Although many bus companies have made great strides in improving the quality of the bus interior, I still believe that there is a lot for the industry to learn in this respect. Although we are very good at creating interior designs that are pleasing to the eye and highly functional, the vast majority of the industry has no marketing insight into how our customers feel about what we give them.
Even though the bus is a big rectangular box offering all sorts of scope for creativity and innovation, we mostly still fill it with rows of identical forward-facing seats. While that might be good for capacity, it takes no account of the fact that the inhabitants of the box comprise a huge variety of different types of people from all walks of society and all age ranges. Each of these probably has a different perception of the environment, and different expectations of what they might like it to offer.
Our customers spend a significant chunk of their day sitting on our vehicles and their perception of that experience must shape their overall view of the product. Yet we do little or nothing to measure how people interact with the environment, and what opportunities it could offer to grow business by making the time spent on the vehicle more rewarding.
Whether that is simply in terms of good design, better adapted to suit the differing needs of customers who gravitate to different parts of the vehicle, or whether it is a more customised technological offer, I strongly believe there is much more we need to do in this area.
Part of that must involve learning from other industries that have similar issues and that was my justification for a trip to Prague this week, to visit the Railway Interiors Expo. My companion for the trip was iconic industry design guru Ray Stenning - indeed had it not been for him suggesting that we should go, I might never have been aware that such an event existed.
I hoped that we would find an exhibition hall full of the giants of the European rail industry, bristling with products and innovations that would enhance the passenger experience, and that we would come home full of ideas that we could apply to the bus of the future. It didn't quite work out like that, although we did pick up some useful stuff, and it gave us both our first chance to explore this beautiful city.
All this means the next few posts will end up being more about me going through my holiday snaps and less about bringing you cutting edge insight, but hold tight for some interesting revelations about floor tiles!
The first challenge was to get out of the UK...