As part of the EHL EMBA program, we were presented with an appealing prospect of undertaking a series of CEO challenges. For all of us on the course it represented a rare and exciting opportunity to generate ideas and “out of the box” thinking towards complex corporate challenges and present our findings and proposals to the CEO and board members of important hospitality companies.
The first of these challenges was launched on 14th January with the presence of Mr Andreas Bergmann (CEO) and Ms Nathalie Coutrot (Director Marketing & Sales) of the famous railway group: TGV Lyria.
Transportation is a branch of the hospitality industry that does not always come straight to mind but presents important challenges in the present day. "Railway transportation has emerged as a fast, convenient, safe, clean and low-cost alternative to air and road travel. In Europe alone, high-speed rail traffic has more than tripled over the past decade, and rail has surpassed air travel in the short-haul trip segment", according to an analysis by the Cisco® Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG). Because of this, rail operators are focusing on growth and on strategies to improve customer service and increase the efficiency and productivity of their operations.
Within this context, our mission was to address the following issues for TGV Lyria:
• Revamp its service offer and brand positioning in general • Increase market attractiveness toward a younger generation • Increase market attractiveness toward foreign travelers
Steps have already been taken by TGV Lyria to attract younger generations with carefully selected partners such as tennis player Stan Wawrinka. Andreas Bergman, CEO Lyria said: "Stan has long impressed me with his technical expertise, exemplary conduct and friendly manner”. These are evidently factors he sees TGV Lyria possessing and wanting Stan’s fan base to associate with as well.
We had 3 weeks to approach these concerns in groups. Before we started the work in earnest, the company was very generous in offering every EMBA student a return ticket to Paris. This allowed us to fully experience the product, which in turn would help us analyze and revamp the service offer as well as increase market attractiveness towards the younger generation and foreign travelers.
When approaching issues of this scale, it is key to be as creative and innovative as possible. At the beginning, a mentality of “no idea is a bad idea” is imperative to allow for open thinking and for the team to get all ideas out in the open. These ideas included appealing to the younger generation with attractive and lively imagery, such as Paris fashion show or skiing in the Swiss Alps, on their social media platforms or in short edited videos to create a buzz around the company. These images and videos are there to portray the destinations that TGV Lyria serves rather than directly promote the train itself. Ideas to increase market attractiveness to the foreign travelers included block selling whole carriages to Asian tour groups. This would allow them to relax in their own “private” environment and increase their revenue and market share in the regions.
Concepts to improve the service offering were greatly aided by our sponsored return trip to Paris and being able to experience both classes of travel. Many of us travel by train on a regular basis, but usually for shorter journeys where the idea of a professional service offering is not as vital. However, for TGV Lyria's 4-6 hour cross-country journeys it is critical that they offer service in line with their low-cost airline competitors. Each team came up with proposals to improve the service offering on board, such as; luggage racks with locks to increase safety and security on board, a loyalty card system that is adopted by many airlines and a more professional and hospitality orientated staff to name but a few. These ideas were listened to by the board with many of them acknowledged as serious issues needing to be addressed. Receiving feedback of that nature by senior executives encouraged us all and made us realize that all of our hard work had paid off.
The day of presenting our ideas, the board assured us that deciding on the winning team was a true challenge for them. In the end it deservedly went to the team of Ms Pratida (Bua) Charungchitpracharom, Ms Adeline Grillet, Ms Yulia Mitina and Mr Rodrigo Riveroll. Their video interpretation of how to attract the younger generation to use the TGV Lyria service was truly inspiring and I hope that their ideas, along with many others from opposite teams, will be implemented in TGV Lyria's future service offering and marketing strategies. No doubt they will enjoy their reward and have an incredible time in Paris!
Many thanks to all the board members in attendance: Jean-Yves Leclercq (SNCF), Antoine Fontanel (SNCF), Armin Weber (CFF), Lukas Stauffacher (CFF), Urban Ehret (CFF), Andreas Bergmann (TGV Lyria), Nathalie Coutrot (TGV Lyria) and Marie-Ange Daguillon (TGV Lyria).