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Ted Thomas, Deloitte

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

Toll Insight spoke with Ted Thomas, Senior Manager, Strategy at Deloitte.

1. What does Monitor Deloitte do?

Strategy lies at the heart of an organization's success, requiring hard choices about the moves it will make now and in the future. But to set a winning strategy, leaders need a firm understanding of the dynamics driving change and innovation, as well as the tools for winning opportunities and reducing risk.

Founded in 1983, the Monitor Group gained recognition for its expertise in strategy consulting and its development of many proven frameworks such as the Strategy Choice Cascade. In 2013, Monitor Group joined Deloitte Consulting, the largest professional services firm in the world.

Today, Monitor Deloitte is the Strategy practice of Deloitte. We build long-term relationships with senior executives in the most influential organizations worldwide, helping them generate measurable outcomes by making winning choices on their most significant strategic issues. We deliver strategy and implementation in areas such as corporate/enterprise-level strategy, innovation, customer and marketing strategy, disruptive technologies, and transformational change.

2. How does that translate into your personal skill set as well as the tolling industry?

I have been fortunate to have had a few different chapters in my career – in aviation, international development, and multi-stakeholder partnership brokering. These different professional experiences share a commonality: I have also been curious about change and fascinated by working with change agents – leaders inside organizations who were grappling with a changing world outside and inside their agency. It was natural to start a new chapter in strategy consulting when I joined Deloitte a decade ago.

Today, I work with change agents in the tolling industry. Transportation is one of the most fundamental human experiences: every move we make, whether small and ordinary or enormous and life-changing, invokes some form of travel. Of course, how, where, and why we move is changing rapidly. Changes in traveler behavior and customer expectations, changes in technology, the natural environment and society, our finances, and more – all this requires helping leaders in the tolling industry to understand the dynamics driving change and innovation as well as the tools for securing growth opportunities and reducing risk.

At Deloitte, we specialize in helping our clients gain this understanding and hone their approach. Within tolling, that means addressing challenges faced in workforce, operations, financial, and customer experience arenas in ways that drive innovation and modernization in the wake of our changing environments. It is exciting work to be able to tackle these integrated and complex questions as a strategist supporting leaders in the transportation industry.

3. How has the evolution to Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) & All Electronic Tolling (AET) changed tolling organizational requirements?

There are many answers to this question. I’ll offer one. I explain to people outside of tolling that the industry’s shift toward a cashless (or less-cash-reliant) model has brought about three big changes or ‘shifts’: physical, institutional, and philosophical.

The first shift - the physical shift - is obvious. We see it all around us. Gone are most of the people and gates in the toll plazas, replaced by increasingly minimalist infrastructure and technologies. It’s starting to look like the future out there! This physical shift is largely a matter of infrastructure. It’s hard work, but the job isn’t done when the civil engineers wrap up – there are two other shifts the tolling industry needs to excel at.

The second shift - the institutional shift - is now becoming apparent in the industry. We see it prominently in technologies and business systems. Toll agencies are today faced with the complexity of handling thousands (or millions) of diverse customer accounts, conducting millions (or billions) of transactions, and reconciling large amounts of money and data, all in a digital environment with its associated benefits (e.g., speed of information) and challenges (e.g., security of data).

The third shift – the philosophical shift – is about much more than tolling on its own. Customers and their expectations are changing more now than at any time in the last century. This is true for tolling too. Gone are the days of the traveler only known to a toll agency for a moment at a toll booth. These travelers are customers, with evolving expectations, needs, and opportunities. What’s exciting is this philosophical shift also opens the aperture for tolling agencies to offer so much more to their customers. I’m going to say more about this in the next question…

4. How have other industries adapted in relation to customer experience and what does the tolling industry need to do to keep pace? We know customer expectations are changing at an exponential rate. Last year, a Deloitte report observed: “The explosion of digital technologies and the new possibilities they have created have dramatically reshaped customer behaviors and expectations, and the pace of change is only increasing. Customer interactions are evolving rapidly, the number of communication channels has exploded, and customers expect to engage across them seamlessly.”

The good news – tolling is not the first industry to handle customer accounts, process digital payments, and explore new revenue models. The last twenty years have seen nearly every customer-facing sector of the economy go through similar shifts, and today tolling agencies can leapfrog many of the steps (and mistakes!) of predecessor industries.

The not-so-good news? As the Deloitte report above noted, “Digital technologies have dramatically reshaped customer behaviors and expectations.” Nearly every customer-facing sector of the economy has felt the shockwaves of this change in customer expectations. Today, customers have evolving expectations about the benefits, design, and pricing of any service or product they are offered – and they have expectations about how they interact with companies and agencies, in both online and offline channels.

The stakes are high for any industry joining this digital economy, and that means tolling agencies need to understand the shifts required: the technologies, business processes, operating models, and more, to be a high-quality customer-oriented organization operating in a digital world.

Change is already happening. Look at Portugal, where a nationwide toll agency offers its customers a one-stop solution for road payments, parking payments, airport payments, and even paying for fast-food – all powered by a set of simple-yet-elegant self-serve tools backed up by consistently high-quality customer service systems.

This isn’t a question of technology; it’s a decision of a business model, to reimagine the tolling customer as much more. Overall, I am optimistic that tolling agencies will increasingly embrace practices that are proven every day by Fortune 500 companies – and with this, will continue to win and delight traveling customers who benefit from the safety and reliability of these transportation systems.

5. Earlier this year, you attended the Toll Insight Urban Tolling Online Conference. What were your key takeaways and how does Deloitte play a role in this emerging space?

Change is everywhere, and I find change in cities particularly fascinating. The last two decades have been a global story of urbanization – with cities of all sizes and types growing at unprecedented rates. By 2050 89% of the US population is expected to live in cities. With all the progress, we also face serious challenges: congestion and equitable mobility, cost of living, environmental resilience, air & water pollution, financial sustainability, quality of life, and more. The Urban Tolling conference was brilliant at bringing together global experts and exploring the solutions being proven in some of the most iconic cities in the world.

From the conversation at the Urban Tolling conference, it is clear that tolling agencies are shifting an important paradigm: from moving people ‘between’ cities and moving people along ‘linear’ networks, toward regional and systems-level thinking, and also involvement in the wider mobility ecosystem. Put simply, tolling agencies will increasingly find themselves involved in the business of moving people within and across cities. Cordon pricing, congestion pricing, road user charging, mobility-as-a-service, and dynamic incentivization –are all examples of the shift required to manage urban transportation systems in a way that achieves mobility, sustainability, equity, and financial stability.

Since at least the early 2000s, Deloitte has been a partner to some of the most iconic transportation and mobility programs in the world. Every day millions of travelers pass through systems and networks we helped to design, implement, or transform. From helping design London and Stockholm’s iconic road pricing programs, to developing innovative mobility and road charging technology in Brussels and Lisbon, to advising leaders in places as diverse as New York City, San Diego, Dallas, and Vancouver – we are every day at the forefront of helping cities, regions, and states re-think how people move and getting the technologies and programs in place to make this a reality.

For someone curious about change and motivated by working with visionary leaders, it is a fascinating time to be involved in transportation and tolling. The future of transportation is increasingly digital: we simply cannot dig and build our way to a more sustainable, equitable, and scalable transportation system. Every day I get to work closely with leaders willing to embrace change, be innovative, build partnerships, and strive for better. It is an exciting privilege to be involved in this industry!

Thank you, Deloitte, for sponsoring Toll Insight!


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