Ulster bus drivers to undergo customer service training

More than 700 Ulster bus drivers will go through one-day customer service training from the end of next month to help change entrenched attitudes.

The training is designed to help change Ulster bus drivers’ attitudes from simply being bus drivers to pro-actively providing passengers with information, care and assistance. London training company Echelon has won a £160,000 contract to deliver the training, which starts on 29 May in Belfast.

Director Jenny Hill said: “Since the troubles ended, there has been a rise in the level of customer service in Northern Ireland, and this has raised expectations. In the past bus services were pretty ropey, but new ones have been introduced and drivers have to be re-trained to adopt a service ethic.”

Echelon undertook research beforehand to check out the standard of service on Ulster buses. This involved observing drivers and passengers on 100 bus trips and talking to about 100 customers and 40 drivers. The information has been used to shape the training programme.

This will feature local actors – some of whom took part in the research – who will perform various scenarios from which delegates will draw lessons. Bus staff – mostly drivers – will also complete questionnaires on the day that will gauge their customer service attitudes.

“It’s a red, amber and green system”, says Hill. “Those who score a green will have a proactive attitude to customer service, those on amber will answer customer questions, while those on red simply drive the bus and are grumpy. Our aim is to get them all up to a green.”

The training will be followed up with mentoring and coaching. Hill says Echelon may develop and provide audio-based training units that drivers can access via iPod-type devices. “Most have them.”

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