Join us on our journey

Have you ever noticed how quickly the world is changing around us? People have always been interested in what the future will look like and what it might mean for us. Here are some stats that I think paint a bit of a picture:

• By 2050, global population will rise to 9bn, up from about 7.4bn today.
• By 2020 there will be 50bn connected devices.
• For the first time in human history, more people now live in cities than outside them.
• There will be a 56% increase in global energy consumption by 2040.
• Since 1880 the 4 hottest years on record globally have been 2015, 2014, 2010 and 2013.

As individuals and businesses, all these things mean that the world we will be living and operating in may look disarmingly similar – but will be very different in years to come. What’s expected of us, the resources available, our impacts, and the way we operate has to adapt to the changing world outside the window.

Public transport services have a crucial role to play in managing the potential strains that could be placed on our communities and environment too. A rapidly growing population living in cities, increasing congestion on roads and demands for cleaner air, and the urgent need to tackle climate change by reducing CO2 emissions (of which transport accounts for 14% globally).

Services like Arriva’s are already good for the environment and help with these issues – we reduce congestion and the overall environmental impacts from travel by taking individual journeys off the roads. In a changing world our challenge is to ensure public transport grows to meet demand while remaining attractive, convenient and accessible to new consumers. All while reducing our own impact.

At Arriva we want to be industry leading on the environment, and we call this our ‘Journey to Destination Green’. You might be thinking – hang on, what does that actually mean for me? Well, we’re all experts who can help Arriva get there, whether we realise it or not…

We’re already doing some fantastic things like trying out new technologies, services and alternative fuels – but it’s not just about the big things we do as a business. Being ‘environmentally friendly’ and helping Arriva reach Destination Green is all about the decisions we make as individuals. It’s no more complicated than that.

Each one of us has a unique opportunity to make a difference. We’re all experts in our own role so will know better than anybody else how Destination Green can apply to our day jobs. Each and every person at Arriva directly influences our environmental impacts, whether by using energy, water, waste and fuel, or in planning and managing our operations.

Maybe you work in procurement and can make sure our suppliers are on the journey with us, or you work in HR and can help new recruits understand Destination Green. Do you always use the right recycling bins? What about turning your monitor or equipment off when you’re not using it?

Think about your day to day role, and the unique influence you have on Arriva’s environmental impacts. How can you use your expertise to help Arriva reach Destination Green?

I’m always keen to hear any ideas you may have, because you’re the expert. You may well think of something that will be a game changer for Arriva, so get in touch if you want to have a chat! DestinationGreen@arriva.co.uk. Have a think and hopefully hear from you soon – together we can help Arriva reach Destination Green!

National Apprenticeship Week

Pamela Chapman3

The reform of vocational training shows no sign of slowing. Hot on the heels of the on-going changes to apprenticeships with employer-led Trailblazers designing new apprenticeship standards, the announcement of the apprenticeship levy and plans to route funding for apprenticeship training via employers, there is now going to be reform of the ‘apprenticeship pipeline’ 16 – 18 year old education options. I attended a meeting about this, kicked-off by MP Nick Boles Minister for Skills and Education and entitled Technical and Professional Education Reforms (TPER). This piece of work will look to simplify the dazzling array of educational options open to those age 16+.

The case for change was explained thus, 50% of sixteen year olds will either choose the academic option by staying on for A-Levels in schools or FE colleges, or opt for an apprenticeship/ alternative employment, or a full-time FE college course. Only 7% of 16 – 18 year olds start on apprenticeships, and government modelling suggests this proportion is unlikely to increase significantly because most employers prefer to take on young people at 18 rather than 16 (In our experience the older applicants perform better in assessments, therefore are more likely to succeed in their application).

The Minister went on to state that 46% of 16-year olds who do not choose the academic option or an apprenticeship are faced with a complex and confusing landscape of thousands of qualifications, many of which have not been designed with employer involvement or to meet the needs of industry. Some reforms were begun in the previous parliament, but the Government is committed to finishing the job.

An independent expert panel headed by Lord Sainsbury will look to learn from the recent Trailblazer apprenticeship reforms and ensure a college-based route is designed to meet standards set by employers. This way, an 18 year old completing a two year course will have increased their employability prospects because they have learnt the skills and knowledge that recruiting employers are looking for. The panel will work with employers to identify the principles that will underpin the development of new technical and professional routes, and advise and make recommendations to the government on what the reformed TPE system should look like to put England on par with the best in the world.

Look out for future blogs, we are in an exciting time for the reform of vocational education and training.

Spreading a little love in Gillingham

Great post Kent & Medway

Have you ever been able to travel for free on a bus all day, no strings attached? This year we pulled out all the stops to show some love to our customers in Gillingham.

Over the last 12 months or so, it is safe to say that we had some challenging times at our Gillingham depot. Concerns about timetabling had led to some dissatisfaction amongst both our customers and the drivers, and morale had slumped amongst everyone concerned. These kind of issues face us frequently in the bus industry, but whilst it’s not always easy to find the right balance, we do learn from these experiences and strive to improve for the good of both our passengers, employees and networks elsewhere across the business.

In this instance, we needed to win back the trust of customers who had been adversely affected, and in turn show them we appreciate them sticking by us. This is what led to an idea to run our buses free for a whole day, yes you read that correctly, completely free. I was given the task of designing, running and analysing the campaign to support it. And, as far as I am aware this is the first time we have committed to doing this kind of thing, so it was a bit like delving into the unknown for me.

I must admit, at first I was a little bit stumped as to how I would undertake this work whilst maintaining positive spin on what had been a difficult situation. How do I not only to reward our loyal customers, who may already have a ticket valid for the date, but also to try and encourage new customers to give the bus a go?

After some thought I decided I should use the Valentines weekend as a news hook for the activity, and made the ‘free day’ on Saturday 13th February. I could then sell it as an opportunity to ‘take your loved ones’ (be it family or partners) out for the day, for free. I then sought the help of Visit Kent, with whom we already had a great partnership, and who were able add a little something special to the pot in the form free tickets to visit Rochester Castle, which followed the romantic theme, and would make a great prize-draw incentive.

This is when I began to get really excited about the promotion. I felt we had a really good reward for our regular customers, but also an attractive proposition for someone to trial bus travel. The next question was: “How I am going to get this message out there to both our passengers and the general public in Medway?”

To be honest that was the easy bit. The hard part was the relatively small budget that we had to spend on getting it done, so I needed to be quite savvy. I decided to use our social media pages, as this was the best way to talk to our current passengers and with a £500 promotional spend on Facebook posts I could also send it out to all ages who live in the Medway area. This would be where I ran the competition to win the Rochester Castle tickets.

This really worked well during the week leading up to Saturday with 2,128 likes, comments and shares which is significantly higher than usual. It is amazing what a “never before” campaign can do. I backed this up with usual PR and on-bus posters, but I also spoke to regional newspaper group, the KM Group, about a new digital advertising mechanism, which allowed me to post our message on its mobile website with a link to our page. This enabled us to reach other people outside our customer base. To add to this, we could also set it up so that anyone that clicked on the link had the option of adding the date as a calendar entry on their phone so that they wouldn’t forget to get involved. We have never been able to do that and for just an additional £500 it was an easy decision to go ahead and trial it.

After all this, I bet you are wondering how the day went? Well, I’m pleased to say that we were all pleasantly surprised. Compared to an average Saturday this year, we generated a 50% increase in patronage which is really satisfying, particularly in an area where there had been such significant challenges.

However, this triumph did highlight one thing – that we clearly have plenty of capacity on our buses during the weekends which we could be filling. So now I’m left with another question: “How do we follow this up to keep the numbers high?” There is of course no simple answer for that, but with this success under our belts, we are excited to start building on the lessons we have learned from Valentines Day to deliver a future bus network that people will want to use. Time to get cracking!

I’m a car driver, get me out of here!

I’ve heard lots of people complaining about their car journey getting worse, and then them feeling helpless in the traffic with only an in car entertainment system for company. Most people travel alone, and this not only adds to the congestion but also stamps a bigger personal carbon footprint for the journey than other modes of travel – including the bus. Employers see this as an increasing issue affecting health, productivity and, potentially, ability to recruit. Plus think of the pressure on car parks!

Our solution was pretty simple: offer a simple but great value Employer Travel Club which businesses can offer to their employees on a monthly direct debit, enabling them to use our wide bus network, and thus providing a more pleasant way to get into work – easy! Plus, as its self-service, it minimises employers’ admin.

Let’s face it; buses can’t get through traffic any faster than the traffic will go most of the time without the rarely offered bus lane. However, by taking an Arriva bus you are not only being kinder to the environment, you are also able to work, read, and relax whilst your chauffeur (the highly skilled bus driver) delivers you to a point near your workplace. And don’t forget, you can have a glass of wine and Arriva will drive you home! It’s a simple, sensible solution. Isn’t it time you found out about signing up?

Hats off to our student campaigners

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Well, that’s freshers’ fairs done for another year and time to hang up our hats – all of them – and catch up with the day job!

Students represent a very important market to Arriva, and with many unable to drive or not allowed to take cars to university, it is vital we get our buses and ticketing offers spot on for them.

Our colleagues in the regional bus companies have years of experience behind them in getting this bit right so, that done, the key then is getting the message across. Talking to freshers – the new, first-year students – is completely different from attracting the attention of the more seasoned ‘old hands’ in subsequent years, and we use a variety of channels to reach them.

For the new starters emails through UCAS – the body that manages university admissions – are important, as we’re able to be there shortly after they get their offers of places, when the mind-set is about preparing for the major life-change and the parental bank account is on hand for such eventualities. This is reinforced by more traditional media advertising at the universities where we are key providers of bus services, plus online and social media activity.

Attendance at the freshers’ fairs can cement the relationship between Arriva and its future student customers. Typically these events are organised by the student unions and provide a platform for student clubs and societies and external suppliers to engage with the young people, hopefully win their interest and put a human face to an otherwise potentially faceless body. Our neighbouring stalls at the various events attended demonstrate the diversity of the messaging bombarding the new students – we’ve been sandwiched between the Chess Society and a variety of religious and lifestyle groups, a burrito outlet and a well-known alcopop brand!

This year our online campaign invited students to ‘Win a Round the World Trip for two people’ – a simple prize draw mechanic with a startlingly attractive prize. Complementing this theme on social media students were invited to share photographs of themselves wearing stereo-typical hats representing nationalities from around the world on Twitter and Instagram with a #DestinationArriva hashtag. Winners were selected to receive prizes drawn from a £10,000 prize pot including things like iPods, designer sunglasses, designer swimwear, Go-Pro cameras, shopping trips, and similar rewards attractive to the target audience. Canvassing entries provided the main hook at the freshers’ fair events, both as a conversation opener and a highly visual spectacular to attract attention in a sea of special offers and wacky promotions! Take-up was excellent and we are looking forward to a good return on investment for the campaign.

Rewarding awards

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The best thing about working in the bus industry is the people. And when I say the people, I don’t just mean the customers. I mean my colleagues. Both those in my team, and those from across the entire network. Day in, day out, the wonderful people of Arriva work hard at servicing, innovating, and pushing the limitations – all in the name of making bus travel better. The industry is by no means perfect, but we’re trying all the time to bring about the changes that will make our customers happy. It’s not easy, but we like it. And we’re proud of the part we each play, be it from behind a wheel, or sat at a desk.

This is why I love this time of year. It’s now that we as an industry take a good hard look at ourselves and ask ‘what have we achieved in the last 12 months’? The answer? Lots. Lots and lots. And it’s good. Really good.

The UK Bus Awards are designed to recognise, celebrate and promote excellence and best practice throughout the UK bus industry. And it does so quite wonderfully. Last week, professionals from across the country congregated together at the Transport Museum in Wythall, Worcestershire, not only to find out whether we were lucky enough to be added to the prestigious awards shortlist, but also to see how far the industry has moved forward since this point last year.

It gives us a great opportunity to meet, greet and mingle with our peers, learn from the success of others and shine a spotlight one those who deserve it. It’s fantastic for the morale of our team. To see what they’ve achieved applauded so publicly is the PR of dreams, and as a communications professional, it must be said, it gives me a rather warm and fuzzy feeling inside.

This year, I have been blown away by once again by what Arriva has accomplished. We have topped the shortlist with an impressive 15 nominations across 17 hotly contested categories – recognised both regionally and nationally across the full range of people focused, operational and technical accolades. And we will now be hoping to scoop a number of the final prizes during the glittering awards ceremony on 24th November, at the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane, London.

These awards-nods are absolutely testament to the incredibly dedicated teams and individuals that make up the wider Arriva business, who consistently strive to deliver excellence for our customers on a day to day basis.

It’s a huge honour for all concerned, and a pat on the back that is not only thoroughly deserved, but sometimes needed, as we continue to tackle the day to day challenges of life within the bus industry. I for one, second the notion that we are all winners already, even by getting this far, but I cannot wait to see how many of our team bring home the gold, silver or bronze wear in November. Either way, I’m proud to be #TeamArriva.

The full list of our nominations:

• Unsung Heroes Award – Kevin Richardson, Arriva North East
• Young Manager of the Year – Will Pare, Arriva North East
• Young Manager of the Year – Jessica Mills, Arriva Yorkshire
• Top National Bus Driver – Daniel Curry, Arriva North East
• Top National Bus Driver – David Skitt, Arriva Midlands
• Engineer of the Year – Anthony Lowe, Arriva Yorkshire
• Innovation – The Arriva Bus App: A Smarter Way to Travel, Arriva UK Bus
• Making Buses a Better Choice – Taking bus travel to the MAX, Arriva North East and Yorkshire
• Making Buses a Better Choice – The Arriva Bus App: A Smarter Way to Travel, Arriva UK Bus
• Marketing Initiative of the Year – Posh & Double Decks, Arriva Merseyside
• Marketing Initiative of the Year – The Arriva Bus App: A Smarter Way to Travel, Arriva UK Bus
• Putting Passengers First – Live Chat: It’s good to talk, Arriva UK Bus
• Top National Bus Depot – Newcastle, Arriva North East
• Top National Bus Depot – Birkenhead, Arriva North West
• Top London Bus Driver – Abdallah Bin Masood, Arriva South London

Forfurther information about the UK Bus Awards, visit www.ukbusawards.org.uk.

Getting chatty, staying social

Live Chat has become a seasoned part of the Arriva website. It allows visitors to have a real-time conversation directly with one of our dedicated Customer Services team (based in Luton) who generally find it to be a much more efficient way to handle queries.

Live Chat was introduced to the Arrivabus website in July 2012. Although many companies were already using this tool, some basic research showed us no other bus companies had ‘Live Chat’ at the time. It was thought that more people would start to use this method over the coming years as everyone was becoming more digitally aware. And we were not wrong, Live Chat volumes have doubled year on year since its inception.

Many things have changed since the beginning. We now have a team of 4 advisors who answer all Live Chat questions. This team also answer any customer service related questions on our Social Media pages. Furthermore, we have added this as a means of contact on both our m-ticket and the Arriva Bus travel apps. When the new website was launched, Live Chat was featured in a more prominent position which led to a huge increase in volumes.

Ultimately, having Live Chat on our website makes the customers’ journey through our site that much more seamless. Instead of getting stuck and calling customer services, which takes you away from the site – or sending us an email where you would have to wait for a response – our customers are able to get a response straight away while staying on our site. An online chat system provides customers with immediate access to help and customers can easily multi-task whilst speaking to us. Consequently, this makes our Customer Service department more efficient as advisors are only able to take one phone call at a time. This way, however, they are able to speak to up to three people on Live Chat at any given time.

The future for Live Chat looks very bright. We are about to extend our opening hours and we are doing a lot of working with the branding and making our presence even stronger on the website. I’m sure with all of this work we will continue to see a consistent increase in Live Chat usage for the next few years.

Skills success

The IRTE Skills Challenge 2015 prize-giving takes place at The National Motorcycle Museum, Birmingham.

At the 5th annual IRTE Skills Challenge presentation, Arriva UK Bus, a pioneer of the  competition again saw its engineers come away with a number of awards. The competition took place at the S&B Automotive Academy in Bristol between 1st and 4th June, and involved 10 bus and coach operators and 50 competitors. Arriva was represented by technicians and apprentices from London, the Midlands and the North East, who competed on 2nd June.

Having enjoyed notable success over the years, we have earned the reputation as the team to beat and this year was no exception with very determined challenges from the other operators. The results were revealed at the presentation ceremony held at the national Motor Cycle Museum on 16th July.

Our successes came with Tom King from Arriva London and Pamela Chapman from Arriva Midlands winning the joint award for to scoring electrical and mechanical. Tom was also rewarded as the top scoring electrical apprentice and Pamela the top scoring mechanical apprentice, with Matthew Newton from Arriva North East runner up in the top scoring bodywork apprentice award. Pamela was also runner up in the top scoring DVSA inspection apprentice award and, we’re delighted to say, the very first winner of the Philip Margrave award for Outstanding Achievement – firmly establishing her as being at the pinnacle of her profession.

We are, once again, extremely pleased and very proud with the efforts of all our engineers in the competition, it’s not easy to perform under the spotlight and for this they deserved to be commended.

All aboard for Catch the Bus Week

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As I look back on another successful Catch the Bus Week, both for Arriva and the industry as a whole, I feel a great sense of satisfaction and pride at the major hand Arriva played in establishing this now annual event.

Back in 2012, we wondered what we could do to promote bus travel to infrequent and non-users – a major challenge as far as the latter is concerned. The answer seemed simple: a PR-led marketing campaign to espouse the benefits of bus travel – environmental, value for money, more ‘me’ time etc – but also an opportunity to link up with other operators, PTEs and local authorities to create a much louder industry voice. Get Greener Journeys on board, some ministerial backing and there you have it, Catch the Bus Week was born!

As an incentive to attract new customers, we offered a free Day Saver ticket via our m-ticket app, available only during Catch the Bus Week. This was a great ploy for two reasons: we were able to encourage more downloads of the app itself, as well as being able to track subsequent sales and learn more about individual customer behaviour.

The figures speak for themselves; in the first two years we attracted more than 21,000 new m-ticket customers, many of whom are now regular users and all of whom sit on our database. This has long been the holy grail of many marketers in the bus industry, which as we know is very cash dominated. To have the ability to monitor journey habits and make more commercially informed marketing decisions is perhaps not priceless, but certainly worth the cost of a few free m-tickets!

It is incredible to think that around 80% of our current on-bus revenue is still cash-driven, outside of London. But that 20% is rising all the time and with e-commerce, smart card and mobile technologies continuing to develop, this is the road we must go down to drive our business, and our customer insight, in the right direction.

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Clubbing together

We always aim to support the communities in which we operate. As a local operator, we recognise the impact that we have upon the lives of the people located across our network and feel that it’s really important that we are able give something back in order to reflect and honour the relationship we have with them.

Our annual charity golf day is a prime example of this. Now in its 17th year, not only is it a highlight for us regionally, but it has also become something of an industry wide occasion that brings not only local businesses and stakeholders together, but also other operators and our national contacts.

The reason? Well not only is it a fun inclusive way of networking with key contacts, but moreover, it’s an incredibly worthy cause that sits right at the heart of the community.

Liverpool-based Zoë’s Place Baby Hospice offers palliative, respite and terminal care for babies and infants, aged from birth to five years old. Since our partnership with them began, we’ve raised in excess of £275,000, which is an astonishing feat, and one which we are extremely proud of. But we couldn’t have done it without the support of our wider network. It’s an entirely different kind of community, but one which is just as important.

This year alone 144 amateur golfers enjoyed their day on the green, with over 240 attending the four course gala dinner which included a charity raffle and auction. Volvo Bus, ZF Powertrain, ADL and Wrightbus each pledged valued support with their prizes, whilst ZF laid-on a BBQ. Together, along with our guests we raised in excess of £20,000. Not too bad for one day. And what’s great is that we know it will make a real difference to everyone who uses the facilities at Zoe’s Place.

The moral of the story is that by banding together, we can achieve amazing things. Developing and working at relationships is the key to success – it benefits us all, from a local to a national level. And on personal note, it feels pretty good too.

Arriva Zoer's Place Charity Golf dinner at Formby Golf Club. Arriva Zoer's Place Charity Golf dinner at Formby Golf Club.