A ticket machine tribute for your Great Scenic Journey!
The Unsung Hero
Our Great Scenic Journeys, Chief Executive, Alex Warner ruminates about a bit of technology that’s so crucial in keeping buses running but doesn’t receive the plaudits and glory it deserves….
Taking something for granted is so easy in this ‘me, me, me’ generation where we all live for the moment and are constantly on the move, ensconced most of the time in our electronic devices.
At Great Scenic Journeys, we undertake customer experience reviews of the now nearly 200 routes within our collection and it was only last week we reflected on the importance of the ticket machine! The reason being is that on all our extensive mystery shops from the tip of Scotland to Land’s End in the west and Ramsgate in the East, we’ve never come across one that has broken down. It’s a bit like the situation that sadly happens in most businesses, including unfortunately bus companies, the great staff, such as bus drivers, only really get noticed by management when they’ve done something wrong!
So, it’s about time we paid tribute to bus ticket machines and in particular Ticketer who supply the lion’s share of machines across the UK.
Too excited to notice
Being a technophobe, I decided to probe as to what these grey, admittedly unsexy looking boxes, do. After all, when I’m doing my mystery shops, I’m generally too busy looking firstly at the outside of the bus to see how clean it is, then checking out whether there is lovely welcoming branding under the cab window before verifying that the driver is wearing full uniform, name badge and of course most importantly smiling and engaging with me! Then, in no time at all, with a sense of adventure to come, I’m excitedly down the aisle on the bus taking a seat and looking out the window at the Wow factor scenery or if it isn’t the most incredible view outside, there’s generally something of interest going on.
The Black or rather ‘grey’ box
On probing with the bus companies, it would seem that this modest looking, under-rated grey device is actually the nerve centre of the bus – the equivalent of the black box on a aircraft. For starters, the driver logs into the machine so that we know s/he is present and at the helm of the bus and ready to delight customers. The driver has programmed into the machine that everything in the vehicle is in order and then the ticket machine is primed for action, capable of reading all sorts of tickets, barcodes and products. It will also register those showing the concessionary fares passes so bus companies can be reimbursed from local authorities. Oh and when work is paying for your business trip, it churns out that trusted receipt so you fill in your expense form. Okay, so it’s an amazing £2 a journey on most buses these days, but every penny counts when it comes to claiming it back!
Eyes and ears
The role of the ticket machines and safety extends to Ticketer’s machines providing an alert for drivers on double-deckers of low bridges! Their machines additionally now offer the capability for the driver to communicate back to the depot if they witness any storm debris, ice, flooding, temporary roadworks, so that they can place a restriction on the road, keep the remainder of the day’s service running with minimal disruption and use that information to keep customers up to date with accurate service details, thereby improving the customer experience. So too, drivers can send messages through the machine to the depot alerting them to any issues that might impact on customers.
Planning to succeed
The machines now also incorporate ‘tap on/tap off’ functionality, removing barriers to travel as customers can hop on and off with a card without worrying about having the right change or ticket for their journey. Using the data stored in these encyclopaedic machines, bus operators can see where customers are boarding and alighting, analyse travel patterns and busy points and better plan their network and on-board capacity, to avoid overcrowding.
Recovering the service
All Ticketer machines are equipped with GPS and regularly report their location via an ‘always online’ data connection to the Ticketer back office. Where the operator has the option to partake in a strategic traffic light priority scheme, the location awareness of the Ticketer machine allows it to constantly monitor its location against a range of trigger points such as traffic light junction virtual geofences. If a bus is running late, it can then be given green light priorities on traffic lights along its route, to help it catch-up to its planned schedule.
Using the existing ticket machines ‘location-aware’ and real-time capabilities, Ticketer’s Schedule Adherence feature enables operators to monitor their fleet against the schedule both in real-time and through historic reports. Timetables are also made available to the ticket machines so they can advise the driver’s against leaving bus stops too early, helping customers to not miss buses who accidentally set off ahead of schedule.
There is also the opportunity to identify faults emerging on the journey within the bus or coach itself, thus enabling prompt rectification on the road or back at the depot to keep customer inconvenience to a minimum, if at all, and of course maintain safety.
The slickest part of the process
All in all, the ticket machine is absolutely invaluable. I’ll admit there have, admittedly, been very rare occasions, when as a mystery shopper, I’ve stood at a bus stop in the freezing cold, waiting for the driver to do a changeover at the start of their shift and watched them look like they are faffing around – checking their seat is comfy, verifying their schedule, fastening their tie and sometimes having a loud, conversation with their colleague. Then, the point I see them press a few buttons into that trusty machine, is the moment I’m relieved and know I can get on in the warm and the journey will commence and the adventure with jaw-dropping views out of the window…like this….
A world without a great ticket machine
Can you just imagine if the ticket machine didn’t work? No contactless, a driver having to give and receive change more often, or them having to log on with a pen and paper or what if the ticket roll just spewed out nonsense, wrong data or got jammed. Or, the driver had to stop the bus, get outside and use his or her phone to tell the depot of roadworks or a diversion? Imagine, how frustrated the driver would be at the start of their shift, faced with the hassle of not having a slick ticket machine. As fab as bus drivers are, they are surely in a better and more cheery mood to delight customers when they have the right tools for the job and are set up to succeed! What’s more customer insight surveys regularly show that one of the highest areas of customer satisfaction relates to the ease of boarding the bus and purchasing a ticket from the driver or using contactless and other smart ticketing via the ticket machine!
Ticketer’s just the ticket for a great scenic journey to come, buoyed by its customer-centric team of experts!
Ticketer’s ticket to ride!
So next time you get on the bus, make sure the driver gets the second nod. The first one should be in the direction of that unceremonious looking grey box, which is actually the nerve centre of your journey. We shouldn’t take it for granted anymore!
To find out more, check out Ticketer – A world of public transport possibilities