Customer Experience Training for London Bus Drivers

Designing, delivering, implementing and reinforcing an engaging customer experience programme for all 26,000 drivers, managers and garage support staff on London’s bus network.

About Transport for London

Transport for London (TfL) is responsible for delivering the Mayor of London’s strategy and commitments to transport. No small task when you consider that passengers take a combined total of over 31 million journeys every day across its network. The scale is enormous. For example, there are 8,100 buses that operate across 675 routes and 19,000 stops. Perhaps surprisingly, they work for ten different bus operating companies, rather than a single organisation.

The Project

Transport for London appointed Steps to design, deliver, implement and reinforce an engaging customer experience programme for all 26,000 drivers, managers and garage support staff on London’s bus network.  The programme was to help the workforce adopt a more customer centric mind-set and to help bring about sustainable behavioural change within the industry. TfL works very hard to listen to, and act upon, feedback and complaints to constantly improve its services and shape transport provision in the UK capital. Customers are at the heart of what they do, and they strongly believe that every journey matters.  With this strategy in mind, TfL receive a relatively small number of complaints given the number of journeys made however, there was a consistent theme noted in the feedback that TfL received from their customers.  The Hello London programme is designed around the customer’s perceptions of the service that they receive and it focuses on the following themes:

  • Buses not always stopping
  • Drivers could be more helpful and acknowledge their customers
  • Drivers could be better at managing conflict – and sometimes left customers with the perception that the driver had been rude or showed offensive behaviour
  • Customers could be better informed about their journey by more driver announcements being made.

The project’s key objectives were centred on the four issues highlighted above. This is because the drivers themselves would all have direct influence on whether the feedback could be improved.

To kick the project off, a design team of 4 spent a month visiting 10 garages across the network, meeting over 150 drivers and operating staff. We also took the time to meet people from TfL’s bus directorate to understand their role on supporting the service, as well as engaging with the Trade Unions. This was really important to help us deeply understand the industry and each operator’s working culture. How did each company go about delivering customer service? What did that look like from a customers’ perspective?

TfL were clear from the beginning that a two pronged approach, one with an internal focus and one with an external one, was necessary to influence customer service behaviours throughout the businesses.

Therefore, we firstly delivered a programme for all garage managers and support staff. This event allowed all participants to share, discuss and challenge each other to fully understand their role in supporting drivers to deliver an excellent customer experience. This programme was delivered to 1,000 managers and support staff, and the “commitment to making changes to supporting the driver’s delivering excellent service” created by the participants was to be shared with the driver’s on their event. This link between the two programmes was imperative to starting a conversation between managers, support staff and drivers about changing the culture within their garages.

Secondly, we embarked on the driver-focused programme in June 2016. The scale is so huge – with a need to train 25,000 drivers, from across all 10 operating companies – that it will be completed at the end of March 2018. The course invites all drivers, 100 per course, to share their experiences and challenges of safely driving the travelling public around London 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 364 days a year.

Our Approach

Using our Steps to Change methodology, we take the drivers on an interactive and varied learning experience. They take part in interactive quizzes, watch live drama (to see the impact of their behaviour on others), share thoughts and ideas in forum theatre (interactive scenarios) and work in small groups to role play and practice other ways of behaving.

Stephen Covey’s Circles of Control (‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’) and Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis act as a foundation for the course to empower drivers to bring their “best self” to work more consistently on a daily basis.

What next?

The final stage of our Steps to Change methodology focuses on ‘Live It’ activities to really embed new behaviours in an organisation. To harness the desire for change that is created on the programme, in partnership with TfL, we developed a comprehensive sustainability plan including:

  • Senior Leadership garage visits to appropriately challenge thinking around the sustainability plan for the programme
  • The appointment of champions and ambassadors to embed the Hello London learning
  • Champions training to set them up to succeed and deliver the above outcome
    • Follow up practice sessions at garages to build confidence around making live announcements.
    • TfL also followed up the drivers suggestions asked at the event, with a “you said we did” campaign

Results so far…

Approximately 19,000 drivers have completed their training so far (as of November 2017) and the results of the programme are compelling.

  • 95% of drivers rate the course facilitation as either excellent or very good
  • 94% of drivers say they are “highly” or “fairly” likely to apply learning from the training to their work.

We are seeing remarkable, immediate improvements in key behaviours and attitudes (measured at the beginning and the end of the course) such as:

  • Personal motivation to deliver the best service – 15% increase in positive responses
  • Importance of acknowledging and helping customers – 20% increase in positive responses
  • Confidence in using PA system for announcements – 18% increase.

This has also translated into the behaviours that the drivers display out on the road:

  • There has been a 6% decrease in customer complaints about buses not stopping
  • There has been a 41% increase in drivers making announcements when needed.

Quotes

Leaders within the different bus operators often disclose the impact that the course has had on their drivers and in turn on customers.

Many drivers have commented on how life changing they have found the two days. Many have appreciated that there is a value to using their new learning insights not only professionally, but in their personal life as well.

Thank you so much I am a day older, but 10 years wiser.”

Challenged my perceptions on how the public see bus drivers. Taught me to calm down, listen, act on what I actually hear, not what I think I hear.”

I’d like to thank whoever organised this project; it has made me feel like I am an important part of London.”

I think the Hello London training delivered by Steps is the best customer relations training I’ve ever seen or experienced.  To get experienced drivers so engaged and motivated using actors to simulate real experiences is just brilliant.  It’s worth seeing the two day course to see how good it is!

Sir Peter Hendy, CBE
Chair of Network Rail

I think the Hello London training course is the best thing that could have happened to the industry in London.”

Lawrence Wilson
Director of London HCT Group