Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Singing from the same hymn sheet

Whilst in Derby Bus Station the other day, I overheard a woman complaining. Something about her journey that day "simply wasn't good enough," she was telling a member of staff. She was taking time out of her day, time that could otherwise be spent shopping, letting the company know what she was unhappy. This got me thinking, what exactly was it she was trying to achieve?

As a law student, I am all too familiar with one of the latest imports from America; the blame culture. In a society where individuals are suing companies left right and centre, could it be compensation she is seeking? Does she want the ill effect she suffered from her journey reimbursed to her? I very much doubt it, she appeared to be in the over-60 bracket, she wouldn't have had to pay for her journey and is of the generation that typically has a 'keep calm and carry on' attitude.

She was, of course, wanting her voice to be heard. She wanted to voice her concerns and criticisms to a company that would take them on board and act upon them. She wanted to be listened too. And, fundamentally, isn't that what we all want? Whilst we are by no means experts in every field, when we spot a problem or an issue, we want to be listened to and taken seriously by the company in question. We want them to appreciate and accept our point of view on a subject.

And this was exactly how I felt last night. After posting my review on Zoom, I was delighted to receive an email off Trent Barton's Commercial Director, Alex Hornby. Even more so when he agreed with some of the criticisms of the new service and I was reassured to know that they were issues already being looked into.

For those who haven't read the review, I must stress that my overall opinion was that it was a fantastic service, but there were two issues that I raised, one being the noise made my the buses in use and the other the overly flexible timetable.

On the first issue, Alex commented "the noise of first generation Solos has always been a grumble of [his]". When senior management note the same issues as you, you know that, not only are you not going mad, but that this is an issue taken seriously  Obviously there is little that can be done save selotaping a few hundred egg boxes to the engine chamber, that is without investment in new vehicles. On this, Alex comments "we'd love to have newer buses, but it's difficult to attract investment with a new venture like this." Hopefully, if Zoom does prove to be a success, we may see some newer vehicles on the route in years to come.

My second issue was that the bus made such good progress along the A52 that it had to proceed very slowly along the rest of the route to avoid running early. Again, this is an issue clearly observed by the decision makers.What's more even more encouraging was the urgent attempts to remedy the situation: "We'll be speeding up the journeys within 56 days so expect a new faster timetable by the end of November" says Alex. Given increased car ownership and busier roads, there are few services that need services amending to speed them up and as such what is currently the fastest option for many will be able to become even faster.

Of course, whilst Alex and the rest of the Heanor team have a big impact on what happens on Zoom, the travelling public will base their opinion on the team of drivers themselves. I've always found Trent Barton drivers to be friendly and the one I encountered on Zoom was no exception. Alex considers his team "a set of highly motivated and interested individuals" and despite the challenges they face in making Zoom a success, "the only gripe they have is that they’re worried that the buses may be too small." This is clearly a team that believes in the product as much as their managers do, which is certainly very encouraging. 

What is apparent from Alex's comments is that nothing short of perfection is good enough. This is a good service but until all complaints are settled then there is still work to be done. With managers having that sort of mindset, the customer can remain confident that they are getting the best service possible.

For those into twitter, I would strongly advise giving Alex a follow here. 

Many thanks to Alex for getting back to me and giving me permission to use the above quotes.

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