi films and predictions were set. Flying cars, teleportation, jet packs; what became of them?

But one thing that is looking pretty certain is the continued growth in London’s population "Peak London", the last population high-point, was in 1939, when it hit 8.4 million. We will reach that again this year, possibly in the next few weeks.

Bus, Tube and road journeys account for an incredible 30 million customer and user ‘contacts’ a day. 

By 2030, it’s expected to be more than 10 million. Growth equivalent to an additional full Tube train every three days, which helps explain the need for significant and consistent investment in our transport system to support it.

I’m still amazed by the scale and variety of our services and the associated marketing and information support that is required. Bus, Tube and road journeys account for an incredible 30 million customer and user "contacts" a day.

Then there is our responsibility for road safety, taxis, river services, cycle hire, the Congestion Charge – the list goes on.

Delivering on purpose

So we need to ensure that people know and understand how the capital’s transport system works, how to get the most from it and deliver on our purpose: to keep London working and growing and make life in London better.

That makes for a lot of plans, covering everything from promoting the new contactless card payment system (going well) to what appears on our 19,200 bus stops. (Last year we ran more than 70 major campaigns.)

We’re seeing huge growth in the use of mobiles to access our online services and a continuing rise in customer demand for real-time information and support. 

Integration is a continuous theme, as we look to use and co-ordinate all the channels to achieve our objectives, while delivering value for money; as is digital in all its various guises.

We’re seeing huge growth in the use of mobiles to access our online services and a continuing rise in customer demand for real-time information and support. So our intention is to be "always-on" for Londoners – and visitors, another area where we have plans to improve our offering.

A customer-service business that happens to do transport

Although Transport for London is a public organisation, we aim to operate like any other customer-service business. The Commissioner (our equivalent of a chief executive) likes to say that we need to be "a customer-service business that happens to do transport".

Under our "Every journey matters" banner we have been making real efforts to put our customers (and users, because many don’t pay us money directly, but still use our services) at the heart of our business.

Surprise, delight and innovation are important, but for a lot of the time it is simply about getting the basics right.

So one particular initiative I’m working on right now is "Pain Points". Through customer research and feedback we’re identifying the various issues – some big, some small, but all of which affect a lot of people – that mean our services are not all they could be.

We’ll then bear down on them relentlessly. It’s not rocket science and will be an approach familiar to many service businesses.

Surprise, delight and innovation are important, but for a lot of the time it is simply about getting the basics right. We’ve seen important improvements in our customer metrics and are more trusted than ever, but we are not complacent and there is much still to do.

Marketers need broader managament skills

On the personal front, I have been planning for the Marketing Aca­demy Fellowship programme. I was fortunate to be selected for this last year, and am working with a great group of senior marketers.
Supported by McKinsey, it helps develop the general management capabilities of CMOs.

To progress in their careers marketers not only need to be customer champions and drivers of reputation and growth, but also to have broader management skills and sensibilities.

The preparatory work for the September launch of the Night Tube is also starting to occupy my thoughts.

The Underground running through the night at weekends will be an historic development for London and presents an interesting positioning challenge, as well as creative opportunity.

I’m also beginning to pull together a programme for ‘Transported by Design’, our celebration of all that is great about the quality and range of design on our transport system (and we’re looking for sponsors).

I could go on and on about this incredible, and continually fasci­nating, organisation, but I need to get the bus. My mobile app tells me there’ll be one along in five minutes. And 2030 won’t be far behind.

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