Are new customer expectations making members of staff look out of touch?

Chris Sheldon, Client Solutions Director in London, UK
19 June 2019

There is no doubt that the adoption of digital solutions by the everyday person has accelerated rapidly over the past few years. In the first half of 2018, 78% of the UK population used a smartphone. People have quickly realised that apps and services offered across digital can easily give them more information fast and effectively, giving them more time for the more important things in life like spending time with friends or family.

Stepping back even as little as 10-15 years ago, the way people gained their information for various tasks about their life was fundamentally different. Let’s take the example of getting a train. The ticket would be purchased from a ticket booth with a train employee handing you a whole host of paper tickets that you trusted would get you to your desired destination. You’d then look up at a swathe of screens and try and identify the train you were getting and which platform it would be on.

Train app london northwestern railway app somo global

Let’s fast forward again to the present day. This process has now come a long way. Tickets are now purchased via an app or website. In 2017, 39% of people said they either always or very frequently buy train tickets via digital versus a ticket booth. Equally, there are multiple apps and websites that can also be used by customers to understand if their train is delayed, which platform it is on, how many carriages it has etc.

It’s clear that digital has truly changed the experience of the customer for the better. Being able to purchase and use tickets all from a smartphone – as well as use that same smartphone to check updates to their planned journey – has created customer efficiencies and also raised the expectation for timely, accurate information when travelling, be that a train, plane or taxi.

However, whilst digital is improving a number of aspects of travelling there are still occasions when we really need to speak to a member of staff at the train station or airport for that added assurance.

Getting a recent train from London Euston my app was telling me my train was delayed, but the platform had stayed the same. I was unsure of this so went and asked a member of staff for confirmation. To my horror, whilst I was using my shiny, informative app to get my information, the employee began fumbling through a wad of paper timetables to try and give me the right answer to my question. During my conversation with the member of staff, it became apparent that they were not aware of the delay, possibly due to them using printouts of timetables that had clearly been done earlier in the day, and obviously no way of being able to have a live update. I didn’t quite understand as to why me, the customer, had access to all the latest delays and platforms, yet the member of staff who spent their whole day at Euston answering customers questions was still reliant on a very traditional way of gaining and sharing information.

Equally, these challenges are not just restrained to the transport industry. There are many examples across other industries where the customers access to digital services means that on the occasion they speak to company staff, they can often already be more informed than the staff themselves. A recent personal experience saw me visit a car dealership well informed on a new offer they had, yet when I spoke to a member of staff they knew less about the vehicle than myself and unaware of any new offers.

The above examples really hit home the point that whilst a brand can be heavily focused on delivering digital products that improve the customers journey and experience, there should also be a focus on delivering those digital tools that equally allow brand employees and ambassadors to have that same information (if not more) that can further enhance the customer experience and sense of worth when engaging with a brand.


At Somo, we design and build digital products that are aimed at serving both customers, staff and customer/staff collaboration, ensuring a seamless, efficient experience for all stakeholders in a customer journey. A recent example is the launch of Skoda’s Digital Assistant which brings all the latest information and news on Skoda and its vehicles to the fingertips of its staff.