Bus Stop Anxiety: The problem is real

Author: Hamish Nuttall

Jun 10,2020

How to walk in your customer’s shoes and provide a better customer experience

Back in 2006, no long-distance bus service took bookings while the bus was on the road. That was because if we did, would have to phone the bus driver that would have to pull over and write down: “Ana is here for the pick up in Hamilton to Auckland”, and so on – all that manual process was when errors happened.

But, as you could imagine – when the bus was on the road was exactly when our customers wanted to book. For people travelling at the last minute, it was really important. Because it was so important we decided to do it.

So we built an app (remember this was back in 2006, there was no iPhone, and there was no App store). We built the app using Java on a Nokia 6234 (remember those small silver small phones with the snake game?). When the bus driver stopped in Hamilton, he would open the app and see all the bookings.

He didn’t care whether the booking was made 2 months ago or 2 minutes ago. All the names were there. By enabling our customers to book at the last minute, we increased revenue by 10% overnight. Crazy huh?

But that wasn’t the most interesting thing about that story. What happened next was this.

The drivers didn’t like the new system. In the old system, we emailed them a waybill, they would print it out, and tick off each customer as they got on the bus. And they liked that because they knew that we knew that they were doing their job properly. If someone said the bus didn’t turn up, they could point to the ticks on the paper, to show how many people got on the bus.

So, reluctantly, we added the tick to the system. So now, the drivers could tick off the passengers. And that’s when it started to get interesting.

Each tick was time-stamped. That meant that we knew when the bus arrived at each stop. So, now we knew whether the bus was running on time or was late. And if it was late, we could text our passengers down the line, saying: “Your bus is running 20 minutes late. Please wait at the bus stop, and the driver will be there as soon as possible.

It turns out the customer didn’t care if the bus was late as long as they knew when it would turn up. It was the not knowing that was the problem – wondering whether the bus had broken down, or the driver had gone the wrong way. We called it “Bus anxiety”. So, the customer was happy.

The bus driver was also happy because the customer was happy.

But mainly, we were happy because we didn’t have to answer about 150 phone calls asking “Where’s my bus?”

And that is how we eliminated the bus anxiety.

That is all because we knew that we would be successful if we could solve the customer’s problems.

Eliminating bus stop anxiety was just one thing we did to improve customer service. Cumulatively, these initiatives had a huge effect, not just on our customers but on our bottom line. In 2008, we were carrying 150,000 passengers per year, and we had 2 customer service reps. When I sold the business in 2015, we were carrying 700,000 customers a year, and we had 2 full-time customer service reps. We had automated away so many problems that we didn’t need any more staff.

Now what we do with ThinkLazy is helping other business to do initiatives as we did back in 2006. Innovation is really putting yourself into the customers’ shoes.

If you want to help your customers too and make your business more sustainable too, come and have a chat or book a FREE consultation with us.

If you have an exciting story as well, please share! We love to hear good case studies and talk about how to make people’s life easier.

Hamish

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