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Eurail races along the tracks with Zendesk and AI

Travel company Eurail, which provides the renowned Eurail and Interrail Passes for train hopping tourists, is shaking up its customer service offering by using Zendesk to improve its product and service.

Eurail
“We have a core of really well-trained and experienced agents who can focus on the customer-related cases that require the human touch, while we automate the rest.”

Mireille Verweij

Head of Customer Service at Eurail

“We have the space to explore options, make improvement plans and changes using automation, and expand to internal B2B requests, such as IT incidents. We did all these things starting with Zendesk, and now, we’re building on it and bringing in new partners.”

Leonardo Sias

Product Owner at Eurail

HQ

Utrecht, Netherlands

Founded

1959

CSAT

82%

Number of agents

50-110 (depending on season)

3.4 hrs

First Response Time

95%

improvement in First Response Time

14.8 hrs

Full Response

85%

improvement in Full Response Time

Eurail B.V.

Navigating the Eurail experience with 33,000 travellers annually

Many travellers consider Eurailing and Interrailing around Europe a rite of passage. Over the years, the idea of train hopping across Europe has captured the imagination of all age groups, even as further-afield destinations have become increasingly accessible.

Eurail and Interrail Passes allow travellers to explore 33 European countries by rail, providing access to more than 250,00 kilometres of railway tracks. More than 1,200,000 Interrail and Eurail Passes were sold in 2023, a 25% growth from 2022. Eurail and Interrail Passes are marketed and managed by Eurail B.V. which is owned by over 35 European railway and shipping companies.

With thousands of customers and multiple Pass options, Eurail’s customer service team has always been in high demand, especially in peak summer season when the team can grow from 60 agents to up to 110.

While agents deal with similar queries to many B2Cs, there is an extra layer of emotion when things go wrong with travel; let’s face it, being stranded in a foreign country isn’t exactly anyone’s idea of a good holiday. But itineraries don’t always go to plan – travellers can find themselves facing train strikes, cancellations, or even having their tickets stolen – and the Eurail customer service team endeavours to be there to help.

From overwhelmed to supercharged

An influx of queries resulting from the post-pandemic travel surge in 2022 left Eurail’s agents overwhelmed. But last year, the 65-year-old company took time to transform its customer service department by delving into customer insights from the Zendesk Suite.

“I’m honestly so proud that the company is now more focused on the customer – last year we analysed customer struggles, delved into our insights and worked out what we could improve,” says Mireille Verweij, Head of Customer Service, who explains how she restructured her team to include senior supervisors with more focus and expertise on Pass, reservation and travel queries to action complex queries and oversee the operations.

“We now empower customer service within the whole company because of the data we get through Zendesk,” says Eurail Product Owner; Leonardo Sias, pointing to changes made to the product after the team flagged customer pain points from its vast amount of data.

Take the fact that Eurail historically wouldn’t allow customers to move their Rail Pass onto a different mobile device, in an effort to prevent fraudulent activity; this became a problem when customers lost or needed new smartphones. “We would have thousands of requests a week from customers asking to move their Pass to another device,” explains Sias. “Agents would manually disconnect Passes in the back-end, because we can’t leave travellers stranded, but the process took a long time. So, we took this as a business case to the company, checked with legal teams and worked with partners to make the technical change to allow customers to do it themselves.”

Simple changes to improve the product have reduced customer inquiries so agents can focus on more pressing problems. In addition, the team is encouraging customers to self-serve, which has seen tickets reduced by more than 50%.

The company’s CSAT score has increased to an impressive 82%, with Eurail’s First Response Time now 3.4 hours, an incredible 95% faster than only a year ago. Meanwhile, the Full Response Time averages at 14.8 hours, 85% faster than in 2022.

Service improvements

Eurail is also working with Zendesk partner Ultimate to automate processes using AI. AI is being used to read written customer requests for refunds that would normally not fit into the company policy, flagging certain terms like ‘emergency’ or ‘funeral’, and escalate them directly to a senior agent who has the authority to process refunds in exceptional circumstances.

Eurail also found another partner through the Zendesk app store, Sparkly, to replace the Excel spreadsheet agents were using to manually fill in customer bank details, which were then sent to Eurail's finance team for processing. Mitigating the risk of human error, Sparkly’s API simply plugs into the Zendesk Suite and pulls the ticket information, producing a report that the finance team can easily process.

Eurail believes that, by using Zendesk and leveraging AI, the company is eliminating the seasonality in its hiring process – which helps keep consistency in its service. “We have a core of really well-trained and experienced agents who can focus on customer-related cases that require the human touch, while we automate the rest,” Verweij says.

Delivering this human touch is a core part of the company’s mission. “When customers are travelling to countries they’ve never visited, which are potentially alien to them, and they have concerns over strikes or cancellations, it’s important that they can have a direct conversation with us,” he says. “Even though our agents don’t always have a magic wand to solve the problem, it’s still important to have the chance to speak to someone who could help you.”

“It’s so nice to see my team happy, helping customers have a nice trip – coming from a situation where they were only able to apologise for delays, it completely changes the service,” Verweij adds.

And while Zendesk might have started in the customer service department, Verweij and Sias can see the wider potential and are looking for ways to use the platform internally.

“We have the space to explore options, make improvement plans and changes using automation, and expand to internal B2B requests such as IT incidents. We did all these things starting with Zendesk, and now we’re building on it and bringing in new partners,” says Sias. “If we didn’t have Zendesk anymore, it would be a nightmare, it’s so central to the whole business.”

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