How Go-Ahead Group implemented a fully audited refund system in a matter of weeks

Husein Fazal, Group Head of Enterprise Systems

Go-Ahead is one of the UK’s leading public transport providers enabling more than a billion journeys each year. Their rail operation is the busiest in the UK, responsible for around 30% of all train passenger journeys, and the bus operations run about 25% of London services and 11% of the UK market as a whole.

The Challenge

In February of 2018, the Government’s Minister for Transportation announced sweeping changes to the way compensation would be paid for delayed or cancelled journeys.

  • Firstly, the threshold would be reduced from 30 minutes to 15 minutes, greatly increasing the actual NUMBER of compensation claims expected.
  • Secondly, the compensation would move from being voucher-based to being cash-based.
  • Thirdly, the compensation would be made on a sliding scale based on the length of delay and the type of ticket purchased.

Initial estimates indicated that potentially up to 10,000 transactions would need to be processed each week – far more than could be feasibly managed by the current manual process.

Scoping a Solution

The Department for Transportation required all transport operators to implement the updated refund scheme which would include:

  • Full and partial refunds
  • Cash compensation
  • Different processes for season tickets vs non-season tickets
  • A fast turn-around for customers
  • A very tight deadline for implementation

For Go-Ahead Group, their own requirements included:

  • Must adhere to strict internal processes for payments
  • Integration with existing Oracle EBS
  • Adequate time for testing ahead of the implementation deadline

A total rethink was required as their current manual system could not cope with the new workload and complexity. Also, given the short deadline, any solution would need to be intuitive to understand, use and communicate to customers.

Source data for customer processing was via a third-party CRM/Customer portal, so it was not as simple as having a Credit Memo in Accounts Receivable. This also meant that an interface would be required from the third-party system into Oracle. The resource lead-time and project lifecycle meant that it would be touch-and-go as to whether we would meet the go-live data – a statutory requirement that could not move.

The Process

A new system would be designed to manage all components of the process:

  • Collection of payment claims – from the existing CRM system
  • Processing and validation of claims
  • Generation of AP documentation for payments via Oracle EBS
  • Payment of reimbursements
  • Customer feedback mechanism (where payment is, payment approval, payment made) – back through the CRM system
  • Customer to receive compensation within 20 working days
Changes to EBS

Go-Ahead Group firstly made some key changes within their EBS setup. They used a custom version of One Time Payments, where key data would be held in DFFs. They changed the BACs EFT Payment program to use the DFFs in order to pay to the correct person and account.

Options

Go-Ahead Group reviewed its options:

  1. Custom Interface Solution – rejected as being too time-consuming and expensive
  2. Robotic AI strategy – considered for the invoice stream function only, but did not have a robust enough validation process
  3. Third-party solution – the only viable option as it would be cost-effective, fast and allow rigorous testing before rollout

The group selected More4apps – with a suite of products that leverage Microsoft Excel and the Oracle public API’s to allow mass entry and manipulation of data from any source. There are near-zero implementation times and being based on Excel, no specialist training was required for users.

The Solution

Data would be extracted from the CRM/Customer portal and dropped into the More4apps AP Invoice Wizard. This included the BACs EFT information, Customer name etc and the one-off customer details from the DFF.

It was uploaded into Oracle EBS, validated and automatically mapped into Oracle’s fields. Payments could be created and approved using the normal process, payments actioned and data downloaded back into the spreadsheet. Communications with customers were managed via the CRM portal with real-time updates available on the status of each claim.

The test system was installed within 24 hours, and key end-users trained in one day with More4apps on-hand to provide support and instruction throughout the project.

Results

The result was a fully audited system that processed, at its peak, closer to 20,000 claims a week and was implemented in a matter of weeks.

Additionally, Go Ahead executives reported the following:

  • Faster-than-expected installation
  • The time and resources saved were used to make the interface process more robust
  • Additional audit, control and reporting measures were included – Allowed Value Add!
  • Additional dashboard features were made available

The uptake of the Wizards among Oracle Users has been contagious as they are so simple to use. Typical requirements such as generating batched of invoices are now handled in minutes rather than hours.

Data improvements are that great that other improvement programs such as Supplier & Employee Maintenance, and AR Invoice processing using More4apps solutions have been introduced across the company.

Smart rail World Innovation Awards 2018 – Passenger Innovation of the Year – Auto Delay Repay

“We are delighted to have won the Passenger Innovation of the Year Award at SmartRails 2018. Our delay repay solution has been designed to put customer convenience and customer control at the heart of the journey. We introduced Delay Replay across the Govia Thameslink network in September 2017 and passengers using our smartcard, who are delayed for fifteen minutes or more automatically receive a delay repay claim notification via an email or on their online account. The passengers can then review their claim and choose their preferred payment options to receive reimbursement for their delayed journey without any hassle. Many thanks to the organisers of the SmartRail conference and the awards and congratulations also to the fellow winners”

-Craig Ellis, Chief Technology Officer of Go-Ahead Group

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