Today Metro shuts down its SMS Alerts service. It has been running since September 2001, when it was introduced (the day before 9/11), initially for Connex Connector Plus (Connex-only yearly ticketholders) — and back when Connex only covered half the rail network, of course. It spread to all customers and all lines later, along with timetable enquiries via SMS as well.
Metro later inherited the service, but by that point the alerts were costing them tens of thousands of dollars a month in fees.
When I surveyed the timeliness of SMS alerts in 2011, I found most were received early or on time.
But with the cost, it was hardly surprising Metro would be looking for alternatives. This year they’ve brought in the app for iOS and Android, and stepped-up on their Twitter and web updates as well. These avenues now all provide very high quality information. The only thing they lack compared to SMS alerts is that (apart from the app) they don’t push the information to you (the app does, though there are some issues with it), and the times aren’t personalised to your station, as the SMSs were.
Eventually it’s hoped there will be train and bus equivalents to Tram Tracker… this has been promised some time ago. No ETA yet. (Perhaps we need a Train/Bus Tracker Tracker?)
SEPTEMBER 6th 2001: CONNEX SENDS A MESSAGE TO ITS CUSTOMERS
Recognising the value of customers’ time was the driving force behind the introduction of a unique and exciting new service announced today by Connex Melbourne.
A first for rail transport in Australia, the tailored SMS messaging service to be introduced on September 10, harnesses the latest in communications technology to bring new convenience to Connex ‘Connector Plus’ customers.
The Connector Plus program was introduced by Connex late last year to recognise and reward customers who make long-term commitment to use regular Connex services.
Connex General Manager Marketing, Felicia Mariani, said the introduction of the new SMS service and its innovative technology follows extensive consumer research over the past year.
“Findings show customers realise with a passenger services of our size, things can happen that affect schedules – that’s part of the nature of our business. What customers do expect, however, is to be made aware of these situations in time to adjust their own schedules,” Ms Mariani said.
“We wanted to develop a product that could bridge the current communications gap with customers. The new messaging service will communicate directly with our Connector Plus customers, notifying them if their regular train services in the morning and evening peak are delayed by longer than 15 minutes or cancelled for any reason. The messages are customised to the station and times of travel nominated by the customers. In this way they only receive information relevant to their own personal travel patterns.
“One of the unique features of the messaging service, which further add to customer convenience, is the independence from any particular telecommunications company, giving access to customers regardless of their mobile phone carrier.
“This initiative has been a collaborative effort between Connex and a number of key partners. Connex appointed e-move australia to facilitate development of a unique program that would be tailored to the specific requirements of the rail industry. e-move then worked with our interactive partner, Leo Burnett Digital, which developed the strategic solution and along with its wireless partner, Platypus, designed the web-based application and database to drive the program.
“The coming together of these partners provided Connex with a one-off tailored solution that responded to specific needs of our customers more thoroughly than existing ‘off-the-shelf’ products.
“Connex will continue to explore innovation and technology to improve the reliability and convenience of our services,” concluded Ms Mariani.