Monday, 18 November 2013

Bus running late? Grab a coffee!

Sometimes the simple ideas are the best, and this moment of inspiration from my Velvet colleague Mikey deserves a mention.

At this time of year rush hour traffic doesn't need much help to be a nightmare, but last Thursday was especially bad.  A combination of factors meant that it was taking buses on the A around two hours to complete the scheduled 75 minute journey from Eastleigh to Southampton, on a freezing cold night.

Mikey was in the office watching the tracker, monitoring the slow progress of buses around the network and tweeting regular updates to the world.

One trip was causing us particular concern, the 1645 A from Eastleigh to Southampton which was due to return as the 1810 from Southampton.  As this bus passed through Hedge End on its way into Southampton, some time after it should have left to come back, Mikey tweeted this...
Velvet A: Customers waiting for 1810 from Soton - H'End, get in the warm, grab a coffee, keep the receipt and driver will reimburse the cost
This was done without any prior consultation, discussion or planning, just an idea from Mikey in that moment to try to minimise people's pain.

And the best bit is, some people did exactly that.  They went and got a coffee, and our driver Martin reimbursed them.  Mikey had texted Martin when he made the decision and luckily Martin picked up the text when he was in town.  But Mikey was confident that even if he didn't, the worst that would have happened would have been Martin phoning him to try to understand why people were presenting him with coffee receipts.

As with most customer service initiatives, it is impossible to quantify the exact benefit of that decision, but at the very least it hopefully helped reassure some of our regulars that we certainly do care about them and will do our best to look after them even when things are going wrong.

I am lucky enough to be present at the UK Bus Awards tomorrow (not winning anything I might add). But for me, that kind of split-second customer focussed decision deserves an award in itself!


  1. This is what makes Velvet different and another reason why TMT would benefit from increased customer service.

    It's a pity that the now tarnished brand of TMT can't make way for Velvet

  2. Great customer service there and good that as the boss you support such acts. Following on from Roger French's recent comments its good to see you patting your staff on the back when they go the extra mile for their customers as every customer given a reason to return is one that likely will return..a fact lost on many bus and train companies right now.

  3. As above - I think this doesn't say as much about Velvet's customer service or initiative as it does about the employee who had the confidence to basically introduce a new product to the company on a whim. Well done to you for giving the freedom that makes such initiates possible.

  4. Indeed, John and Anon 22/11, you've hit the nail on the head. This is not a post intended to promote Velvet or draw comparison with others, rather to draw attention to a spontaneous act by one individual which I felt was exceptional and deserved recognition.

  5. I'll keep my mouth shut in future.

  6. And it has caught on elsewhere... as we did this on Saturday when we had 3 passengers stuck waiting for a taxi to come and pick them up (as the bus had broken down) - we sent them to the cafe and told them to give the driver the receipt. So you are spreading stranded passenger happiness across the South East!

  7. Its a lovely idea, but sadly you are breaking the law by texting a driver whilst on duty. Drivers mobile phones must be switched off by law, except whilst on an unpaid break.....

  8. There's no such law saying bus drivers must have their phone switched off. They can't send/read text messages on a phone whilst in charge of a vehicle (just like every other motorist), but if the bus' is parked up and engine shut down there's no offence, regardless of what the bus driver's status is at that precise point in time.

  9. Hello

    Can I just say yout TM Travel operation in Sheffield needs a real sort out as services from Sheffield into Derbyshire regularly run late, in fact every time I use the 65 or 218, they can run as late as 40 mins late! On Saturday 19th the 09.25 bus 65 from Sheffield to Buxton didn't turn up until 09.50 and had to load a huge number of passengers, this is it's first journey of the day from Sheffield and your depot at Halfway isn't far from the city centre and the vehicle doing this duty was already parked up a couple of stands away in the bus station so why was the driver late taking the bus on? If the driver comes off another route, why can't they come from a route terminating in Sheffield earlier. Services from Sheffield to the Peak district are always going to be busy, buses and drivers need to arrive a good 15 mins before their due out so passengers can be processed in good time, one late bus has a big knock on effect throughout the day.

  10. He's got bigger issues with Velvet about to go to the wall ...

    1. That may be the case but he's got to sort out TMs bad reputation before people get so fed up, they take action such as not bothering to go on an outing to the Peak District and choosing other places to go like Manchester or Nottingham, regular users could end up being persuaded to take up driving lessons. TM have a bad reputation for timekeeping, their going to loose a lot of lucrative custom and will go to the wall if their not careful!

  11. And it looks like they've either lost the Sunday 215 Sheffield to Bakewell or First have registered a commercial competing service as they've registered a 240 from Sheffield to Bakewell running hourly on Sundays from July. Additionally First have registered a 244 from Sheffield to Bamford running hourly on Sundays as well. Now bearing in mind the 218 is always popular even when it's pissing it down (80 people were queuing at Chatsworth House for a 218 one day), TMs manager needs to badly wake up and sort the continuing shambles out! I don't give a dam how much it costs, get extra buses and drivers for busier periods, the costs are guaranteed to be met. On a final note if you think we're harsh and tough up North we've every right to be considering how much time we've missed waiting for late buses. Stop messing us about and give us a frequent on time service, we'll stop moaning then, simples!

  12. Who'd be mad enough to run 2 bus companies 200 miles apart? Not Phil, it appears.

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