Arriva has sought to answer this question through a programme
of engagement, including an online survey and an event at our HQ

 

arriva_customersThe customer-focused event in Doxford

 

By Gillian Singh, Arriva UK Bus

All too often we see customer engagement by businesses take place to gain intelligence and thoughts on a decision already taken, an investment already made. But shouldn’t customer engagement begin prior to the finalisations of any large scale commercial decisions, particularly when the business is an important part of many of its customers’ day-to-day life?

Well, customer-led decision-making is the approach being taken by Arriva. We decided to get to the bottom of what our customers, non-customers and key stakeholders really want from their buses by undertaking a new programme of engagement, featuring a large online survey, and a customer-focused event at our headquarters in Sunderland.

The research was undertaken prior to Arriva initiating commercial decisions on the development and progression of its best asset – its fleet – particularly in relation to the standard Arriva Bus and our premium brand Sapphire. Through the process, insight was obtained from key stakeholders including Transport Focus, Guide Dogs for the Blind and Bus Users England, offering a unique view into the needs of passengers now and in the future.

The event was part of our commitment to put customers at the heart of our business and ensure decisions were informed by experience and consumer requirements.

Before we begin to consider what the buses of the future should look like, we wanted to ask our customers, non-customers and key stakeholders what they would like – and need – to see. To undertake this research and obtain what we consider to be balanced research, we embarked on an online survey and our customer and stakeholder event in Doxford.

Our online survey, which was shared across our social media channels and via our website, has attracted almost 3,000 responses which demonstrates how important our customers feel about this. In addition, we also wanted to offer customers, non-customers and key stakeholders who may not have been able to engage online, the chance to experience our buses and feed back on their honest thoughts.

This commitment by Arriva to obtain customer, non-customer and key stakeholder insight, will allow us to have truly consumer-led development when we come to develop what is our greatest asset, our buses.

When the research is collated, we will be armed with fantastic insight that will inform our discussions with manufacturers to create an even more user-friendly bus.

The research is yet to be finalised but we have already begun to dissect the comments received, particularly at the event in Doxford.

Key factors to have emerged surrounded the digital development of bus fleets and the expectation held by customers that there will be on-board technology and journey assisting technology. This reflects key development by Arriva over the previous 12 months during which time there has been vital progression with new mobile apps, such as journey planners and m-ticket apps, increasing ease of use for all passengers. There has also been on-board development with Wi-Fi available on many buses as well as charging points and USB points. And while the survey saw praise directed to Arriva for these developments it was clear this level of on-board technology is the expectation, both for current buses – and definitely buses of the future.

Sustainability was also a key area of importance as hybrid buses also become an expectation, as does stop-start technology and low emissions.

Thoughts were also sought from disabled customers, who felt the audio-visual announcements were a vital travelling tool for people with hearing or sight impairment. One attendee said he would like to see clearer disability signage not simply aimed at wheelchair users. But audio-visual assets were also important to non-users as well as disabled users, as they aid new users with their journeys.

Key stakeholders also fed back with advice to effectively develop the buses and shared thoughts on comfort as well.

Dawn Badminton-Capps, director for England at Bus Users England, an organisation set up to represent the passenger and ensure their views are heard by operators, local authorities and central government, attended the event. “It is really great to see an operator asking for proper feedback from their customers before engaging in a commercial decision,” she commented. “I hope I was able to add some value and I certainly found it interesting to hear what your passengers and stakeholders thought would make buses better.”

 

About the author:

 Gillian Singh is marketing and new product development director for Arriva UK Bus

 

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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