Dutch Railways are one of the most organized and well-run railway companies in the world. They’ve been doing this particular job for almost a century. They’re experts: they know their stuff.
And that’s exactly their problem.
We had snow today. Lots of snow. So I decided take the train to my noon-appointment instead of going there by car. I left the office happy of the prospect at not having to skid through sludge. I could already picture myself comfortably enjoying the scenery from a first class train carriage, assured I would get to my appointment on time.
That’s not exactly what happened. My train never arrived and the next one would be delayed. A solemn announcement warned us to ‘expect more delays and cancellations.’ That’s all the information we got.
What!? How was I supposed to find out if I could still be on time for my appointment?
Grumbling I found, downloaded and paid for this app (Trein) from Apple’s app-store. This took me about a minute. In turn it rook Trein less than a minute to tell me exactly how much delay I could expect. All relevant data came from the web. Dutch Railways must have the very same data at their disposal; they just don’t share it with the people who actually need it. That’s not how they think. That’s not how they operate.
Trein was created by a university student, Dennis Stevense. This killer app, initially called ‘NS’ (Dutch Railways) tells you exactly how the trains are running, and if you’ll make your connection. Instead of paying him handsomely for his hard work Dutch Railways pestered him for using their brand-name. Dennis simply renamed his free app ‘Trein’ and now charges €2.99 for it.
Obviously Dutch Railways missed an opportunity to generate revenue. More importantly they refused the chance to offer a great service to their customers. They are an industrial mammoth; obese, sluggish and impervious to good ideas.
There’s probably a reason why these thick skinned animals are extinct.