How Realtime Tech Can Highlight and Fix Biz Failures; Bikeshare review

Capital Bikeshare Realtime Challenges
Capital Bikeshare in Realtime

One company that’s falling down on the job of using negative sentiments to improve its service is Capital Bikeshare in Washington DC. Subscribers to Capital Bikeshare’s service have access to 1,100 bicycles at 110 stations throughout the city. They pay an annual fee and can check out a bike for 30 minutes at a time – usually for short trips and errands around the city. If they keep the bike for longer, they pay a nominal fee.

Realtime #fail share
Bikeshare is a great idea – in fact, I’m a subscriber. But the service is plagued with negative sentiments from dissatisfied subscribers broadcasting their frustrations via twitter and other mobile applications. A survey of a few real-time search engines yielded the following negative sentiments:

  • Short supply of bikes at popular docking stations
  • Subscribers lucky enough to get a bike for their morning commutes can’t find a docking station when they arrive at their destinations in the busy business district
  • Subscribers unable to find a dock must pay to wait for one to open up (and bear the inconvenience of being late for appointments etc.)

Realtime #fail saves
It appears Capital Bikeshare has a social media strategy focused on promotion; the company uses Facebook and twitter to tout the service daily, and in April they joined LivingSocial to offer a generous discount on subscription which netted over 8,000 subscribers for their 1,100 bikeshare service. But a social media strategy that ignores real-time negative sentiments could ruin their brand.

Here are three ways Capital Bikeshare (CB) can use real-time technology to improve their business.

1. Real-time technology for customer service. Acknowledge and reply to customer complaints via twitter. Many tweets at the company complaining about empty docks and other issues go unanswered. Tweeting solutions and info about alternative docking stations is something the company should commit to especially in the mornings when subscribers use the service to get to work.

2. Real-time technology to anticipate service lapse. There are mobile applications that give users real-time information about bike and dock availability. Even so, load balancing is still a problem the company has not been able to solve. Investing in GPS tracking via mobile phones, bikes or fobs could help the company with load balancing – i.e. ensuring that enough bikes and empty docks are available where users need them.

3. Real-time info billboards – a partnership in the making? It’s difficult for riders to stop to check their mobile phones for information on available docs while riding. Will some innovative entrepreneur partner with CB to provide info billboards (or bike widgets) that re-directs bikers to empty docs before they spend 20 minutes biking around chasing empty docks?

Thanks to technology, businesses and organizations function in a real-time information environment. Feedback on your brand’s reach, influence and performance is broadcast across the globe 24-hours a day in an endless news cycle fueled by social media. Remaining competitive means using real-time technology to do more than promote your wares, cause or services. Negative sentiments should be a guide to service improvement for Capital Bikeshare and others.

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