Be Lazy: Use Digital Transformation to connect Customer Pain Points to your Vision

“This is the 10th time I’ve had to do this. Surely we can automate it?”

These words became something of a mantra at our startup.

Naked Bus was growing at between 25-40% per year and we didn’t want to keep adding staff, so we looked at smarter ways of doing things. And, although there was a lot of automation, it wasn’t just that:

  • analysing customer queries to discover what wasn’t clear on the website or in the booking process, and providing the information or improving the process. I personally looked at about one quarter of customer emails, probably 50,000 over 9 years, to see what was working and what wasn’t.
  • putting the right information on the website at the point of purchase so people didn’t need to ask questions,
  • finding out where buses were most likely to be delayed and fixing the timetable,
  • finding out what confused customers on the trip and changing driver scripts,
  • analysing the most common complaints and changing processes and retraining staff.

And rinse, and repeat, because it is continuous improvement.

Everyone in the team was encouraged to bring problems to the table. Of course things weren’t quite as chaotic as they sound. As we grew, priority, backlogs and sprints regulated the workflow.

I’ll put my hand up, and acknowledge that I’m quite lazy. I hate doing repetitive stuff. But actually what drove the whole thing was our vision. Our goal was always to have the lowest fares (average fares went from $25 to around $19 between 2006 and 2015 – compared with $45 for our competitors), and to do that we needed to have the lowest cost per passenger. And to do that, we needed the fewest defects. In our eyes a defect – whether a delay or a complaint – added cost. Complaints take time to investigate; far better to have no complaints at all.

So we measured: complaints per 1,000 customers, delay minutes and so on. And we improved, and then measured again.

As I looked at the business when we were in the process of selling it, I realised one metric that demonstrated what we had achieved. In 2008, our first full time staff member turned to me and said, “Hamish, we need to employ dedicated customer service reps to answer calls and emails, so we can focus on growing the business.” I reluctantly agreed, and we employed two, for a network carrying 150,000 people a year. In 2015, carrying 700,000 customers a year, we had … still two customer service reps.

Oh, and all those improvements positively impacted on our customer service – we had a net promoter score of +65, which led to more word of mouth, more customers, fuller buses … and lower costs per passenger. A neat virtuous circle when you have a single minded focus, or if you are just plain lazy.