Driving Change with Smarter Ticketing
James Timperley, Retail Development Director at First Bus, discusses how investment in contactless and smarter ticketing options will drive change within the bus industry.
At First Bus, we are committed to investing in new technology and payment options. The introduction of contactless payments alongside our success with mobile ticketing is pivotal as we continue to make bus travel a convenient, simple and attractive experience for our customers. Use of mTickets is exceeding our expectations and continues to grow daily. We are seeing a trend for customers adopting contactless payments with the same enthusiasm, across the UK.
“Investing in smarter payment options to make it easier for customers"
Our investment in smarter ticketing is part of our goal to help make buying a bus ticket easier, for both our customers and drivers, whilst encouraging less customers to pay with cash.
Our hero smarter ticket options include; contactless and mTickets, both of which have been introduced to make bus travel a convenient, simple and attractive experience for our customers.
Contactless, mobile tickets or smart card payments mean that customers can switch from paying with cash to using a card or mobile, making it easier to catch the bus as customers do not need to worry about having the right change for their bus fare. The switch from cash will also have a huge impact on boarding times; helping in the longer term, to speed up bus journey times.
We launched contactless in Aberdeen in May 2017 and have already seen a significant rise in “smart" payments in recent months, with almost 50 per cent of transactions recorded as “cashless".
With 4,000 Ticketer machines now in operation, contactless is available in over half of our operating companies. In that time, we've achieved over one million contactless transactions, which is a fantastic result and we are now working hard to rollout contactless across the remainder of the business within the next 12 months.
The introduction of contactless payments alongside our success with mobile ticketing is pivotal as we continue to make bus travel a convenient, simple and attractive experience, encouraging more people to travel by bus. The combination of journey planning, free wi-fi, real time information, contactless and mTickets, really does make the bus an increasingly attractive option for so many journey needs.
Our mTickets app continues to be popular – with West of England bus customers using the app more than anywhere else in the UK. Customers simply download the app, register, select from a variety of tickets, and navigate the secure payment system. Before boarding customers can activate a pre-purchased ticket (no internet connection is required) and scan the QR code under the ticket machine. Among the many benefits for customers opting to use the mTickets app are; customers don't need to worry about losing their bus ticket, they can buy tickets 24/7 and simply 'activate' when they're ready, there's no need to worry about having change for the bus, and it helps to speed up boarding times.
We're continuing to invest in our mTickets app as we've recently updated the app to include new features. The app now includes; a “Buy Again" button on the home page, which allows customers to quickly repurchase previously bought tickets, and we've also introduced new payment methods including PayPal, Apple Pay and Google Pay.
“Investment in future platforms to improve the customer experience"
We're working hard to improve our ticket choice to ensure we've got the right travel solution for our customers. As part of this we have recently introduced First Unlimited, which is a monthly subscription ticket, delivered straight to customer's mTickets app. This is currently being rolled out across the UK and is already live in most of our businesses.
In addition, we are investing in a new app for staff so that they can keep updated with the latest news, diversion information and updates from the business. This means that our drivers will be more knowledgeable about changes and why they're happening, which should therefore lead to an improved customer service experience.
Our “Tell First Bus" function has now been launched, this is an online customer surveying tool where our customers can tell us how they feel about their journey. The surveys are anonymous, so we are providing updates via our website and social media channels to inform customers of how we're using their feedback to improve the customer experience.
We are focussing on improving the customer experience through investment in driver training, new technology and operations – so that we can improve customer satisfaction and become the number one bus operator across the country.