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Sunday, 19 June 2011

Polite transportation

I have been doing some careful customer service research (in my own time of course!) in Atlantic City which has a number of major casinos.

The big question is of course, especially for someone like me who does not gamble, what is it that these establishments do to keep people satisfied when there is a competitor next door?

Casinos do have sone special attributes - no windows, no clocks so it is almost impossible to detect the passing of time. But they also have numerous other customer service aspects.

The places are extremely clean; all the facilities are clearly signed and there are numerous members of staff on hand to help. A simple push of a button on a slot machine brings you a waitress and allows you to order snacks and beverages. All food and drink is very cheap so as to encourage you to stay inside. A number of venues run a special 'thermal' promotion - as the temperature outside increases, then so does the discount for services inside. In other words countering the temptation to venture outside.

For those staying in the venues themselves the rooms are huge but lacking in amenities. Yes they want you IN the hotel but OUT of your room (so you can spend some money). Inside the hotels there are numerous restaurants, bars, shops, cash machines - in fact just about anything you might need.

Atlantic City is the playground for New Yorkers so a frequent Greyhound bus service delivers hundreds of clients. Some come for the day and I even saw people arriving early evening on a 'day' trip which returned at 0130.

What can we learn? For certain the huge attention to detail, perfect signage, cleanliness and personal attention. Also the 'tricks' which keep people spending their money and at the same time smiling, happy and cheerful. And also as a popular destination a well-marketed service running 24 hours a day with incentives for when you get there.

But perhaps the most serious lesson is the personal attention which is given by staff at all levels. Shop staff, security people, just everyone is working to keep you sufficiently happy so that you continue to part with your money in their establishments.

All this translates into public transport. I appreciate that people are travelling with us because they have to, rather than want to, but we do want to keep them and keep them happy. The difference between all this and a disgruntled customer is the customer-facing operator, be it counter staff, road staff or supervisor.

For our industry to deliver success we must do all we can to raise the quality of service our passengers receive. Their demands have risen dramatically over the years and industry leaders like Apple, Virgin, John Lewis and others have demonstrated the effects of this. To help them do so we must invest in training and empower them to do what they need to do 'in the field'.

Short distance public transportation in Atlantic City is provided by Jitneys - a generic word used here as a marketing name.

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