Railinc Tracks Blog

Railinc tracks are everywhere although you don't always see them. The Railinc Tracks blog reveals them one at a time and shows you how we help to keep railroads, railcars and rail shipments moving across America. The blog is staffed by the Railinc Corporate Communication team and will give you news and insights about our company, our people and our products.

Hua Wu Wins 2014 Railinc President's Award

A photograph of Hua Wu, Railinc's 2014 employee of the year.Congratulations to Hua Wu for receiving the President's Award as Railinc’s employee of the year for 2014. Hua was recognized at our February all-employee meeting.

"Hua is one of the unsung heroes at Railinc. He has excellent technical skills and shows up every day committed to serving our customers," said Railinc President and CEO Allen West. "Hua finds ways to reinvigorate our work—evaluating and bringing new technologies, collaborating across departments and improving our systems for the benefit of the broader rail industry.”

Hua has had a solid career at Railinc, joining the company in 2006 as the Java technical lead. This year he earned the top rating for his position among senior software engineers. Over the years he has made significant contributions to the Embargoes, Forward & Store and Clear Path systems.

According to his nomination, the team faced challenges with the Forward & Store application, which was causing schedule risks for the mainframe migration projects and the Forward & Store upgrade project. Hua stepped in, led the team and resolved the issue. Due to his involvement, the Forward & Store upgrade project was able to start and end on time, which eventually led to a “perfect five” project survey score from Railinc customers.

"Hua is a dream employee for any development manager. He champions best practices but is also results-driven and practical," Joan Smemoe, senior manager of application engineering, wrote in her nomination.​

The other nominees for the 2014 Railinc President's Award were:

  • ​Chad Boos

  • Meshalle Carter

  • Alan McDonald

  • Eva Anderson

  • Matt Beaver

  • Doni Reece

  • Mark Hawkins

  • Angela Buccigrosse

  • Jerri Moore-Platis

  • Syam Balakrishnan

The Railinc President’s Award is part of our Rewards and Recognition Program, which recognizes and supports the good work that happens at Railinc during the year on an individual, departmental and company-wide basis.

—Railinc Corporate Communications

Focus on Customers Delivers Big Results

Railinc is the railroad industry's reliable resource for IT and information services, and our work is 100 percent data-driven. But how do you apply logic and bytes to the human aspects of customer service?

The answer for us was an internal education and advocacy campaign that bolstered the customer service approach of our tech-focused employees. And it’s easy to see that the effort is paying off.

After holding steady for a few years, our product satisfaction scores have improved, and our Net Promoter Score® (NPS) rose 40 percent since 2012, from 45 to 63. That puts Railinc’s NPS in the range of some of the best known brands in the world, including Southwest Airlines (66), Netflix (50) and Google (53), and ahead of many others.*


A bar chart showing that Railinc's Net Promoter Score has increased by 39 percent, from 46 to 63, since 2010.


Looking at Railinc Through Our Customers' Eyes

The NPS survey asks one question: “How likely are you to recommend my company to someone you know?” (You can learn more about the NPS score and how it’s calculated here.) It focuses on the overall, long-term happiness of a customer and not just their latest transaction. We survey our customers every six months to gain insights and perspectives across a wide range of products and into overall company performance.

“We had to look at our applications from the customers’ standpoint,” said Paul Gaglione, Railinc’s director of customer experience. “The key was developing close relationships with our customers and delivering on their expectations.”

That might sound like a simple business philosophy. Simple, maybe, if you’re manufacturing bars of soap and can track customer satisfaction through sales. But Railinc has a unique array of more than 40 products and services, many of which have been railroad industry standards for years. We serve a mix of longtime legacy customers, along with new clients who are experiencing our products for the first time.

We knew our products were popular, but we also wanted to improve the total user experience for customers. We launched our first product-satisfaction survey in 2010 and included the NPS component. We have used the same survey for the past five years to gather information, establish benchmarks and track trends.

Railinc Focuses on Improving Customer Experience

At the same time we began using NPS, we also put together an internal team with experience in customer service. The diversity of their business backgrounds—Gaglione had once managed nightclubs!—helped Railinc develop best practices it could apply to all products and services.

The team realized that internal deadlines or technical solutions often drove product-design decisions. But we needed employees to become more focused on how satisfied customers were with our service.

Railinc kicked off an internal campaign in 2013—supported by the newly created Customer Experience group. The project began by asking employees to focus on:

  1. Developing a relationship with the customer

  2. Understanding the customer's needs and expectations

  3. Delivering on your promise

“In 2013, we were all about changing the mindset of our own people,” Gaglione said. “It’s everything from the way we answer the phone to how we walk customers through our upgrades. A red button on an online dashboard might sound like a great change to us internally, but if customers are used to a blue button, then it could be very disruptive for them.”

Close Customer Contact Drives Results at Railinc

Using a product satisfaction survey helps Railinc quickly respond when changes are needed. In 2012, we saw scores drop for one product following an upgrade. So we reached out to that product's users with additional surveys. Then we assigned technical staff to make quick adjustments that better met customers needs. The scores for that product were on the rise within six months.

“We all saw the benefit of that,” Gaglione said. “I use it as my shining example of what happens when we listen to the customer.”

Railinc also invested in quality assurance to improve overall customer satisfaction. “We want to wipe out problems in the design phase,” Gaglione said. “Our goal is to never have problems reach the customer.”

Product Support has also focused on reducing the time it takes to respond to and resolve customer concerns. Many of these are thorny technical issues, but we’ve succeeded in cutting the resolution time in half. We are also using a new post-incident survey to help us monitor product satisfaction between the semi-annual NPS surveys.

All the customer-service initiatives are delivering results and changing perceptions of the company.

"From 2013 to 2014, our NPS score took a huge leap," Gaglione said. "We're very proud of that, but the work is not finished. We have to continue to educate and advocate for a customer-centric workforce.

“I tell people it’s simple: If you don’t know what the customer needs, just ask.”

—Railinc Corporate Communications

*These comparative scores were published by Satmetrix Systems for 2013.

Net Promoter, Net Promoter Score, and NPS are trademarks of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company, Inc. and Fred Reichheld.

The Word from MARS: Life Is Good for Freight Rail

More than 600 people gathered on January 14 and 15 for the Midwest Association of Rail Shippers (MARS) annual meeting. The weather was typical of winters in Chicago, but the meeting produced a warm glow. For most everyone involved in freight rail, it seems like these are good times. The meeting was upbeat and enthusiastic.

Barbara Wilson, president of First Union Rail set the tone. “Demand is strong across the board for rail cars,” she told the group during her address, titled "Life is Good."

A ballroom full of attendees of the January 2015 meeting of the Midwest Association of Rail Shippers (MARS).Shipments are increasing, including in intermodal which she sees as a particularly “exciting” area. And she said congestion problems caused by the unusually snowy winter last year are being resolved through the tireless efforts by tens of thousands of North American railroaders. Railroading is hard work, but it is paying off.

We were at the meeting, too, enjoying our role as a critical connector for railroads and supporting the industry’s need for data to improve operations and help keep freight moving. Meetings like MARS give Railinc a chance to spend time face-to-face with customers and to hear from key leaders what’s going on in the industry. It makes us smarter and keeps us focused.

That’s important especially because Railinc applications and services are embedded in critical operations and financial systems throughout the industry. They support railroads, rail equipment owners and rail industry suppliers at many steps in the supply chain. We deliver millions of data messages over our EDI network each day, including data related to transportation waybills, advance train consists, blocking requests and responses and trip plans that help keep trains moving.

And we work closely with the people on important industry committees sponsored by the Association of American Railroads. These committees identify common business problems that can be addressed through centralized data and technology resources.

For example, products like Railinc’s track and trace services help customers locate cars and their shipments in the rail network. Other products help communicate train traffic conditions to prevent or reduce train congestion in critical areas like the Chicago Gateway. We also maintain Industry References Files, the only industry-accepted version of the North American railroad industry's official code tables. These are the data files that everyone uses to ensure a smooth exchange of information among business partners.

So that’s why we attend important events like these. In the coming years, Railinc will continue to create value behind the scenes with more essential products and services. And, of course, our people will continue to participate in key freight rail conferences and meetings and committee gatherings—even taking more trips to places like MARS.

—Railinc Corporate Communications

Wellness a Cornerstone of Railinc's Culture

Employees stretch before the 2014 Railinc 5k.

For the second consecutive year, the Triangle Business Journal named Railinc as one of the 35 Healthiest Employers in the Triangle. The list recognizes employers in the region that make "wellness a priority while proactively shaping the health of their employees." Railinc joined a stellar group of companies and organizations on the list, including Lenovo, WakeMed, the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority and Fidelity Investments.

"We've made wellness an important part of our culture because it has a positive benefit for our employees and the company," said Kristen Sandstrom, director of human resources. "We're proud of this recognition, and it's a testament to our employees and the healthy choices they make every day."

Railinc Encourages Fitness, Fun, Accountability

So what does it take to be among the Triangle's healthiest employers? It doesn't take a work force full of athletes. While a few of our employees played college sports, we're mostly just like everyone else—we enjoy weekend runs, a lunchtime walk and pick-up volleyball at the park near the office.

You do need an environment that encourages fitness, fun and accountability, and that's what we've worked to create. In 2012, we launched a voluntary wellness program that gives employees resources to get active, make healthy lifestyle choices and save money, including:

  • Fitbit Challenges: We give every employee a Fitbit fitness tracker, and our people compete in regular Fitbit Challenges to see who can log the most steps and rack up the most miles.

  • On-site Nutrition Counseling and Education: Want to set up a healthy eating plan or learn how to make a tasty smoothie? We offer free, on-site, one-on-one nutrition counseling, as well as educational opportunities like wellness lunch and learns and healthy cooking demonstrations.

  • Free Access to Gyms: Employees can just walk downstairs to work out in our newly renovated gym, and Railinc subsidizes memberships to O2 Fitness.

  • Yoga, Bootcamp and Activities: We have many ways to get active with our colleagues, from yoga in our largest meeting room to on-site boot camp sessions led by O2 Fitness trainers to employee-led sports teams and activities like a company 5K race and walk.

  • Easy Access to Outdoor Activities: Railinc's office is adjacent to a private greenway and a short walk to a Town of Cary park with basketball and sand volleyball courts and to trails that connect to Lake Crabtree Park and Umstead State Park.

The Results Are In

We're seeing results. Many employees have made significant changes to improve their health, getting more active, losing weight and eating better. Almost everyone has gotten involved—our participation rate since launching the Wellness Program is more than 99 percent.

The company has benefited, too. The program has helped offset increases in our health insurance premiums in each of the last three years and has enabled Railinc to realize significant cost savings, which get passed on to employees.

Click here to see what it's like to work at Railinc and to learn more about our culture and benefits.

—Railinc Corporate Communications

Found on a Sticky Note

Eight green and yellow sticky notes posted on a task board at Railinc, which practices the Agile software development method.

Take a walk around Railinc any morning and you'll see product teams meeting at glassboards plastered with multicolored sticky notes. These notes are a key element of the Agile software development methodology and provide a low-tech way to track the high-tech work that happens at Railinc.

Look deeper and the notes will tell the story of how we develop our products, how we learn from and work with our customers, and how we meet the technology needs of the freight rail industry. Here on our blog, we will pull out a snippet of that story in the form of a single sticky note. We'll tell you what's behind the words that are on it and give you a little insight into the work our people do every day to serve the freight rail industry.

Here at Railinc, these notes include information on everything from user stories and quality assurance checks to tasks in progress and tasks completed. Even though Agile is a cornerstone of Railinc's culture, the ways our teams use sticky notes are unique to each product group. Some use sticky notes to capture their tasks. Others focus on user stories. One team incorporates index card-sized printouts from a third-party Agile software that Railinc uses to track the progress of product development.

"The value the sticky notes is in the visibility," says Jose Solera, Railinc's director of enterprise services and our resident Agile evangelist. "With the notes, teams can see where they are in a project. They are easy to write and move around as things change. They're also a good way to prompt conversations about what's been done and what needs to get done."

—Railinc Corporate Communications