Virgin Trains (Alexa Skill)

Innovating to create a world-first with Alexa

We helped Virgin Trains become the UK's first train operator to provide a seamless voice experience, and the first UK company to integrate their Skill with Amazon Pay.

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The challenge

As Virgin Trains' retained partner, we were super-excited to help launch their first voice experience for customers. We were all in particular excited about making journey booking even more accessible to all, backing up the company's commitment to passengers of all abilities.

Despite being excited by the possibilities offered by Amazon's voice interface since its launch, we were all unsure how or if customers would use a Virgin Trains voice service.

Our main objectives were to:

  1. Work out if an Alexa Skill could be put live that would be easy for customers to use and trust, and increase ticket sales
  2. Carry out a period of rapid research to identify customer needs and goals, and therefore the tasks they might use Alexa for
  3. Identify and understand the marginal tasks or edge cases - the kind of scenarios or user needs that don't occur often, but that can be just as important as most common tasks
  4. Ensure the skill is intuitive and avoids customers having to switch from Alexa to a different method of booking, as well as allowing customers to speak to customer services

Webcredible ran research on the concourse with our colleagues and customers to find out their needs - this was like seeing an MVP of the Skill

James Noon

Senior Digital Technologist, Virgin Trains

Our approach

After our planning workshop with the Virgin Trains team, we mapped out our approach to achieving the key business outcomes we collaboratively identified

  1. We spent time with the Virgin Trains team based in Euston Station - shadowing staff at the ticket office and on the concourse to hear first-hand how customers interacted with them.
  2. By running this ethnographic research, we gained amazing insight into customer priorities and combined this insight with data from many other sources we have. It was clear to us that the main use case was going to be for regular travellers/commuters checking if their train was on time.
  3. We then worked closely with Virgin Trains' technical lead to develop a prioritisation matrix. Features were developed and prioritised based on usefulness to users, business value and technical difficulty.
  4. For example, we tried to avoid using external APIs are they tend to be more complex than data coming from internal sources, meaning increased cost and reliability issues.
  5. We created user journeys for the most important features to fit with customer needs, demonstrating how key conversations would work with Alexa.?We identified the 'happy paths' as well as mapping out interactions where customers might speak in an unexpected way. We also incorporated error-handling.

We collaboratively mapped out user journeys based on customers' mental models

Impact & results

In its first iteration, the ground-breaking Alexa Skill provided customers with information about their train service, along with alerts so passengers could know of service disruption.

In line with the roadmap, Virgin Trains' Alexa Skill now includes ticket booking and payment (including a world-first of doing immediate payment with Amazon Pay), reducing average booking times.

The Skill is just one of many Virgin Trains' products we've partnered with them on, helping increase ticket sales and conversions, whilst providing amazing customer experiences.

  • We designed an Alexa Skill that enables customers to book tickets using just their voice
  • We designed an Alexa Skill that enables customers to book tickets using just their voice

Here are some more clients we work with

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