The Claudia Flanders Memorial Award
sponsored by INIT
The late Claudia Flanders, widow of entertainer Michael Flanders, was advisor on disability to the National Bus Company. In 1987, in memory of her husband, she established Tripscope to help disabled and elderly people solve their travel mobility problems. The UK Bus Awards has recognised and rewarded improvements in the accessibility of the bus in Claudia's memory since 1999 through a special award for accessibility.
The improvements in accessibility for those with a mobility handicap have delivered benefits for all bus users, and helped to shape the wider improvements in the industry's approach to its customers.
Through seeking to highlight best practice and improvements in genuinely putting passengers first, this Award recognises her achievement, and seeks to encourage even more innovation and hard work in this field.
The judges are looking for:
- an organisation that has set a new standard to deliver customer satisfaction, or
- a particular creative solution, developed by an organisation or team, which had vastly improved the experience of passengers, or
- an initiative that had improved the journey experience for a particular passenger group, such as people with impaired mobility
Ideally, the winner of the award will set ambitions for the future and thus blaze a trail for others in the industry to follow.
Winner 2013: Reading Buses – Dedicated to Accessibility for Everyone
This was a truly all-inclusive approach to accessibility which, in the view of the judges, stood out for its simplicity. Whatever the customers’ age, with or without disabilities, Reading Buses is working to remove the barriers to bus travel to create a network that is totally accessible. The company has shown absolute dedication to excellent customer service. A whole range of initiatives, of which its ‘Solo’ scheme to attract young persons to travel is just one, have contributed to a significant growth in passenger numbers and revenue, and passenger satisfaction levels amongst the highest in the country.
Runner Up: Bluestar – Star Access
Bluestar is dedicated to putting passengers first by exploring new and innovative ideas. It has invested in new technologies such as mobile app ticketing and free wi-fi which enable customers to buy tickets in advance. These and a number of other initiatives, including often overlooked ones like improving the on-bus layout to allow more room for wheelchairs and buggies, something which particularly appealed to the judges, have created added value for users and potential users and contributed to ongoing increases in the number of people using its services.
Dales Integrated Transport Alliance – One-Way £1 Fare for Under-19s
At a time when the cost of bus travel for young people is high on the political agenda, this initiative is an innovative, multi-operator scheme to encourage young persons to use the bus more and, by doing so, improve their access to part-time work, social and leisure opportunities in a deeply rural area. The judges felt that this was an excellent example of productive partnership between a number of different stakeholders for the benefit of youngsters whose ability to travel would otherwise be severely limited.
Go North East – Delivering Service and Innovation
Over recent years, Go North East has developed a reputation for service and innovation which the judges believe has been responsible for its growth in passenger volumes, and now satisfaction levels that are among the highest in the country. The introduction of new technology in its communications, pricing and delivery of services across its region, as well as refreshing some of the more conventional approaches adopted by the industry, have enabled the company to deliver value for customers in ways that challenge established thinking about the way bus services should be run.
Lothian Buses – The Digital Customer
Customer communication has evolved more dramatically than perhaps any other discipline in the public transport industry in recent years. Reliance upon printed timetables and other traditional methods has been largely eclipsed by the demand for friendly, easy-to-use, useful and engaging websites, mobile websites, social media offerings and smartphone apps. The judges considered that Lothian Buses has embraced this ‘Digital Customer’ challenge, both internally and externally, at least as well as any other operator in the country to date.
North Yorkshire County Council – Ride Around for a £1 (RAF£1)
RAF£1 is a promotion designed to make bus travel easy and attractive for young people. Thousands have now benefitted from the travel offer making additional journeys, or even travelling by bus for the first time. A committed partnership of bus companies, North Yorkshire Youth Council and North Yorkshire County Council, all involved have worked hard to make the initiative a huge success, ensuring that it grows year-by-year. The judges were impressed with the benefits of the scheme to those making use of it, and how social media has been a key factor in its success.
Stagecoach East Scotland – Improving Customer Relations Through Social Media
Stagecoach East Scotland recently launched a Twitter account as a primary customer contact method. Staff have successfully embraced and used the new media to communicate, assist and engage with customers at a more personal level, using feedback to improve services and, crucially, to develop better customer relations. Whilst Stagecoach Group is now rolling out a social media framework for all its companies, the judges were particularly impressed with the East Scotland initiative as it already has a track record of attracting over three thousand followers in a short time, and continues to grow rapidly.
Who could be nominated?
Entries were welcomed from operators, authorities and others specifying and securing services, partnerships and tourist agencies.
… and by whom?
Nominations were accepted from all eligible organisations, and self-nomination was acceptable.
Criteria and Entry Requirements
Decisions were based on the quality of the submissions made and the extent to which they address the criteria. Therefore, nominations were required to:
- Describe the project or organisation that is being submitted for the award
- Show how the nominee has achieved one or more of the following:
- Delivery of outstanding standards of service to bus passengers
- Improvement in the standards of its service to all its passengers
- Improvements to the journey experience of particular groups of passengers including those with restricted mobility
- Show why the nomination is innovative and likely to influence others in the industry
In assessing and comparing entries, judges took into account the nominees’ underlying approach to customer service standards, which will be judged on the factors set out below. These also needed to be addressed in the entry:
- Employee training and involvement: the extent to which staff are involved in the delivery of excellent customer service and in the development of the standards by which the organisation judges itself
- Service delivery: how the organisation goes about achieving consistency of delivery and measurement of standards
- Recovery – how the nominee goes about restoring the customer confidence when performance falls short of the expected quality
- Customer information and contact: the approaches used by the organisation to ensure that customers are:
- treated with respect and integrity
- kept informed
- provided with easily accessible points of contact
- provided with clearly documented, published and auditable complaints procedures
- Customer research - the extent to which a company or organisation:
- seeks to discover the needs and expectations of bus customers, with some indication of the results of such a strategy.
- bases its strategy on customer feedback
- measures its achievements (and/or failures) by research and monitoring and uses results to modify or improve its approach