In 2009 Queensland Motorways Limited (QML) implemented an extensive communication program to educate motorists, stakeholders and employees about the introduction of the Queensland-first free-flow tolling (FFT) system on the Gateway and Logan motorways in the greater Brisbane area.
The transition to FFT involved moving from a hybrid cash and constrained lane electronic tolling system to a full open-road completely electronic tolling system.
Motorists would no longer pay their tolls with cash at a toll booth. A new brand, products and payment channels would be introduced to support the new tolling environment.
QML commenced initial communications in 2008 to begin generating widespread awareness of FFT, its impacts and benefits, and ensuring motorists knew how to pay their tolls.
Minimising the impact on motorists during the transition, and continuing to retain and grow traffic volumes, was a core focus for QML.
FFT was introduced on 22 July 2009. The campaign was a success and the transition to FFT was seamless. No road incidents occurred during the transition, traffic flow remained consistent, the new brand and payment options are now widely known in the market, and motorists are enjoying the benefits of FFT.
The introduction of FFT involved transitioning motorists from a hybrid cash and constrained lane electronic tolling system to a no-stopping electronic tolling system.
Motorists would no longer pay their tolls with cash at a toll booth. Toll payment would be deducted using an electronic tag or by video tolling, where an image of the vehicle and its registration plate is used to apply the toll amount. In addition, a new brand, products and payment channels would be introduced to support the new tolling environment.
The QML Board also set a target of 80% in-vehicle tag utilisation by motorists using the QML network by the transition date. This was to minimise the impact of FFT on QML’s operations.
Prior to the launch of FFT, 35% of the 200,000 motorists who used the Gateway and Logan motorways each day used cash to pay their tolls. Therefore, significant behavioural change was required by motorists around how they used the motorways and would pay tolls with FFT.
It was clear that the transition to a new FFT environment would require an extensive communication campaign.
The challenge was to generate widespread awareness of the new system and encourage Queensland motorists to obtain a tag to ensure a smooth transition to FFT, whilst considering the sensitivities of the toll collector workforce whose roles would end with the introduction of FFT.
The transition was also the catalyst for a complete organisational re-structure which impacted all QML employees.
QML conducted qualitative and quantitative research with target audiences about the concept of FFT, perceptions of the old and new brands (Etoll vs go via), preferred payment options and attitudes towards QML (refer to Appendix A for timeline of project milestones).
This research was undertaken in:
March 2007 FFT focus—Usage of free-flow roads and casual toll products, sample of motorists in south-east Queensland.
August 2007 Etoll and FFT—Profile of current road users, usage and knowledge of Etoll, reasons for non-use and incentives for take up, sample of Sydney and Melbourne motorists.
November 2007 FFT focus—Level of awareness and road users’ intentions in the event of FFT, sample of Brisbane motorists.
April 2008 Etoll focus—Identified barriers for cash users in taking up Etoll, sample of motorists using Gateway and/or Logan motorways.
September 2008 Etoll focus—Proposed fees and charges, sample of Brisbane motorists (road network users).
November 2008 FFT focus—Level of awareness and various products, sample of Brisbane motorists.
February/March 2009 FFT focus—Brochure testing, involving product naming and structure options, sample of Brisbane motorists (road network cash users).
Stakeholders affected by the roadside civil works associated with the removal of the toll plazas were contacted directly to evaluate the extent and impact of the changes.
QML also interviewed interstate toll road operators on their transitions for lessons learned.
Staff were surveyed online to measure the effectiveness of internal communications about FFT and the upcoming organisation changes.
Targeting customers who used cash at the toll booths to pay their tolls was vital to the campaign’s success. They would be required to change their behaviour dramatically following the removal of the cash toll booths.
EXISTING TAG CUSTOMERS
Tag customers were not required to alter their toll payment behaviour. However, they needed to be reassured that they would transition seamlessly to the new go via brand if their accounts were up-to-date.
Changing road conditions, including the removal of toll booths, and introduction of new on and off ramps on the motorways, meant all motorists using the QML network needed to be kept fully informed.
CIVIL WORKS STAKEHOLDERS
With FFT, some motorway interchanges required upgrading to ensure motorists travelling at speed could enter and exit the motorways safely. Key stakeholders needed to be kept fully informed including:
• local residents adjacent to the motorways
• local businesses
• emergency services
• local politicians
Regular communication to ensure staff, particularly customer facing staff, were fully informed of roadside and system changes was vital in maximising staff engagement and retention during the transition to FFT.
TOLL COLLECTION EMPLOYEES
The Toll Collectors’ role would end with the introduction of FFT. Extensive communication ensured this group were sensitively managed and assisted with securing employment within QML or elsewhere.
QML needed to ensure key industry stakeholders, including the following, understood FFT and its benefits and could champion the changes:
• Queensland Trucking Association
• Tourism bodies, airports, trade industries and vehicle hire companies
Broad coverage of the changes needed to reach a large audience, therefore both metropolitan and regional media in Queensland and northern New South Wales were kept informed.
A two staged process was required and included education on FFT, its impacts and benefits, and the introduction of new brand, payment options and channels.
Key strategies to achieve the campaign objectives included:
• Developing key messaging to ensure consistent communication by QML and Government
• Positioning FFT as introducing world-class technology, delivered by world-class providers, IBM and Thales
• Keeping key staff, stakeholders and influencers well informed of FFT and using them to champion its benefits
• Maintaining a presence in the media
• Supporting the extensive FFT and go via advertising campaigns with complementary publicity and promotions
A multi-faceted campaign was implemented to ensure widespread dissemination of information.
BEFORE THE TRANSITION TO FFT (Feb 2008 – June 2009)
• A comprehensive community relations program ensured affected residents and businesses were consulted about the civil works and FFT benefits and impacts
• Information packs were distributed to media and stakeholders locally and nationally
• Media relations program included:
– Tag promotions with select media
– Media releases
– CEO interviews
• Articles, briefings and e-bulletins were supplied to industry associations, magazines and websites
• QML’s corporate newsletter, Drive, was used to keep 500,000 customers and stakeholders informed
• The mobile customer service centre visited identified geographical ‘hot spots’ where tag penetration was low to provide customers with information on FFT
• Staffed information booths were placed at local shopping centres
• Direct communication campaigns ensured Etoll tag acquisitions were maintained until the FFT education campaign commenced in early 2009 and the new go via brand was introduced in June
• Dedicated FFT information website – freeflow.com.au
• Personalised communication with existing customers
• The internal communication program included:
– commemorative toll collector publication and mementos
– milestone celebration events
– newsletters, electronic project updates, fact sheets, story books and memos
– team and organisation-wide briefings
DURING AND AFTER THE TRANSITION TO FFT (June 2009 – Oct 2009)
• go via advertorials were placed in metropolitan and regional newspapers
• An extensive media campaign was implemented including:
– media briefings, media releases and alerts, conferences and interviews (radio, print and TV)
– events to launch the go via brand and products, mark the demolition of the toll plazas, and the final day of cash tolling
• A new extensive payment channel portfolio was introduced, including a product website, new interactive voice response service and an extensive retailer network
• Extensive roadside signage was installed, including permanent and variable messaging signs (VMS), to advise motorists of the transition and how to pay their tolls
• NOTE: Refer to Appendix A for examples of material
BRAND AND PRODUCT LAUNCH AND TRANSITION
• QML seamlessly migrated cash paying customers to the new system. It increased tag utilisation from 65% in April 2009 to achieve 80% at the time of the transition (refer to Appendix A)
• As at 30 April 2010 approximately 92% of motorists surveyed had brand awareness of go via and there were more than 1.2 million tags in market (refer to Appendix A)
ACHIEVE A SEAMLESS TRANSITION ON THE ROAD NETWORK THROUGH EDUCATION
• Significant media coverage contributed to a seamless transition on the road network, with traffic flowing freely through the toll points
• Steady growth in traffic volumes and revenue has occurred since FFT with volumes increasing by as much as 8.6% month on month
DELIVERY OF CIVIL WORKS
• The community relations team liaised with almost 1,200 community members face to face, over the phone or via direct written communications
• Only 43 complaints related to the civil works were received.
• At the completion of the project, an evaluation survey revealed 91% of stakeholders were satisfied with the information they received
• 75.2% of staff surveyed were satisfied or very satisfied with the level of communication received about FFT during April – September 2009 (refer to Appendix A)
GROW ACQUISITIONS TO 80% AND TRANSITION CASH PAYING CUSTOMERS
QML achieved 80% tag utilisation at the time of the transition to FFT. Weekly demand for tags grew from around 3,000 tags to more than 30,000 tags at the height of the campaign.
Prior to FFT only 65% of Queensland Motorways’ customers had a tag. Around half of all new accounts (200,000) opened in 09/10 were opened in the transition period (July – October).
MAINTAIN E TOLL CUSTOMERS
QML successfully maintained its existing customers during the transition to FFT. Succinct and clear communications meant Etoll customers understood they were ready for FFT and that Etoll was transitioning to go via.
Today, 93% of weekly network users have a go via account and 67% of account holders are happy.
BRAND AND PRODUCT LAUNCH AND TRANSITION
Recent research demonstrates go via is now a well recognised brand which people understand is a method of toll payment.
92% of south-east Queensland motorists surveyed are aware of the go via brand. In the future, when all new Brisbane toll roads and products are operational, 61% said they would use a go via product, 5% nominated a Flow product (associated with the Clem7 Tunnel).
This was a successful outcome for a brand which has been in the market for only one year.
EDUCATE MOTORISTS AND STAKEHOLDERS ABOUT FFT
Awareness of the term ‘free-flow tolling’ increased significantly from 25% to 53% with motorists surveyed in March 2009 for the period October 2008 to March 2009.
Almost 35,000 customers visited QML’s mobile customer service centre during 2009 and more than 3,000 tag sign ups were achieved at the information booths.
327,611 visitors accessed govia.com.au from 1 to 30 June—the month leading up to the commencement of FFT. From 1 July to 30 September, there were 1,000,839 visits to govia.com.au.
The QML Customer Contact Centre experienced around a 300% increase in the number of customer calls during the transition period.
ACHIEVE A SEAMLESS TRANSITION ON THE ROADNETWORK
On the day of the transition, motorists understood what was occurring and there were no incidents on or around the closed toll plazas, traffic flowed freely and there was no reduction in traffic volumes.