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Guest column: Thetrainline.com, CEO, Clare Gilmartin

Imagine the scenario; you have just received a last-minute notification at 6pm via a diary invite. There’s an important meeting first thing tomorrow at 9.30am, and, as your office is based in London, you need to book train tickets for three of your colleagues to get to the meeting in Manchester. Your diary is integrated with Thetrainline.com, and so immediately presents the cheapest and best available ticket for the journey – and all within travel policy, of course.

With one click, you are able to book three return tickets. Immediately, you receive a confirmation email of the tickets booked, while your three colleagues receive their train tickets on their Thetrainline.com app and details of the journey are added to the diary invite in their individual calendars. An expense record can be automatically generated at the same time, if required.

The next day, all three colleagues receive a reminder via their mobile phone and/or wearable device, as their GPS recognises that they are on the way to the station. It displays how many minutes until they arrive, and enables a seamless journey through the station: as they pass through the barriers with mobile tickets, they are told which carriage they are in and guided to their seats.

You, meanwhile, are notified that they’ve boarded the train and are now on the way to Manchester. Your company security team is also notified so they know three employees are actually travelling on that service, and that they are traceable, contactable and safe, thereby addressing your company’s duty-of-care obligations, too.

Such technology will completely revolutionise the customer experience. Real-time information already gives us live departure times and platform numbers, and lets us know if a train is delayed and by how long.

And we’re already thinking about the next steps, such as being able to offer customers promotions, refunds and compensation based on their travel, as they experience it at that moment. Imagine receiving an automatic credit on your Thetrainline.com account when we know you are sitting on a delayed train service; or, where a delay is known in advance, we can push a notification so you can leave for the train a little later – or spend a bit more time enjoying a coffee and sending some last-minute emails at the local café before you board the train.

You don’t even have to worry about the taxi you had booked to collect you at your destination, as the driver has been alerted of your new delayed arrival time, too.

The service would still be supported by comprehensive and intelligent management information – advising where you can make savings on your business rail travel and highlighting the most booked ticket types or most travelled routes. You’ll have all the insight you need to demonstrate value, efficiency and drive compliance.

The future will be intuitive, innovative and relevant, delivering smarter journeys and a fantastic customer experience for business travellers, both in the UK and across Europe, giving them travel management in their pocket.

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