CEO Blog

On the Move

Anne Marie Forsyth

Driverless cars have been in the news this week as a consultation by two law commissions has started to look at the legal implications of such a big switch in travelling behaviour.

Listening to a BBC radio chat show (alone in my own car!), the sweeping changes seemed incredible. I was reminded of Bill Gates’ view that we tend to underestimate change in the longer term (10 years or so) but overestimate it greatly in the shorter term (2-5 years). 

When pressed about the speed of change in a motoring programme, contributors agreed that by 2050 people will look back in bemusement at the idea of individuals driving polluting cars on roads – although they weren’t so sure about the next few years. Despite the technology being available, there are so many reasons why we won’t make the shift.

From a legal perspective, who is liable for deaths on the roads? From an inclusion perspective, who replaces the human who helps people board to allow them to travel? Who decides the protocol of risk and action? What replaces the enormous economic shift in numerous industries if we stop driving?

And yet the direction of travel is surely clear towards a cleaner, greener future; road and air travel are causing our planet to suffer and pollution is shortening lives. 

This week it was also suggested that air miles and schemes designed to increase air travel should be banned. As someone who has just lost their BA silver card due the threshold now being too high (60 qualifying expensive flights per year) I was a bit peeved! Nevertheless, I’ve noticed a shift in my own behaviour over the last few years; I’m much more likely to get a train if I can. Perhaps this is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Our fear of losing things is far greater than that of not gaining new benefits, which is why so many seemingly small things cause frustration when companies make efficiencies which affect customers directly. Customer-led efficiencies are the holy grail – i.e. making a change which saves the company money but seems to help the customer more.

Changing the way we communicate is obvious - switching from expensive, face-to-face and phone channels to web-chat to totally online self-service has endless possibilities, and of course pitfalls when implementing without the correct contingencies in place. Inevitably, things will go wrong; they so often do.

An interesting observation is the extent to which organisations will enforce air travel bans to meet climate targets. Will sitting in an airport loyalty lounge in the future shame polluters rather than label the privileged? Whatever our views about the pace of evolution, it’s certain that sweeping change is happening in the way that we travel and communicate.

Making sense of it is, as ever, a challenge. Resisting the temptation to assume that we are further ahead in transition than others is critical. This means road-testing change with those who will actually be affected, not just the clever people round the table. Checking the rear-view mirror to make sure that customers are still there and buying into the change is always a good idea – the mirror, signal, manoeuvre rule applies in business as much as driving!

When it comes to having a sense of purpose around such important issues as climate change we like to be at the forefront. That’s why it’s one of the key themes of our Annual Convention this year – we’ll be welcoming speakers from across industry to talk about how we can all make changes not just in terms of sustainability, but in our behaviours and thinking in order to make our own journeys - and those of our customers - that bit smoother.

You can download the latest version of our programme here.

Wherever you are travelling this weekend, I hope your journeys are enjoyable! 

Anne Marie

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