Bluestar Bus Company
South Hampshire bus company Bluestar’s investment in customer service training has delivered happier passengers and direct bottom line benefits.
All 170 Bluestar drivers have undertaken the UK-leading one-day Welcome Host Gold training course and have been offered the chance to gain a nationally-recognised City & Guilds qualification by sitting a post-course examination.
Bluestar, part of the Go-Ahead group, is the main inter-urban bus operator in Southern Hampshire, linking Southampton with Winchester, Eastleigh, Romsey, Hedge End, Totton and the Hythe and Waterside area.
The training aimed to improve customer satisfaction, culture and overall performance. Customer feedback has been excellent and Bluestar has seen a huge cut in passenger compensation payouts. Operations Manager Steve Cuff led the initiative, with strategic and delivery support from Tourism South East.
He said: “I felt the bus industry in general didn’t pay enough attention to customer service, even though we put ourselves up very publicly to be judged by customers day in, day out. We realised that a step change could boost retention and encourage more ‘word of mouth’ recommendation to travel with us.”
The Welcome Host Gold course content was tailored to ensure it was “100% appropriate for our industry”. A short training video was produced in partnership focussing solely on customer service in the bus industry.
Steve identified two experienced drivers as in-house trainers, and put them both through a two-day ‘Train the Trainer’ course. Bluestar invested in taking eight drivers ‘off rota’ each week for training. Drivers learnt core knowledge and skills, along with key local information so they can answer visitors’ queries. The reaction was hugely positive, with some 80% choosing to sit the examination.
“Drivers wear their Welcome to Excellence badges with pride. They are more aware of what we want to achieve and their role in it. Welcome Host Gold has boosted morale and teamwork.”
Outstanding service should improve customer satisfaction and grow passenger numbers. An additional bottom line benefit has been through cutting costs.
“Drivers better understand their passengers’ experience and how they can improve people’s journeys. Prior to the training, we would have an accident compensation claim at least once a week through passenger falls on board. Since the course started we have not had one major compensation claim. Drivers now realise how important it is from a customer’s perspective to have time to sit down and be settled.”
Bluestar’s return on investment is measured constantly: “We have had a lot of positive, unprompted feedback from customers, via emails, our Facebook site and even the odd letter. We will also look at the impact on overall customer retention and performance.”
Steve concluded: “We need to change attitudes to customer service in the bus industry to improve our competitiveness. Welcome Host Gold has made a real difference to our culture and our performance.”