48 Million Hours of Traffic Jams (or Changing Behavior)?

by Stefan van Hoof, Country Manager, France/Benelux, LifeSize

I recently read a newspaper article with the above headline referring to time spent in traffic by motorists here in the Netherlands. We have 7.6 million Dutch cars for a total of 16 million residents. On a daily basis, 2.9 million people using 2.5 million cars travel to and from work. The Netherlands is not only famous for its windmills, clogs and open culture, but nowadays also for traffic jams.

A traffic jam of this magnitude is not uncommon in the Netherlands (Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia)

The article stated that major roadblocks occur during the evening peak (better known as “rush hour” in the states) and that more and more people wake up early to avoid the morning traffic. Additionally, the article cited a case study on mobility that stated traffic jams should decrease by 2020. The Dutch Minister of Transport has said that the government will heavily invest in solving this traffic issue, but the question is – when? More asphalt will probably help, but the highway bottleneck will always be the evildoer. Somewhere three lanes will go back into two, right? In summary, no short-term solution is imminent.

A well-known multinational corporation decided some years ago that they needed change, monumental in scope. Believe it or not, they had over 1 billion euro in annual travel costs. The company made an unprecedented push for the use of video conferencing.

Interestingly, the biggest showstopper in the beginning of their implementation was not the technical issue of implementing video, but the cultural shift involved. Many employees were used to traveling and thought they needed to visit customers in person in order to do business. An important turnaround came through a directive of management. Each customer visit had to be approved up-front, with a valid reason why the trip could not be replaced by a video conference.

This shook up traditional mindsets. Most of the trips were not approved, so to continue their businesses, employees turned to video. The next step for management was to push both suppliers and external consultants to invest in video communications in order to continue doing business with their company. Using video conferencing, the internal travel cost savings (time/travel) were reduced by 30 percent within a year.

It is striking that many individuals still consider video conferencing to be highly exclusive and expensive, and only for the “ivory tower” of big companies or senior management. Even worse, they still think the quality is bad or that the technology is proprietary and very difficult to use.

LifeSize Passport – An example of an affordable, easy-to-use video conferencing product, used by large and small companies alike.

It will not be long until this line of thought is ancient history. Today, companies of all sizes are seeing enormous benefits with video conferencing technology, improving productivity while reducing travel and costs—and traffic as well.

In short, video communication cannot only be used my upper management, the technology needs to be adopted by the organization as a whole. It is my sincere belief that now is the right time to invest in this solution. Video conferencing is affordable, safe, flexible, efficient and offers great customer experience. Imagine how life or business would turn around if you add “non-verbal communication” to each and every phone call you make. Wasn’t that the main reason you thought you had to travel?

So next time you are sitting in a traffic jam or have to wake up early for a meeting, ask yourself, could I do this differently? Changing behavior isn’t that bad.

Check out the recent Forrester study on the Total Economic Impact one Fortune 500 customer in EMEA experienced after implementing LifeSize.

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