Movers & Shakers Q&A with Murray Hennessy

Brought to you by and K3 Retail
Murray Hennessy, chief executive of Trainline

1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?

The greatest opportunity for Trainline is to continue to play our part in growing sales in rail, which as a transport mode is really “coming of age.”  As we help make buying rail tickets easier we will be contributing to what is a fast growing market, which will in turn provide us with the opportunity for significant growth for many years to come. Key to this is transforming the customer experience through a combination of mobile retailing and the delivery of electronic rail tickets direct to your phone, a printed e-ticket or a smartcard.

2. What is the biggest challenge to your business?

Our biggest challenge is that we don’t run the railways as well!  There are a number of areas where we would love to improve the overall customer experience but we are limited to just the retailing. In particular, investments in electronic ticketing have taken time to be put in place as it requires co-ordinated action between 17 franchised train companies.

3. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far?

Our marketing has really worked. With hindsight I would have invested earlier.

4. What is the future of the physical ticketing?

Just as with air travel, the future of ticketing in rail is electronic rather than physical. This does not mean that physical tickets will not exist – they may well.  However, the vast majority of tickets will take the form of barcodes on a piece of paper or on a mobile device, or, increasingly stored on a Smartcard, as with Oyster today. This has the possibility of transforming the customer experience in a very positive way, and hopefully putting an end to any form of queuing, allowing people to save significant time and stress at the station.

5. What will our business look like in a decade?

We like to think that it will be significantly larger and even more of a household name than it is today. It will remain the number one specialist in rail and committed to improving customers’ rail retailing experience. While it will offer hotels, car rental and other ancillary purchases, it will have remained focused on retailing of rail. To achieve this we will need to have continued to build fantastic intuitive customer experiences across multiple platforms. We anticipate a significantly greater proportion of our customers will be using us whilst they are on the move. Rail is well suited to this for obvious reasons. Importantly, given the continuing growth of UK rail in general and of the online/mobile segment in particular, we anticipate that we will still be experiencing double digit percentage growth.

6. Will mobile devices be the primary sales channel in the future?

First of all, it is not clear what we will mean by mobile devices in the future.  Clearly, phones, tablets and tablet-like devices will all be in the mix, but what else? So, yes, mobile broadly defined, will certainly be a major channel and probably the primary one.

7. What other retail business do you admire?

 I greatly admire John Lewis. This is a bit of a “cheat” in terms of an answer because I used to work there. The organisation is hugely value-led. It has managed to translate its values of honesty and fairness into its shops and to its other channels. It has done this by taking a long term view of life. And, the results of this speak for themselves. Another multi-channel retailer I admire for similar reasons is Patagonia – they try to embody their beliefs in their offering.
8. If you hadn’t been a retailer/provider-to-retailers what would you have liked to do?

Well, I’ve done a lot of things besides retailing within business. I was in the restaurant industry with Pepsi and later Tricon Restaurants (now called Yum Brands) and in travel as CEO of Avis Europe. So, let me change the question a bit. What if I had not gone into business? Well, a fighter pilot, off the deck of a carrier sounds almost as exciting, but failing that, medicine.

9. What marks out of 10 do you give yourself so far for achievement?

High marks for what we have achieved and the direction we’ve been heading in but lower marks for not having moved faster in some areas so call it a six or seven out of 10.