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How to add surprise

March 6, 2019

Upgrades to Deutsche Bahn’s onboard experience encourage passengers to expect the unexpected, explains head of product, Christine Stockmann

Start by listening
Research by DB showed that 25% of Europeans use rail on a daily basis, 80% use it at least once a year but not everyone was entirely satisfied with the experience. DB wanted to improve on this so began a programme of product enhancements. 51% of their passengers are leisure travellers, 19% commuter travellers, 30% business travellers.

Fix functionality
Around 1,300 trains operate daily on DB’s long distance services, carrying 350,000+ guests between major cities. The operator identified the need for better functionality in its lounges and also a craving for more style, more exclusivity and more personal touches so a pilot programme of lounge enhancements was run in Nuremberg. These upped satisfaction rates from 69% to 87% and are now being rolled out in other locations.

Add surprises
In addition to mood enhancing upgrades around acoustics and lighting, DB trialled a programme of ‘surprises’ in the lounges which added unexpected treats depending on the time of day, season or date. So cold beers were served for two hours during a post-work ‘Happy Hour’ each day, fresh roses were given out on Women’s Day, ice creams were served in summer and seasonal treats include Easter cake and festive chocolates, and fortune cookies.

Roll it out
Trials in the lounges were so popular, DB and the ‘surprise’ programme also added unexpected touches onboard, with gingerbread hearts, for example, given out on some services and the chance to send seasonal greetings.

Reap rewards
The goal was to shift expectations and perceptions around the DB brand – and the surprises initiative had a wide impact as it was shared widely on social media.

Stockmann comments: “Our goal with all our upgrades is to make the journey more comfortable and functional whatever the passenger’s reason for travel and particular needs. The surprises programme was intended to also add those unexpected touches that turn journeys into really memorable moments.”