Could DSB learn some basic ABCs from the students at CBS

International teams set the challenge of improving the rail operator’s fortunes – which one stayed on track to win?

It’s difficult to know whether DSB would have been nervous or thrilled by the news that this year’s CBS Case Competition set competing students the challenge of turning the national railway operator’s fortunes around by 2030.

A daunting prospect some might say, particularly given The Transport Ministry’s admission last year that it will spend 100 billion kroner on the country’s ageing rail networks by 2030. 

Included in this figure, DSB intends to spend between 20 and 22 billion kroner on acquiring 275 new sets to replace existing trains that are increasingly becoming less reliable. 

From all four corners
But they hadn’t reckoned on the teams of students descending upon the Copenhagen Business School’s campus in Frederiksberg last week on Friday. 

In total 12 universities from all over the world were represented, including one team all the way from Auckland in New Zealand.

Improving public perception
The task for the teams was to come up with a business plan to increase train passenger numbers in order to make DSB’s goals not only feasible but profitable. 

A recurring theme from the presentations was that in order for DSB to achieve its targets, it would be necessary to repair its poor customer perception and associations by improving reliability and transparency. 

A winning presentation
In the end, McGill University from Canada emerged triumphant. 

Its team of four (Lara Ballantyne, Rachel Kirby, Jaylen Gadhia and Sami Zubair) saw off strong challenges from the only non-native English speaking team, Thailand’s Thammasat University (whose speaker Vibhu Harnvarakiat picked up the best presenter prize following an audience vote ), and last year’s defending champions, Wharton University of Pennsylvania. 

McGill’s proposed slogan ‘#Buytime’ won favour from the jury of 17 business moguls that included Stig Patswa, the acting CEO of DSB.

Its aim is to instil the impression in travellers that by buying a train ticket they are also buying time lost in auto transportation. 

Improving by increasing the availability of information, as well as face-lifts for train stations and their facilities, were also key points in McGill’s presentation. 

Truth in laughter
An annual event since 2002, the CBS Case Competition this year laid on a special surprise: an appearance by Danish comedian Lasse Rimmer, who reminded those in attendance that the Danish people are the happiest in the world because they have low expectations and are easy to pleasantly surprise. 

Accordingly, DSB should be able to improve its public image, and the ideas put forward by the students stand them in good stead to do just that.

Wharton presentation highlights 

– Research in the UK revealed that how a public transport provider handles a delay is more important than the impact of the delay itself. 

– DSB can reach its goals providing customer satisfaction is high and DSB is seen as the backbone of public transport. 

– “Foster a human connection” between DSB and its customers by increasing company-customer transparency and creating “moments of delight” for train passengers. 

– Hand out toys to kids, instal beer vending machines, provide built-in wi-fi.

McGill presentation  highlights 

– The pitch featured the acronym DSB: Distance, Satisfaction, Brand Strategy. 

– Key goals in the business plan were increasing the amount of passenger kilometres, improving customer experience and remaining profitable. 

– Research revealed that 17.6 percent of the key words used to describe DSB by its passengers were “delays”, “waiting time” and “slow”. 

– DSB needs to replace the unfavourable adjectives with positive associations such as the environmental benefits of reducing automotive traffic by using trains.

Thammasat presentation highlights 

– Upgrade to include real-time updates for information and delays in order to improve the all-important “transparency”, thereby improving customer perception as well. 

– A mobile app ‘DSB on the Go’ could function as an all-encompassing platform where customers can view real-time updated train information and purchase tickets, which the site currently does not offer. 

– The slogan ‘Less Hassle, More Heads up!’ would accompany the app, suggesting there would be less need for the customers to remain constantly focused on their smartphones.

– Wi-fi upgrades can maximise customer experience whilst travelling, along with the addition of fax and printing facilities.