The RIGI Bahn moves closer to its guests with the help of Microsoft Social Engagement

The RIGI Bahn at the heart of Switzerland is Europe’s oldest still running mountain railway. As Queen of the Mountains the Rigi stands for a place, even today, where untouched nature and deeply rooted customs go hand in hand. As the people in charge have recognized the elusiveness of this idyll and have reacted by way of a social media task force to the changes in tourism, the Rigi has also become a showcase project when it comes to timely interaction with guests.

The RIGI Bahn, located in the heart of Switzerland, is the oldest still running mountain railway in Europe. Thanks to the commitment of two forward thinking young women, the Rigi has also become a showcase project for how tradition and modernity can inspire each other and for how a whole region is coming together under an umbrella brand.

The project was about much more than just a strong presence in social media, for Roger Joss, Head of Sales & Marketing at RIGI BAHNEN AG, it was about transforming the business. “From a mere railway company we are increasingly turning into an integrated tourist business. This transition has brought a great spirit of optimism that pervades the whole company and also draws attention to areas like social media. We wanted to move closer to our guests, yet we didn’t have a clear strategy. So it seemed only natural to get the younger generation, that lives this new communication, on board for the project.”

And so, in 2013, RIGI‘s social media journey began – “with a few shaky first steps on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram,” as Jolanda Pfyl, Product and Content Management at RigiPlus AG, remembers. “Our goal was to find out who our guests are and what they share about us via the social media networks. In order to professionalize the project, to bundle and analyze the data and to deduce targeted marketing activities from it, we opted for Microsoft Social Engagement.”

From listening to interacting
Yet engagement here means not just interaction, as Julia Ehrler, Projects Sales & Marketing at RIGI BAHNEN AG, points out. “When companies hear the term social media they are usually thrilled at first about the many opportunities for interacting with their customers. What often is overlooked, though, is that the ’join-in Web,’ as some call it, to begin with is a ’listening Web.’ So in a first step, together with IOZ, we analyzed our competitors and developed a keyword catalogue, even before we began to collect any data. And here too a little fine-tuning was necessary in order to filter out the data that tell us something and that inspire us.”

It’s critical to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff when filtering relevant statements from mountains of data. Alexander Däppen, MSE Specialist IOZ and mastermind behind the project, knows from experience that selection is the key to success from day one. ”This project proves impressively that social engagement also needs the user’s engagement. For it is the users who are responsible for the quality of the data. In other words, the tool holds a mirror up to the users and shows them very clearly where questions or feeds need to be specified. Whoever accepts this challenge, will be very happy with Microsoft Social Engagement and will be able to gain new insights in a very short time.”

A closeness that pays dividends
That the homework has been done from the very beginning is shown by the results, which Jolanda Pfyl points out not without a certain pride. ”We quintupled our social media community within a few months and the quality of our followers too has increased significantly. Moreover, thanks to our very precise monitoring, we discovered target groups we wouldn’t have considered otherwise. Today, we are in better touch with our guests, simply because we are able to react quickly to feedback and also to interact. And thanks to channels like Instagram we are right there with our guests in their moments of happiness.”

It’s no small wonder that the social media experiment also has released viral qualities within the company itself and has been inspiring more and more of the people working for it. ”We are fascinated by the dynamic with which this project keeps developing,” says Roger Joss, looking back on the past two years. ”Our primary goal was to get more attention and thus to attract more guests to the RIGI BAHNEN. What we didn‘t expect was that this tool would become a true ideas exchange, and that through the images and stories our guests are sharing we not only learn something about them, but also about ourselves.”

Roger Joss hints at how profound the effects are when you engage in this new culture of listening, a culture that the Microsoft Social Engagement tool implicitly promotes and demands. Today dialogue and interaction take centre stage when it comes to communicating with guests. And so this unique Swiss mountain story ultimately shows what social media gurus have been preaching for a long time, that a brand no longer is what we tell the customers it is, but what the customers tell each other.

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