Customer service Disruption management 20.10.2021

Telephone-based rail disruption management

VR Group was looking to upgrade the call-handling system of its Operations Centre, and decided to put the contract out to tender. The Operations Centre’s main role is to manage rail disruptions, which is why an ordinary contact-centre set-up was not considered to be up to the task. Nevertheless, the telephone remains the most important communication and management tool when disruptions happen. 

Managing one train at a time is easy, but 90% of the Finnish rail network is single-track. This means that a problem with one train usually quickly escalates and soon affects dozens of others. Staff at the Operations Centre frequently find themselves facing a sudden flurry of calls both in and out. However, it is impossible to keep a large number of workers available to answer calls just in case a disruption should occur. 

‘For us, ensuring smooth-running operations in the event of disruption depends on identifying critically important calls and picking them instantly out of the phone queue’, says Traffic Information Manager Martti Uusinarkaus, who coordinates development at VR Group’s Operations Centre. ‘For example, the driver or conductor of the train that has encountered a fault, or possibly the driver of the replacement bus service, can be identified by the phone number when they call in, so that we can react to their call as fast as possible’, he adds. 

When a disruption occurs is not the time to start learning new tools; this is why another special requirement was that the new telephone system had to be easy to use. 

Advania came up with the answer 

‘Besides their trustworthy references, we chose Advania because of their agile way of working and genuine enthusiasm about developing a solution for our specialised needs. The solution provided by Advania also differs from others thanks to its call identification feature and clear user interface. Working with Advania felt effortless even though our requirements changed from the original plan in the middle of the project’, Uusinarkaus says. 

The new system perfectly meets the objectives set for the Operations Centre and has improved efficiency in practice. The system has shown what it can do, and experiences when rail delays occur have been good with positive feedback from users. The new system is also an improvement from a management point of view, as it comes with a reporting function that will enable performance monitoring going forward. Other new features of the system are also due to be deployed in the future.