Interview with Thalys International’s new CEO Agnès Ogier

Interview with Thalys International’s new CEO Agnès Ogier

26.May.2015

Under the helm of its freshly appointed CEO Agnès Ogier, Thalys International is entering a new period in its history, to become an independent corporate entity. Agnès Ogier shared some of her visions for the future of Thalys with The Corporate Traveller Magazine.

High speed rail to 26 stations in 4 countries

Since its creation in 1996, Thalys’ high speed rails network has grown to cover 26 destinations spread over 4 countries, at speeds of up to 300 km/h.

Besides key cities such as Paris, Lille, Brussels, Antwerp, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, Thalys provides convenient links to five airports - Paris Charles de Gaulle, Brussels Airport, Charleroi Sud, Schiphol Amsterdam Airport and Düsseldorf Airport. Until now the status of Thalys has been as the commercial and marketing arm of the high speed rail service managed by SNCF, SNCB and Deutsche Bahn, with Netherlands Railways operating the trains in the Netherlands. This is about to change, at the end of March, when Thalys will become an independent entity.

Thalys becomes an independent rail operator

SNCF and SNCB will hold 60% and 40% of the new company’s shares respectively, while Deutsche Bahn and Netherlands Railways will continue to assist with train operations in Germany and the Netherlands. Thalys will now be directly responsible for all of its 26 trains and staff of over 500, based in France and Belgium. This new autonomy will give Thalys a more agile organisation, while direct management of its staff will enable it to be more concentrated on quality of service.

“Thalys has already achieved much in its almost 20 years” says Agnès Ogier. “Now we will be able to leverage all of this experience, but we will be writing our own story as an international operator. We need to remain in constant evolution, both technically and commercially, to continue our high levels of customer satisfaction.”

Technology and services to anticipate increased competition and customer expectations

“In the future we are likely to see more competition - not just on the high speed rail market but also with other forms of transport that target the more cost sensitive traveller, such as car-sharing and low cost airlines” says Agnès Ogier. “Now more than ever, we need to stay ahead of customer expectations, with personalised, segmented offers and digital and technological innovations. These run throughout the customer experience – from apps and dematerialisation of tickets, through to the service itself and after-sales service. Paradoxically, these new technolo- gies also require a more ‘hands on’, human approach, for direct contact with clients.”

“Technology has enabled us to establish direct links with our clients for instantaneous two-way communications. In the business world of today, where information and even misinformation can spread rapidly through the net, these direct client links are more important than ever. We have a large online community who we exchange regularly with via social networks, text messaging and our website. However these communication methods support, rather than replace the importance of human contact. We are also giving all our train agents smartphones and tablets so that they can send us feedback from customers, as well as new ideas, in real time. Using all of these communication networks, we can keep our customers immediately informed of any changes or news on their journey.”

“Business traveller clients especially are really looking for this type of services, as for them information and time saved are crucial. Many of the services we offer help them improve productivity while travelling – such as wifi on board, meals served in Comfort 1 class and the fact that they only need to board the train 2 minutes before depar- ture. Then there are our comfortable business lounges (of which a new one will open in Paris Nord by this summer), which also have meeting rooms that can be reserved before departure. All of these services and details for improved productivity and comfort can transform the business traveller’s rapport with travel.

Agnès ogier new ceo of Thalys international

Agnès Ogier succeeded Franck Gervais as CEO of Thalys International in December 2014. She takes over the reins as the international rail operator opens an exciting new chapter in its history, to become a fully independent company.

Agnès Ogier’s educational background in engineering from the prestigious Ecole Central Paris readied her for a future in the management of service companies with complex product offerings. Beginning her career with management and technology consultants Booz Allen and Hamilton, she then joined SFR in 1992. At SFR she held various management positions in marketing and pricing, including the key international role of Director of Product Strategy and Marketing for SFR Business Team. In 2010 she joined SNCF as Director of Marketing SNCF Voyages, with notably the mission of developing new services and strengthening loyalty programmes.
“In my career I have seen that there are a surprising number of similarities between the worlds of telecoms and the rail sector when it comes to services marketing for consumer and business markets” says Agnès Ogier. “In both domains, complex networks, technologies and tariff frameworks need to work in synergy with building client satisfaction and loyalty. The journey of the customer experience, from purchase, to experience to after sales service, is central to a service proposition. It is the combination of the price structure and the value of the services offered within this structure that form the product itself.”

Last modified on 26.Feb.2016

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