Proactive Customer Service for Transportation Operators

As a long-time practitioner of Complex Event Processing (referred to as “CEP”) technologies, I see the world in a different way – seemingly difficult problems can easily be solved by this technology.  Whenever I hear of a business problem needing timely responses to critical events, I think “CEP!”  Whenever a customer asks how they can get their business users more involved in operational decisions and influence outcomes, I say “CEP!”  And whenever I read an article where the author asserts that companies need to modernize to be more proactive and customer-centric, I think “I need to call that guy and tell him about ‘CEP!’”

Here’s one case:

(Photo: Reuters / Sean Yong )

Jim Taylor, Vice President of CSC’s Travel & Transportation Industry Group, wrote an article entitled “Intelligent Rail Systems… But where’s my cargo?”  .  The salient point of Jim’s article is that while the rail industry is moving to embrace new technology to help deliver effective transportation systems, there are customer service aspects that are not being addressed which could deliver tremendous benefit to customers. These include timely updates back to customers on the location of their cargo, the current condition of temperature-sensitive or time-sensitive cargos, and the impact on external conditions (weather, accidents and traffic) that can disrupt schedules.  I recommend you read the article; it’s a great view into the future of rail and the transportation industry.


Transportation operators are moving at different paces from a data-poor operating environment to one that is data-rich.  The proliferation of sensor data, from locomotive fuel usage sensors to rail car wheel bearing temperature sensors to GPS sensors that provide location, direction, and speed data, is the first phase of operational monitoring.  Beyond this initial phase of “what, where and when”, additional data such as cargo manifests, crew scheduling, and customer information play a key role in intelligent rail operations.

Let’s consider this scenario:

You deploy CEP technology to provide you with situational awareness you’ve never had before.  Now you can detect the fact that “Train A is currently 100 miles from the yard and will arrive 45 minutes late” using geospatial and temporal analysis of CEP.

But what does that mean to your customers?  The train is still going to be late, the customer doesn’t know that it’s late, and they’re waiting for it.  Imagine if that same CEP system can also enrich/look-up against cargo manifests and customer information to discover that your largest (and most profitable) customer has a shipment on that late train.

Now the story changes.  Your customer service group can proactively contact the customer with the following, “Hello Mr. Customer Dispatcher, we’re tracking that the train will arrive 45 minutes past schedule and will instead arrive at Receiving Yard #4.  This will allow you to move your trucks to that location so you’re ready for the shipment.  Also, to help you make up for lost time, we’re going to process the dispatch paperwork now while the train is in transit.”

If I was a customer of that railway, I know I would be quite impressed and very loyal to them for future business.  (I actually wish my preferred airline treated me that way. See Scott Fingerhut’s blog on a recent airline experience.)  Imagine if proactive customer service delivered by CEP technology is extended to the entire transportation industry.  Imagine if other transportation operators have the same capabilities where they can share real-time information across container shipping, truckers and logistic providers.  A complete, end-to-end situational awareness platform providing fanatical customer experiences in a centuries-old industry.

How could you use CEP to help you provide proactive customer service in your business?

This entry was posted in Business Impact / Benefits, Complex Event Processing, Customer Acquisition & Retention, Customer Services, Customers, Operational Efficiency, Real-Time. Bookmark the permalink.

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