Bus travel is green, safe, and cost-efficient, and many bus companies have recently improved their quality of service. So, why still don’t more people use this mode of travel especially in North America, relative to the rest of the world?
Betterez, being a SaaS focused in the Bus & Motorcoach Industry, and having started out of Toronto, we often find ourselves thinking about this exact question; so we decided to conduct a survey and write a blog! In this blog, we share some feedback and insights to this key question. [editorial note: while Betterez is a global company, we are writing this blog predominantly from a North American perspective, as No. America continues to lag other geographies in using inter-city coach as a mode of travel]
First, we asked over 100 Industry stakeholders “What is the #1 top action Bus companies could take right now to get more travelers using their service?”
From this article, we hope you’ll find some valuable insights from our industry that you can use in your own business.
Let’s check out the responses.
For our survey, we offered three multiple-choice options to select as the #1 action, and an additional 4th option as a free text field, to offer a more tailored response for the respondent to identify as #1. We also asked some industry and bus company leaders to share some expanded thoughts and perspectives.
What is the #1 top action Bus companies could take right now to get more travelers using their service?
- Improve Customer Service (Quality of Bus, Driver interaction, Call center interaction) – 36%
- Increase Online Presence and Awareness (“get the word out”) of Bus as an option – 27%
- 19% chose to provide a tailored response
- Increase Discounts, Promotions, and Loyalty programs – 18%
Among the tailored responses, some survey participant comments were:
- “Accelerate digital transformation. Consumers want a great digital experience and you need to provide it to them.”
- “Bring them closer to Uber (and similar), where users can track buses and schedule in real time”.
Further, we would like to highlight some of the notable quotes that have been provided by industry experts and leaders in the field in response to What is the #1 top action Bus companies could take right now to get more travelers using their service? Here are some of their thoughts:
Linda Burtwistle, CEO at Coach USA
Linda has over 25 years in the transportation industry. Her background is in finance and she has held the position of CFO at Coach USA since 20 years ago. After a brief stint in the UK rail sector, she returned to the US to fill the roles of President of First Transit, President of First Student, and CEO of Coach USA since 2015. Linda Burtwistle was recently highlighted in CIOVIEW as one of the 10 Most Inspiring Business Leaders to Follow!
“As one of the largest transportation companies in North America, megabus.com understands the importance of staying committed to safety, service, and sustainability. Providing our passengers with the best experience possible is at the heart of our operations. In fact, megabus.com was awarded with Newsweek’s 2022 Best Customer Service in America award.
Because safety is our top priority, we’ve invested in state-of-the-art safety features, a comprehensive driver training program, and rigorous cleaning and disinfecting protocols across our fleet. We’ve also worked to reduce our carbon impact to ensure we’re having a positive impact on the communities we serve.
Megabus.com is committed to meeting our customer needs by offering reserved seating options that allow customers to select popular seats or simply to ensure that they can sit with their traveling party. Options for additional space and privacy while onboard are being explored and coming soon.”
Jan Deman, Managing Director at Busworld
Jan is also Director of The Busworld Foundation which envisions to be THE platform where all stakeholders and policymakers meet, discuss, learn and grow. Helping to shape the future of mobility by developing and defining bus & coach as a sustainable part of the solution.
“Although major efforts are being made to make collective road transport systems more environmentally friendly, it has become clear that this is not reflected in an increased ridership in similar proportion. It is a lesson we have learned from urban bus services. Besides, the shift from individual to collective modes is too often forgotten as the most important contribution towards sustainable transport.
Another lesson to be learned from transit operations, is that the rate of inclusion of (intercity) bus services in a multimodal and digitally linked, user-friendly, mobility system ; or MaaS, is directly linked to the amount of passengers. We need to realize that travelers do not choose transport modes anymore … they inform themselves on how to get from A to B; door-to-door.
It is a request that in hardly any case can be provided for by just one collective transport mode. So arguments in the passenger’s choice will be 1. the ease of finding info and booking the entire trip at once, 2. value for money during the trip; and 3. time to be spent. The extent to which intercity bus services will engage in such multimodal mobility systems will determine their success.
And last but not least .. data, data and data. Analysis of passengers’ behavior and mobility needs has become essential to create an offer of services and added value.”
Peter Pantuso, President & CEO at American Bus Association
Peter has 40 years of experience in association work, at all levels. Prior to joining ABA, Peter directed the government and regulatory affairs efforts at the Rubber Manufacturers Association and the National Confectioners Association and was a regional state lobbyist for the Glass Packaging Institute, all based in Washington. He began his career working in the Pennsylvania State Senate, then at Brockway Glass in Pennsylvania.
“There are a number of things that bus companies can do to attract customers in a “post-pandemic” environment. The first is being immediately responsive to customers and their needs.
This needs to happen with an updated website that is easy to navigate, and with a well trained staff that is quick to get back to current and potential customers, and with a customer-centric focus. A second thing is to ensure that all staff are constantly selling the value of bus travel as being: safe, clean, with professional well-trained drivers, and environmentally friendly.”
Jamie K. Lesniak, Vice President at C&J Bus Lines
Jamie started her career with the company in 1995 as a ticket agent and has never looked back. Today she holds the position of VP of Operations, where she plays an instrumental role in leading the C&J team and keeping the wheels in motion.
Here’s what Jamie responded:
“Many contributing factors dictate the use of intercity bus transportation by the general public, a key consideration being travel can be unpredictable leading to a predetermined level of stress. To reduce this stress and get more people riding buses, companies in our industry can develop an internal service-oriented, inclusive culture and then extend that outward to our passengers.
Internal cultural growth becomes an external mirror to the traveling public. Our industry plays a critical role in the infrastructure of the United States, and companies must look within to drive outward change.”
We are very excited about how our survey and expert’s roundup turned out, and we hope you find it valuable. We’d like to thank all of those that responded to the survey and the industry leaders we were able to quote.
This post covers a number of data points about how bus industry stakeholders think we can increase overall ridership in North America.
From the quotes and survey results, it’s clear that providing a better customer experience is first and foremost what we need to do as an industry to attract more riders. And in terms of customer experience, it is important to note as more technology enters the bus & coach market, the customer experience is never going to be just about a better digital experience, it is just as much about a clean, comfortable, safe bus, a courteous driver, a clearly articulated service (departure and arrival times, connections, terms & conditions, etc.) and clearly communicating to the passenger at all phases of the travel planning and journey.
After considering all of the inputs we received it also occurred to us that the responses can be viewed on a continuum, meaning while improving the passenger’s experience was the highest rated it still only starts the flywheel of how our industry can elevate its value and awareness to the traveler, we’ve got to do all 3, and in a continuous improvement cycle.
What do you think? We’d love to hear what you think about our bus industry survey and expert’s roundup.
Specifically, we’d like to know, what’s one thing you want to learn about the bus industry right now?
We plan on adding even more helpful resources to our blog soon. Please let us know if you have any topic ideas or suggestions.
Check out our blog to learn more about our mission to help bus companies all over the world to evolve and modernize their business.