Driving change in the bus industry with smarter ticketing and payments
James Timperley, Retail Development Director at First Bus, discusses how investment in contactless and smarter ticketing options can drive change within the bus industry.
First Bus’s fleet of around 6,000 buses carries approximately 1.6 million passengers a day within a huge number of communities, including eight of the 11 most densely populated towns and cities in the UK. We are committed to investing in new technology and payment options to benefit as many of these passengers as possible. Smarter ticketing drives changes within the bus industry
The introduction of contactless payments alongside our success with mobile ticketing is pivotal and the use of mTickets is exceeding our expectations, continuing to grow daily. We are seeing customers adopting contactless payments with the same enthusiasm across the UK.
Investing in smarter payment options
Our investment in smarter ticketing is part of our goal to help make buying a bus ticket easier, for both customers and drivers, whilst encouraging less customers to pay with cash.
The hero smarter ticket options include contactless payments and mTickets, both of which have been introduced to make bus travel a convenient, simple and attractive experience for users.
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 to speed up journey times.
We launched contactless payments in Aberdeen in May 2017 and have already seen a significant rise in smart payments, with almost 50 per cent of transactions recorded as ‘cashless’.
With 4,000 Ticketer machines now in operation, contactless methods are available in over half of our operating companies. In that time, we’ve achieved over 1 million contactless transactions and are now working on installing contactless technology across the remainder of the business within the next 12 months.
The introduction of contactless payments alongside the success of 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, ensures travel by bus is an attractive option for many customers and their 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 can 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, even without an internet connection, and scan the QR code under the ticket machine. The mTickets app stops customers worrying about losing their bus ticket and enables them to buy tickets 24/7.
We’re continuing to invest in our mTickets app, recently updating the technology 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. We’ve also introduced new payment methods including PayPal, Apple Pay and Google Pay.
Investment in future platforms
We’re working hard to improve our ticket choice to ensure we’ve got the right travel solutions 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, which is an online customer surveying tool where customers can report how they feel about their journey. The surveys are anonymous, so we provide updates via our website and social media channels to inform customers how their feedback is being used to improve the customer experience.
We are focusing on improving the customer experience through investment in driver training, new technology and operations so that we can continue to improve customer satisfaction across the country.
James Timperley, Retail Development Director at First Bus has over 11 years in the UK transport industry, having worked for Transport for London as a Programme Manager before joining First Bus to lead the development of smarter ticketing. James’ role focuses on developing the retail strategy and ensuring the successful delivery of new retail systems across the business.