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Woman smiling using in taxi WiFi

5 reasons in-taxi WiFi is essential for modern taxi firms

By | Passenger Wifi, Smart transport, Sygnal Bites, Taxi | No Comments

As every taxi firm knows, new technologies promising to ‘revolutionise the journey’ are ten to a penny these days. However, that’s not to say there aren’t valuable technologies out there. For every ten new innovations, there is one that can genuinely increase efficiency, reduce costs and improve the passenger experience.

Of all these new transport technologies, it’s safe to say that onboard WiFi has had the biggest impact on the passenger journey. In fact, WiFi is now a ubiquitous feature on buses, trains and even planes. All of this leaves you wondering, why has the taxi industry been so slow to embrace the onboard network? If you’re operating a taxi firm without onboard WiFi installed in your cabs, you probably have your reasons, but it’s worth considering the arguments for WiFi. After all, just as an object will select the path of least resistance, passengers will always opt for the transport with the best connectivity.

Everyone wants onboard WiFi

It’s not exactly news that the world today is fixated on connectivity. At home, at work, at the pub; it doesn’t matter where we are, we want to maintain some kind of digital link with the world. For taxi firms, onboard WiFi represents the next logical evolution in customer service. Your passengers aren’t simply looking for the cheapest and most reliable form of private travel – they’re looking for comfort, consistency and connection.

Even passengers on a relatively short journey will appreciate access to in-taxi WiFi, particularly if they’re young. Passengers on their way to work can use the connectivity to start the workday early. Meanwhile, passengers unsure of their exact destination can use the onboard WiFi to establish where they need to be dropped off.

Businessman using in-taxi WiFi on tablet

Overseas visitors need WiFi

Travelling overseas is great, but it’s not always ideal for connectivity. While data-roaming is now fairly consistent across the EU, visitors from elsewhere often have to shell out large amounts for a data package. That’s why tourists arriving at an airport are more likely to choose a taxi with WiFi.

Whether checking into their hotel, arranging to meet friends or just finding their bearings, in-taxi WiFi is an invaluable amenity for overseas passengers. Additionally, the presence of WiFi in a taxi can be more appealing than that of a bus or a fixed public WiFi because the user will be one of the only people connected through the secure 4G connection. Unlike in bars, restaurants or other public areas, passengers using the WiFi in a taxi can be assured that they are accessing the connection alone without the worry of losing speed because of the other passengers already online.

In-taxi WiFi increases brand loyalty

It’s not just overseas passengers that want WiFi wherever they go. Travellers on their way to the airport will always welcome free WiFi. We’ve all been there – rushing to the airport, frantically trying to recall if you locked the front door, checked in for your flight, remembered your reservation details, etc.

These days, travellers have a whole host of ways to check these things (except for the front door, sorry, you’re on your own there). But these last-minute checks, invariably, require some kind of internet connection. And if a passenger can’t use their own data, they’re going to require connection of some kind. That’s why in-taxi WiFi is such a valuable feature – if your connectivity can help them out in an hour of need, they’re more likely to use your firm again.

Black cab with light on and in-taxi WiFi

Personalisation is essential

A captive portal is a great way to engage with your passengers before they begin browsing, not to mention alerting WiFi users to your terms and conditions. It’s also a chance to get to know your passengers. Many firms ask for an email and other contact details before granting access to the internet. This way, firms can keep a record on who has accessed what on their WiFi and keep customers up to date on company news.

It’s important you don’t then bombard their inbox with unnecessary information or spam. It’s always a good idea to offer something on top of company updates in turn for providing contact details. For instance, the chance to enter a competition and win prizes can be enough to prompt passengers to share their contact details.

With passengers willingly submitting their contact details, you can begin to build up a clearer sense of your customer base and tailor services to their specific needs.

Driver satisfaction improves

It’s not just passengers that enjoy access to WiFi. Drivers, who spend more time than anyone in a taxi, will also appreciate the introduction of onboard WiFi. Of course, drivers should never use a device while driving, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t periods of downtime where a driver is required to sit and wait. As we all know, it’s in those moments of boredom that people reach for their phones.

Onboard WiFi isn’t just designed to improve the in-taxi experience. It can also open up new channels of communication for the driver. Of course, firms will already have at least one established line of communication with headquarters. But with onboard WiFi, drivers can also receive updates on traffic developments and adjust routes accordingly.

Driver using in-taxi WiFi to engage with passengers

For taxi firms considering implementing a mobile app, onboard WiFi in every vehicle is a must. Informing passengers about delays prior to pick-up is only possible if the vehicle can report to head office. Drivers can do this manually, but an inbuilt connection enables automatic updates and ensures passengers are never left in the dark.

To find out more about Sygnal Taxi WiFi, get in touch here.

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Finding the right onboard technologies for your coach fleet

By | Passenger Wifi, Sygnal Bites, Technology | No Comments

For any coach operator, identifying the right onboard technologies requires time and a careful appraisal of your requirements. That’s why operators tend to opt for an eclectic mix of solutions, purchased when and where they can afford to roll them out across the fleet. But this approach comes with its downsides. Technologies end up with wildly disparate capabilities, not just in their performance, but in their ability to communicate with each other.

That’s why Sygnal offers a range of packages, tailored to meet the specific needs of every transport operator and centralised through one system. So whether you’re a large, national operator or a small, local coach firm, there’s a Sygnal package to meet your needs.

But which Sygnal package is right for your coach company? That all depends on what you’re looking for…

Fleet size

Of course, the size of your fleet will be a key factor in the kind of technologies you require. Are you a small local coach hire company looking for a simple onboard WiFi system or a nationwide operator looking for an entire onboard overhaul? Each Sygnal package comes with onboard WiFi and access to the Sygnal Portal as standard, but for some operators, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Small coach companies with just a few vehicles, for instance, might be looking for a simple Sygnal WiFi and Portal package. Major operators with hundreds of vehicles, meanwhile, are more likely to require robust fleet-tracking technology than a small local service.

Of course, every operator has a different idea of what their company needs to grow. That’s why we encourage our customers to discuss their current requirements and future growth prospects before establishing which Sygnal package best suits their needs.

Bus coach with onboard passenger WiFi

Fleet functions

It’s not just the size of your fleet that determines the kind of technologies you require. The typical daily functions of your company will go some way to dictating the scale of your Sygnal package.

Some questions to consider:

  1. Do you operate school routes?

If so, onboard bus CCTV could be an essential technology. For safety purposes, many schools now require their coach operators to provide CCTV as a standard safety feature. Operators looking to expand their local bus contracts, then, will not get far without onboard cameras. Likewise, operators that choose to integrate CCTV will be better positioned in school transport tenders.

  1. Do you run coach tours?

Coach tours can cover a wide range of services. Whether it’s for international or domestic passengers, the unique requirements warrant a specialised service. Discerning these requirements before you purchase your Sygnal Package is integral to getting the most value for money. For instance, coach tour companies operating in remote areas of the country might require signal enhancement technology to ensure total connectivity. Meanwhile, operators running tours for overseas tourists may want to consider integrations for translation tools for their onboard content.

  1. Do you run tours abroad?

The same goes for operators who run coach tours abroad. Sygnal WiFi functions anywhere within the EU, so connectivity isn’t a problem. However, operators will require accurate GPS and fleet-tracking software, particularly if a vehicle is travelling a new or remote route.

Operators running tours to areas outside the EU will be required to purchase an international data package. Alternatively, invest in some offline content to keep passengers entertained when they enter non-EU territory.

  1. Do you run regular local services?

Operators running regular services, whether it be across local, regional or nationwide areas, have their own unique set of requirements. To begin with, operators who run services on scheduled routes, in which the bus stops at established points, may find they don’t require content for the passenger entertainment system. After all, if most passengers are only onboard for twenty minutes to half an hour, they’re unlikely to want to start watching a film.

Mobile ticketing, on the other hand, is an essential tool for operators running regular routes. For coach companies who run infrequent services between specific destinations, mobile ticketing can be a useful tool but is not necessarily essential.

Onboard technologies for your bus company

Geographical setting

The needs of your fleet are defined not just by the type of coach tours you run but also the typical locations in which you operate.

As we said before, if your routes tend to adhere to remote areas, you’re more likely to encounter issues in connectivity and maintaining visibility of your vehicles.

Rural

Rural commutes tend to involve longer journeys, so it’s a good idea to consider additional features that decrease pressure on the 4G data connection. Simultaneously, rural transport can experience significant delays as a result of closed roads or slow-moving vehicles. Sygnal’s GPS system enables operators to keep track of their vehicles and redirect them should they notice an obstruction somewhere on the route.

Urban

Similarly, in urban areas, your biggest concerns will be navigating traffic and security. The Sygnal Secure Package comes with CCTV, dashcams and GPS along with Sygnal’s robust WiFi. Through these technologies, drivers can monitor onboard events, use the dashcams to navigate narrow gaps on busy roads and receive real-time updates on local traffic disruptions.

Mixed

Many operators run services that cover both urban and rural routes. The Sygnal Fleet package comes with a suite of technologies designed to meet the diverse needs of every modern bus company.

Retrofitting your public transport

Customer base

Although likely to have the most significant impact on your technology needs, your customer base is usually the most difficult to qualify. Regardless of how diverse your customer base might be, it’s vital you establish your typical demographic and take steps to tailor your services to their needs.

Schoolchildren, although limited in their access to smartphones, are major consumers of WiFi. However, younger passengers must also be protected from harmful content. That’s why Sygnal comes with inbuilt options for parental locks and age verification. Operators can also block websites on specific servers to further protect children.

Any company that provides some kind of public WiFi will know that passengers between 18-30 years old are the highest consumers of data. Millennial travellers are also the most common users of public transport, excluding the elderly. Sygnal already blocks access to data-heavy websites (including video-streaming such as YouTube), so you can rest easy that they won’t drain your data. Simultaneously, every Sygnal server is designed to provide support for up to 60 concurrent onboard WiFi users, so there’s no need to worry about WiFi speeds even with a bus full of young travellers.

Worried about exceeding your data limit with a bus full of young travellers on a cross-country trip? No need to fear: Sygnal can place a cap on your servers, so you’re never charged for overages. In addition, the Sygnal Portal (available with all packages) allows you to track data usage on all of your Sygnal servers. If you notice a particular server is close to reaching its data limit, you can choose from a selection of add-ons. That way, your data-hungry passengers stay happy and your service gets the great rating it deserves.

Couple chatting enjoying the onboard technologies

Current onboard technologies

Most operators today have at least one onboard technology – whether it be passenger WiFi, GPS or CCTV. But, as we’ve discussed before, technologies are often compiled from a range of sources. Not only does this complicate the process of gathering data from these devices, but it also locks operators into multiple contracts with various companies.

Even if you’re currently signed up to a contract for another onboard technology, Sygnal can install new devices. However, it’s only with a Sygnal package that you can centralise your existing technologies under one easy to manage platform and consolidate your payments under one simple monthly contract.

Of course, any operator already using a mix of onboard technologies knows that requirements are defined by the resources you have at your disposal. Operators who dedicate a member of staff to managing onboard technologies might find it easy running multiple disparate systems. For smaller, independent coach companies, however, this is unlikely. Even large, nationwide operators with a dedicated team could benefit from streamlining all their technologies under one system.

integrating onboard technologies to your vehicles

If you’re still not sure which Sygnal Package is right for your company, get in touch and we’ll find the best option for you. After all, every modern coach company needs onboard technologies, it’s just about figuring out which best serve your purposes.

Using dashcams for coaches to monitor driver habits

Dashcams for coaches: The future of commercial transport

By | Coach operator, Dashcams, Sygnal Bites | No Comments

Commercial transport technology is changing at a rapid pace. Wireless charging roads, autonomous coaches on our streets and flying taxis above us; these developments are now within our reach. But in truth, these technologies are still a long way off for the majority of people. Instead, it’s the smaller, less conspicuous technologies that make a difference to ordinary drivers.

Features like inbuilt GPS, driver attention detection software and adaptive cruise control are all changing how we get around in subtle ways. But of all the onboard amenities available today, one of the most overlooked is the humble dashcam. Dashcams for coaches are quickly becoming an essential feature as operators begin to see their value as a tool to lower costs and increase efficiency.

So what purpose do dashcams really serve? The dashboard camera of today can serve multiple functions for drivers and operators, a far cry from the blurry footage and boxy designs of yesteryear.

Reduce insurance premiums

First and foremost, adding dashcams to your coaches will go a long way to decreasing your insurance premiums. After all, if you can provide visual evidence of your driver’s journeys, you technically pose less of a risk to the insurers.

Be warned, your insurance company isn’t obligated to lower your insurance rates simply because you’ve bought a dashcam. However, it’s generally accepted that installing dashcams on your coaches can lead to reductions, with some insurance providers offering up to a 15% discount for those with onboard cameras installed.

In 2015, insurers began accepting dashcam footage as evidence when settling claims. That means recorded journeys can give operators leverage in the event of an accident. Clear, incontrovertible evidence can be used to expedite investigations and reduce the amount of time a vehicle is off the road.

Using Analytics to increase your domestic tourism marketing range

Protect against fraud

It’s a sad truth that some road users are willing to cause a crash for a quick cash settlement. It’s also a sad reality that fraudsters increasingly target company vehicles in a bid to extract bigger payouts. But with a dashcam, drivers can be assured that

These ‘cash-for-crash’ scammers often stake out their victims in advance. The very presence of dashcams on your vehicles could be enough to deter anyone from trying to scam you. Of course, if they do try to instigate a crash when your vehicle is stocked with CCTV, they’ll soon discover that their luck has run out.

Increase safety

Dashcams are also a handy addition for operators looking to integrate another layer of security to their fleet. While onboard CCTV gives operators total visibility of anything that happens on their coaches, it doesn’t capture the action outside. Capturing external footage won’t protect drivers and passengers in the event of a crash, but it can make drivers think more about how they’re driving.

While it’s true that some insurers suggest drivers cover or hide their dashcams when the vehicle is empty, a visible camera can act as a vital deterrent to criminals. Even the presence of a camera can be enough to make thieves think again.

Dash cams can increase more than just driver and passenger safety. With integrations for Pedestrian Auto Emergency Braking technology, coaches can potentially alert drivers to vulnerable road users and reduce the impact speed of a crash.

Navigating on transport with onboard wifi

Track journeys

Front and rear dashcams for coaches are increasingly being used to track journeys and identify congestion points. When used in conjunction with tools like the Sygnal GPS and Engine Tracker, operators can begin to build up a detailed understanding of where vehicles are most likely to experience delays. From these insights, operators can begin to cut down on fuel consumption, reduce journey times and increase passenger satisfaction.

It’s not just about data analysis and route optimisation. Drivers are also in a unique position to capture stunning views. Picture driving through the scenic Scottish Highlands or exploring the twisting country roads of the Lake District; these images can be used to sell your journeys to new passengers and update your company website.

Improve training programs

Dash cams can also be a great source of information for new drivers in the form of visual training material. Offering visual instruction on how to manoeuvre tight spaces, respond to high-speed incidents and adhere to local driving regulations when on an international coach tour; dashcams can capture real-world illustrations of all these and more.

Video footage gathered from different driving situations can inform new practices and define standards for a new generation of drivers. Simultaneously, new drivers can record their journeys, then receive feedback from instructors on where they need improvement.

Using dashcams for coaches to improve driver training

Things to bear in mind

While dashcams offer a great range of solutions to some big transport issues, there are some details every operator should be aware of. For instance…

  • It’s an offence to cover or obscure front or rear windows in your vehicles, so any dashcams must be positioned correctly. That’s why Sygnal provides a handy guide to setting up and placing your cameras with every purchase of a Sygnal dashcam.
  • As the operator, you are obligated to inform passengers that you have recording equipment on board. This can be done easily, however, with the addition of a clearly displayed vinyl sticker on your vehicles.
  • Not every insurer will agree to use dashcam footage in a claim, particularly if the footage only provides a one-sided view of the incident. Of course, having a dashcam system is still a better option than not having any kind of footage protection.

Even with these considerations, dashcams are an invaluable investment for your coach company. With Sygnal’s centralised onboard CCTV system, operators can monitor footage from all of their vehicles and roll-out updates at the click of a button. Likewise, footage can be downloaded and stored on an external device as and when it’s needed.

To see the full range of Sygnal products and packages, click here. To find out more about installing dashcams on your coach fleet, get in touch with Sygnal today.

In-journey information screen as part of a centralised onboard technologies package

The power of centralised onboard technologies

By | Coach operator, Sygnal Bites, Technology | No Comments

These days, almost every transport network has some kind of onboard technology. Be it onboard WiFi, CCTV, dashcams or GPS. But the steady evolution of new technologies has led operators to collect a hodge-podge of technologies with little or no clear connection to each other. This means operators end up paying several different monthly bills to different companies. Not only does this mean more work for the operators, but it also denies companies access to a complete picture of their daily processes. With a suite of centralised onboard technologies, however, transport networks can remotely manage their onboard footage and monitor WiFi usage through one system.

Unify technologies to improve efficiency

Transport technologies are a rapidly developing industry, with more operators acknowledging that amenities like onboard WiFi are now an essential feature for journeys. With a huge range of companies and technologies from which to choose, new features are purchased and introduced as and when they can be. This, in turn, has resulted in vehicles packed with a collection of disparate technologies with little or no means of communicating with each other.

That’s bad news for passengers and operators alike. Operators miss out on the valuable insights gained from seeing every element of their service together in one place, while passengers lose out on an improved service. With a centralised platform for onboard services, operators gain a comprehensive overview of services. That’s why every Sygnal package offers a completely integrated system, where all your onboard technologies can be consolidated under one platform.

CCTV on bus and coach hire

Standardise to save time

Put simply, integrating your current onboard technologies into one platform saves you time and money. Many smaller coach and bus companies operate on thin margins. That’s not to mention the added headache that comes with managing multiple accounts to different companies. Paying separate companies for your CCTV, onboard WiFi, fleet tracking and any other technology you use is time-consuming and can lead to missed payments. By managing all of your onboard devices through one platform, you have the opportunity to focus on running your business and improving services.

Operators using Sygnal’s centralised onboard technologies can relax in the knowledge that their assortment of technologies is covered under one statement. With a range of packages available for companies of every size, Sygnal enables operators to focus on optimising their services and taking advantage of the data insights afforded through the Sygnal Portal.

Using Analytics to increase your domestic tourism marketing range

Say goodbye to data silos

Across every industry, data has become an invaluable tool to steer marketing campaigns and shape services. But, just as in every industry, transport operators often gather their data from a myriad of different sources. This presents a serious challenge when comparing analytics from the different areas of your company.

Data silos tend to develop naturally in any organisation. Of course, even in relatively small companies, different departments, services and even vehicles can serve a unique purpose. Between these roles, with their contrasting responsibilities, it’s inevitable that data blind-spots will develop.

By centralising onboard technologies through a dedicated platform, you can avoid data-gaps and draw more nuanced conclusions from your customer base. For instance, if you know your onboard WiFi is lagging on certain routes, you can compare these routes to the data from your onboard GPS. You can then consider installing WiFi-booster antenna to expand coverage on specific vehicles. Likewise, if the metrics reveal a significant increase in data consumption for a specific time of day, you can compare these high-traffic points with the number of passengers that boarded through your mobile-ticketing system and increase bandwidth for key times.

Laptop with centralised onboard technologies dashboard

If transport companies want to truly optimise their service, technologies must be configured to operate as a cohesive unit. The Sygnal Portal provides dedicated access to every element of your onboard technologies, enabling key staff members from every department to create a complete picture of where the business thrives, and more crucially, where it falls short.

Retrofitting your public transport

5 ways onboard WiFi increases brand loyalty

By | Coach hire, Passenger Wifi, Sygnal Bites | No Comments

Onboard WiFi is a near-ubiquitous amenity for transport networks today. Passengers expect connection as a standard feature on their journey, and companies that are unable or unwilling to provide it could find themselves losing customers to their more tech-savvy competitors.

For coach hire companies considering onboard bus WiFi for the first time – we’ve compiled a shortlist of the biggest benefits to installing bus WiFi on your vehicles.

Happy passengers = Return custom

With onboard WiFi, passengers can pass the time exploring the world from the comfort of your bus. Not only does this increase the likelihood that they’ll book with you again, but it also makes it more likely they will recommend your services to other people. Onboard WiFi is no longer a novelty feature for the executive coach sector – it’s an essential amenity that almost every passenger expects. A failure to meet this expectation could result in negative reviews and even lost sales.

Modern technology = Modern brand image

Like any business, an effective brand identity in transport relies on maintaining a relevant corporate appearance. This means staying up to date on new innovations and ensuring passengers are given access to the latest technology. Of course, customer service, cost and convenience are major deciding factors in which company passengers book with, but it’s essential you don’t overlook the power of new technologies in winning and retaining new customers.

Analytics = Insights

Onboard WiFi is now seen as an essential feature of commercial transport, but it’s also a great way to better understand your passengers’ preferences. With Sygnal’s passenger analytics, you can begin to build up a detailed picture of your customer base and develop or adapt services accordingly. For instance, if you find the highest number of WiFi users is during the morning commute, you can ascertain that demand for service is greater during this period and adjust your WiFi settings, or even deploy additional services during this time.

Optimised efficiency = Increased appeal

It’s not just passenger-facing features that benefit from the presence of onboard bus WiFi. Your coach service can also increase brand loyalty by improving boarding times, reducing delays and optimising journey times. We’ve talked before about how bus WiFi can assist in traffic navigation, but it’s important to remember that these improvements, aside from saving on costs, are ultimately for the benefit of the passenger. Like in any business, the trick isn’t earning your customer’s trust – it’s keeping it. That’s why translating your onboard WiFi into improved operational efficiency is so crucial to maintaining the loyalty of passengers.

Targeted advertising = Unique deals

Data isn’t just a valuable resource for improving operations – it can also be used to personalise promotions to passengers. Sygnal’s bus WiFi comes with dedicated access to the Sygnal portal, where bus and coach operators can upload everything from third-party content to custom ads from local and national business partners. The Sygnal Portal also allows users to tailor ads to specific routes, times and even passengers. These promotions give passengers access to exclusive deals and make the most of their time in a location – be it through ads for local taxi firms, venues or accommodation.

Increasing accessibility for passengers on transport

A guide to increasing accessibility on your coach service

By | Accessibility, Coach hire, Sygnal Bites | No Comments

The past few years have seen some major improvements in accessibility on transport. The Equality Act guarantees that transport providers will make reasonable adjustments for disabled passengers, while a 2017 supreme court judgment pledged to increase rights for wheelchair users on bus travel.

Private coach companies, however, are still lagging behind in providing safe, comfortable travel for everyone. This is a major issue for disabled people, not to mention a negative reflection on the industry as a whole. After all, if travel isn’t open to everyone, passengers will begin to look elsewhere. Thankfully, there’s a glut of new solutions to improve your own company’s standards of accessibility. Read on for some simple but effective tips to increase accessibility on your vehicles and create a more inclusive travel experience for everyone.

Integrating accessible features

Most coach companies rent or buy their coaches, and so have little say in the design features. However, should you be in a position to have some input in the layout onboard your coaches, there are some key features to consider in order to optimise accessibility.

For starters, make sure stop buttons are within reach for everyone. Placing clear, height-appropriate buttons that allow passengers to alert the driver – whether to stop the bus or for assistance – should be a no-brainer, and go hand in hand with support rails/handles that should be included as standard. Secondly, try to dedicate the front few rows on your coach to priority seating. This doesn’t mean the seating has to be entirely off-limits to other passengers. Instead, ensure signs are clearly displayed alerting passengers that they will be asked to move in the event a disabled passenger requires a seat.  

It’s vital to include ample space for at least one wheelchair in the seating layout. Likewise, extendable ramps are essential to enable passengers with mobility issues to board, while in-built wheelchair lifts can be crucial to a safe and efficient boarding process.

Using passenger wifi to improve accessibility on transport

Pre-trip

When taking steps to improve accessibility on your coach service, the first aspect to consider is often the most overlooked. Before passengers begin to use your service, they’ll likely take a look at your website. That’s why it’s vital your website lays out exactly what amenities you have available to assist passengers with disabilities. Remember, clarity is key to avoiding complaints.

Many transport networks now include an option to specify in advance if any passengers have a disability. This way, the transport providers can prepare vehicles and staff in advance to ensure a simple, straightforward boarding process for everyone.

Before sending new drivers out on the road, make sure they know the protocol for boarding passengers with disabilities and mobility issues. Even if you have access for wheelchairs and mobility scooters on your coaches, you must be clear if there are other restrictions for onboard amenities. Are the toilets accessible? Are there adequate safety precautions in place in the event of an evacuation? By being up-front, you can avoid disappointed passengers and maintain brand trust.

Increasing accessibility on your coach service
Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

Boarding

Buses are the most commonly used type of public transport by Londoners with disabilities; with 91% of learning disabled Londoners stating that they use buses regularly over a 12-month period.

When it comes to boarding your transport, the requirements differ from passenger to passenger. For drivers, it’s important to respect the individual requirements and wishes of each passenger. Some people prefer to be boarded first in order to secure a seat, while others may ask to board after everyone else.

The Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations (PSVAR) 2002 require bus drivers to provide reasonable assistance to disabled people, including wheelchair users, to board and alight. While these regulations only apply to vehicles regulated under the PSVAR, bus companies from all parts of the industry should consider adopting these practices for vehicles.

There are also a number of initiatives underway to educate drivers and members of the public in how best to assist disabled passengers. Training days, in which recognised accessibility advocates talk your staff through the different forms of assistance to offer passengers, can go a long way to clearing up the confusion.

Using technology to improve accessibility on your coach service

Recognising hidden disabilities

Of course, there are many different forms of disability, some of which aren’t immediately obvious. Some passengers may have hearing aids or be partially sighted. Similarly, passengers with learning disabilities may face problems in navigating timetables and fare information. Others may suffer from muscular issues that don’t require a wheelchair but will still require a ramp and a seat close to the front of the bus.

Initiatives to increase awareness around these ‘hidden disabilities’ have gained momentum in the past decade (including the Blue Badge program in the UK), but coach companies are not necessarily bound to recognise these symbols. Instead, it’s important to ensure your drivers are aware in advance of any requirements. If this isn’t possible, then even a simple instruction to make any requirements known to the driver at the point of boarding can allow everyone to board safely.

Increasing accessibility on your coach service through a badge scheme

In-journey support

Clearly identify the disabled seating locations on your vehicles, with disclaimers explaining that non-disabled passengers may be expected to vacate their seat in the event it is needed by somebody with a disability. Drivers play a key role in ensuring these practices are maintained, so make sure every member of your team is aware of the protocol.  

Additionally, new technologies are stepping in to provide additional support to passengers with hearing and sight difficulties. We’ve talked before about the potential of tech like the vibrating wristband to aid passengers with hearing and visual impairments, but the simplest solution for transport companies could lie in integrating with existing technologies. In California, for instance, researchers developed an app to help blind bus passengers navigate routes to their destination. The app doesn’t even require GPS, needing only a WiFi connection. The app alerts passengers to where to go for a specific service and them alerts them in advance when they’re approaching their stop. Even Google Maps now comes with an option to alert passengers when they are approaching their stop.

Of course, many coach companies may find such integrations costly and unnecessary, particularly if they run a ‘one-stop’ single destination service. That doesn’t mean, however, that, they shouldn’t consider methods to make journey’s easier and more accessible. For instance, the Assist-Mi app allows passengers to request assistance on arrival. Provided coach companies can accurately state where their service will terminate, passengers can schedule assistance to be waiting for them when they arrive. Of course, if the coach company wanted to go the extra mile in their service, they could integrate options for passengers in need of assistance to automatically contact the Assist-mi app. In doing so, passengers could be assured of assistance on arrival and the coach company could further build their reputation as an innovative business that’s accessible to all.

Adding a boarding ramp to increase accessibility on your coach service

Of course, people with disabilities just want the same things as any other passenger – to be treated with respect and dignity and to be assured of the same level of accessibility as everyone else. If your drivers and facilities are capable of ensuring this, your transport network will earn its status as a safe, comfortable and inclusive organisation.

Creating your own onboard transport technology package

Domestic tourism is on the rise: How can coach tour companies capitalise?

By | Coach hire, Sygnal Bites, Tourism | No Comments

According to recent World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) figures, UK travel and tourism grew at four times the rate of the country’s economy in 2017. Likewise, small businesses catering for holidaymakers saw turnover jump 8.3 per cent in the first half of 2017.

In short, domestic tourism in the UK is on the rise once again. This is good news for the UK economy as a whole, but particularly for the hospitality and transport industries. With more UK citizens looking to their own backyard for travel opportunities, transport networks are in a unique position to capitalise. For coach hire and tour companies, it’s an opportunity that can’t be passed up.

Several factors have contributed to the boost in domestic tourism, including:

  • The drop in the value of the pound following the Brexit vote
  • An increased awareness of the cultural/historically significant UK attractions thanks to TV shows and movies
  • The threat of terrorism
  • A growing backlash against ‘global tourism’ in popular tourist cities
  • A rise in the cost of holidays abroad following the introduction of the ‘tourist tax’
  • Greater investment in local attractions

Of course, these factors are liable to change in time. That’s why coach companies would do well to make use of the opportunities now, or, as the saying goes, make hay while the sun shines.

Retrofitting your public transport

The top UK attractions

Great Britain boasts several popular attractions for local and overseas tourists. Some of the top attractions include:

  • The British Museum
  • The National Gallery
  • The Natural History Museum
  • The Scottish Highlands
  • Northern Ireland
  • London
  • Chester Zoo
  • The Lake District
  • Theme parks, including Drayton Manor, Alton Towers, and Legoland Windsor

Coach companies have an opportunity to take advantage of the boost in domestic tourism, providing they’re willing to make use of the latest technology to streamline the travel process and stand out from the competition.

Domestic tourism trips t the British Museum
Photo courtesy of Ham GNU Free Documentation License 

Domestic tourism in numbers

In 2017, residents took 100.6 million overnight trips in England, totalling 299 million nights away from home and expenditure of £19 billion. Unsurprisingly, the car was the preferred form of transport, with 76% opting to drive themselves for overnight trips and 65% of day trips. In 2017, British residents took 100.6 million overnight trips in England, totalling 299 million nights away from home and expenditure of £19 billion, with an average trip length of 3 nights.

Public transport was used in 20% of overnight trips and 23% of day trips. The majority of these trips were by train – 15% of overnight trips and 10% of day trips, while regular bus services were used in just 8% of day trips and only 2% of overnight trips.

Meanwhile, organised coach tours were used in 2% of overnight trips and 1% of day trips in 2017.

Over half of trips made by public transport are to a large city or town (56%). However, in terms of the region from which the traveller comes, there is little difference for both public transport and car transport to the national profile. Meanwhile, 47.2 million holiday trips were taken in England last year, 6% higher than in 2016.

Of course, these numbers only paint half the picture. They don’t explore what people do whilst they’re holidaying, and, more importantly, how travel companies can take advantage of the staycations new-found popularity.

Public transport vs. ride-sharing in London

Capitalising on domestic tourism

For coach tour companies,  for ways to take advantage of the latest tourism trends? You’re going to need a keen eye for the most popular spots, not to mention some social media savvy to get your marketing out there.

Understanding your passenger

First and foremost, of course, you have to understand your target demographic. Comparing the metrics from your site analytics alongside data from your bookings, allows you to build a detailed understanding of your customer base. These ‘demographic snapshots’ should inform the kind of tours and routes you run.

For instance, travel companies that specialise in providing tours to the 18-30 bracket have found real success in running tours based around popular TV and film themes. ‘Game of Thrones’ tours have become hugely popular in Northern Ireland, while tours of the Scottish Highlands increased significantly following the release of the James Bond film Skyfall, much of which was set around Glencoe and nearby Glen Etive.

Likewise, offering deals on transport for popular festivals can lead to an uptick in the number of young adults using your service. With so many festivals around the UK, there’s no shortage of opportunities for coach hire businesses (just make sure you take a cleaning deposit before letting the revellers at Glastonbury back on your coach).

Train on viaduct Explore Scotland by train

Marketing your services

Of course, in order to entice new passengers, you first have to reach them with your message. As mentioned above, the type of tour you’re looking to run will play a key role in defining the kind of passenger you hope to attract, and the same goes for the channels you use to engage with them.

For youth-oriented trips, social media channels like Twitter and Facebook can be a great way to find new customers. Online ad-platforms like Google Adwords can also play a key role in winning new customers, especially when combined with information garnered from analytics tools. By selecting specific regions and age groups based on the kind of visitors to your site, you can hone in on specific markets and increase your overall uptake.

Knowing when to market specific services is also crucial to optimise your reach. The summer season is one of the best times to push promotions for festival transport services. Look at the kinds of festivals and seasonal events on at different times. Visitors will usually search for transport services a few months in advance of the event, so make sure you have a marketing schedule in place well before the major dates.

For tours aimed at families, traditional media and online promotions are a dependable avenue of new custom. If your promotions can offer discounts for children under a certain age, you stand even more chance of being able to tempt parents away from using their own vehicles.

Using Analytics to increase your domestic tourism marketing range
Image courtesy of Senior Living

Developing transport networks

With more UK tourists opting for a holiday in their own backyard, travel companies have an opportunity to experiment with new technologies in the pursuit of a truly unified travel experience. Coach companies, in particular, can benefit from developing relationships with other forms of transport to streamline journeys.

Multimodal travel, the unification of myriad transport modes under one easy to navigate system. For coach companies, the opportunity lies in linking up with local taxi firms, bike sharing companies and even sightseeing tours to provide additional transport in new cities and towns. In this way, passengers can explore further and utilise end-to-end transport. This approach isn’t just good news for the passenger. The relationships developed between different transport networks can be mutually beneficial for both sides of the business partnership. Local transport firms gain more custom from the passengers you bring in, while your coach tour benefits from providing a turnkey transport service.

Tour bus travelling along Scottish Highland road

Cultivating business partnerships

Just as partnerships with other transport networks can benefit your coach company, partnerships with local venues can play a part in building brand loyalty. Promotional deals on meals, attractions and accommodation add an extra incentive to passengers to book through you while enabling you to further curate the holiday experience. By creating relationships with trusted local businesses, coach companies can develop stronger relationships with their passengers while channelling more revenue into the local economy.

Of course, neither multimodal transport nor partnerships with local venues are limited to domestic tourists. But with tourists travelling from across the UK, this new trend for national holidays represents an opportunity to create a locally centred service that gives tourists a true reflection of the region while boosting the local economy.

Improving the environment

Just as domestic tourism is becoming a hot button in travel, sustainable tourism is finding a new audience. Travelling within the UK ticks many of the sustainable boxes, particularly if the traveller eschews air travel in favour of rail or road transport.

Of course, tourists and travel companies alike should strive to minimise their impact on a location, particularly if it’s a place of natural beauty. Coach tourism is one of the cleanest forms of transport. A coach carrying 50 passengers takes the place of more than 20 cars, freeing up space in car parks and improving travel times.

In order to successfully promote your coach service as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional transport, look at easily integrated technologies that can curb your vehicle’s emissions such as Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) units and Diesel Particulate Filters (DPF).

Using onboard wifi & GPS to navigate traffic

Domestic tourism represents a major opportunity for every type of transport in the UK. Increased tourism helps the local economy too, with domestic visitors on organised coach tours (day trips and overnight stays) spending £1.4 billion last year. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort to reach the new wave of staycationers, you too could reap the benefits of the domestic tourism boom

Passengers on their smartphones

A guide to protecting passenger data using onboard WiFi

By | Data protection, Passenger Wifi, Sygnal Bites, Technology | No Comments

So, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll be aware that data laws in Europe are changing with the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The past few years have seen stories surface from every industry about companies using user data for purposes other than originally specified, and that’s exactly what GDPR is designed to bring an end to.

GDPR requires companies across every sector update the way they process and share personal data. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however. As the UK information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham explained: “The GDPR is a step change for data protection,” she says. “It’s still an evolution, not a revolution”.

So while the new laws don’t mark a drastic change in the way companies handle data, updating outdated personal data laws across the EU has been long overdue. The previous data protection laws, brought into place in the ‘90s, have struggled to maintain pace with the developments of the past decade. It’s worth noting that it’s not just companies based in the EU that are subject to the new data protection regulations. GDPR isn’t directed at European companies but at the data and information of EU citizens. 

Man using his smartphone on a coach hire service

Data protection in transport

Of course, any company that provides WiFi as a secondary service will already have a data protection plan in place. For transport companies with onboard WiFi services, protecting the data of its passengers is essential to maintaining trust. For companies operating across EU countries (and even for those operating in the UK, providing services to EU citizens post-Brexit), it’s vital they ensure all of their services align with the new regulations.

In the transport industry, it’s essential when seeking permissions from passengers to be transparent in what data is gathered and how it’s used. Transport networks can ensure this by updating their terms & conditions on the initial login page. These T&C’s must also provide clear instructions on how passengers can opt-out of providing this data at any time.

Providing they agree to some form of data gathering, it must not fall into the category of personal data, which includes:

  • Basic information such as name, address and ID numbers
  • Web data such as IP addresses and cookie data, Health, biometric and genetic data
  • Racial, ethnic and sexual orientation
  • Political opinions, religious beliefs, and union memberships

Prior to GDPR, companies still had to adhere to collecting only depersonalised information. Transport companies such as Transport for London (TfL) gather information like an encrypted version of the device MAC address, the date and time the device broadcast its MAC address, the access point it’s connected to, the device manufacturer and the device association type.

Commuters using smartphones while travelling on the subway

Protecting passenger privacy

Of course, protecting passenger data should be an integral aim of any company. Numerous data scandals have weakened the public’s faith in corporations’ ability (or willingness) to use their data responsibly. In transport, where thousands of passengers can connect for a short period every day, the need to maintain an open and transparent data-collection process is just as vital. After all, when passengers can trust the company they are travelling with is using their data responsibly, they’ll be more likely to consent to provide it.

The anonymised data gathered through onboard WiFi use can be useful for both passengers and transport companies. Bus and coach networks can use it to better understand the passenger journey, which can then go on to inform schedules, routes and the size of vehicles. Meanwhile, passengers can benefit from the increased efficacy of routes and enjoy wider access to different services. With GDPR in effect, passengers will need to specify the kind of data you can gather, but this doesn’t necessarily mean transport networks will have access to less information.

One of the most significant aspects of the new data protection rules; if there is a data breach of one of your customers, all parties responsible must report the breach within 72 hours to relevant authorities. A breach is defined as any loss, alteration or unauthorised access of personal data.

Always seek permission

GDPR explicitly forbids restricting access to a wireless network on the basis of a customer providing personal data. That means wireless network services must be provided without the condition of providing personal data.

The central aim of GDPR is to prevent companies from providing the personal data of its users to third party marketing companies, without first seeking consent. Consent can only be given when the user is provided with specific, clear information on how this data will be used.

For passengers, the new GDPR rules will likely have little effect on the overall browsing experience. Users will be asked to decide the amount of data they wish to provide when they first connect. With their chosen settings, passengers can enjoy secure browsing without the need to worry about who has access to their personal data.

Transport companies have an array of tools to make their business data compliant. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) website includes a section on understanding GDPR with a dedicated advice line. The ICO also includes a handy document on GDPR guidance and a ‘lawful basis’ tool that aims to give businesses tailored guidance on the legal basis’ for the different data processing protocols.

Woman using smartphone airline app to book flights

What it means for your business

Of course, companies that previously relied on revenue gained from third-party marketing companies to offset the cost of providing WiFi will now no longer be able to do so. Whilst some wifi providers have a case for processing some user data, public transport networks rarely fall under this category.

On first glance, the options for transport networks looking to provide WiFi are extremely limited:

  • Provide WiFi on a pay-to-use basis
  • Continue to provide WiFi without the benefit of revenue from third-party marketing companies
  • Stop providing WiFi altogether

While none of these options is ideal, they aren’t the only choices available. The introduction of GDPR has seen an uptick in the use of Federated Identity Management (FIM) technology among public Wi-Fi providers. FIM relies on an independent common federated authority to manage the identity of a user. With no need to store any customer data, FIM offers a solution to WiFi providers looking for cost-effective GDPR compliance.

Using mobile ticketing service on public transport

Besides this, transport networks can still gain valuable insights from anonymised metrics. Providing passengers consent to non-personal data-gathering through your WiFi, you can use that data to better understand elements like:

  • The average number of users at key times
  • The average browsing time
  • Onboard data usage
  • Mobile ticketing uptake

The insights gained through these diverse datasets can go on to improve passenger experiences and ultimately develop a more streamlined, passenger-focused service; and that’s something everyone can agree to.

Optimising your coach hire website to increase bookings

Streamlining booking through your coach hire website

By | Booking, Coach hire, Sygnal Bites | No Comments

Your coach hire website is often the first port of call for new customers. It’s essential you make a powerful first impression and, above all, make the booking process as simple as possible.

Chartered bus journeys still lag behind other transport modes in terms of booking technology. As a coach hire operator, any improvements you make to the booking process will put you ahead of the competition.

Site layout

When it comes to your website, keeping it attractive and on-brand is a base requirement. You’ve also got to make it as simple to navigate as possible. After all, visitors are there for a reason – to see if you’re the right transport operator for them.

Think about how you engage with similar systems – when do you want information presented to you, and in what format? How many steps does it take for a potential customer to get from first clicking on your site to buy a ticket? Bear in mind that every step in the process increases the risk a visitor will go elsewhere.

Feature your call to action (CTA) buttons clearly throughout the website. If a visitor is in a rush to book, they could click out and look to another operator if they don’t see a link to your booking immediately. Likewise, a progress bar is a good way of breaking down the booking process into manageable steps and keeping visitors on-site.

Above all else – build a site that works for your customer base. This means regularly updating your site according to what works. Check your Google Analytics for bounce rates, click-throughs and conversions. For customers, booking coach transport online often requires complex coordination with multiple parties. The simpler a task you can make it, the more likely they are to book again.

Woman using smartphone airline app to book flights

Payment

Providing intuitive payment is integral to the online bookings process. Visitors to your site want to place payments quickly and securely. Customers should immediately receive a confirmation of purchase email along with all relevant details regarding the trip.

It’s vital you use an established, trusted payment platform for all bookings. The more options for payment you include, the more likely a visitor to your site will book with you. Most transport companies now include an option to pay through a trusted online payment platform like Paypal, alongside options for card payment or using cash on the day.

As with all online payment processes, the most important element is security. Assure visitors their payments are managed through a secure payment platform. The secure approach won’t streamline bookings, but it will increase the likelihood that visitors book with you again.

Mobile

OK, it’s 2018 – you really have no excuse for having a site not optimised for mobile. After all, 85% of travellers use mobile devices to book travel activities, while 66% prefer to use their smartphones, rather than their desktops, for travel research.

When it comes to booking tickets online, however, travellers are often wary of completing transactions through their mobile. Only 30% are made on mobile devices, although this figure is increasing at a rate of 1% per quarter. A key reason for the reticence of visitors to book through mobile is the difficulty in entering details into a mobile device. Transport companies can overcome this through direct booking portals – taking the customer direct to the booking page in one click.

Additionally, a mobile app can have a dramatic impact on sales. While coach bookings are still higher from a mobile browser than an app, figures suggest if the service is used regularly, an app can lead to an uptick in bookings. The popularity of the mobile app for coach hire bookings is down, in large part, to the single-entry format for details. Saving payment and passenger details for future bookings spares visitors the rigmarole of typing out the same information each time.

Using your mobile smartphone device on public transport

Tickets

In 2018, passengers expect you to have some kind of mobile ticketing system in place. If your coach transport doesn’t yet have any kind of mTicketing hardware onboard, implementing an email coding system can work. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that these onboard checks take up valuable time and aren’t 100% reliable.

Likewise, trusting passengers to print their own tickets from an email, featuring either a numerical or QR code, relies on passengers remembering their print-off. As any coach operator will tell you, there are inevitably forgotten or mislaid tickets, leading to delays and unsatisfied customers.

Similarly, it’s important to understand your customer base. If the majority of your trips involve tours for over-65s, a mobile-only ticketing system is more likely to cause issues than tours intended for the 18-30 market.

Personalisation

Personalisation is key to providing a streamlined service in transport. A personalised response not only lets a return visitor know you recognise them, but it can also simplify bookings and give you a better understanding of their behaviour and booking habits. Personalisation software can even go so far as to suggest relevant offers to returning travellers. This allows you to flag-up additional features requested in their last booking and creates more opportunities for up-selling.

Personalisation is all about understanding your customer – which means more than simply as a customer. From where do they usually log-on?? What device do they typically use to browse your site? Discovering the preferences of your visitors allows you to cater your approach and develop a clearer understanding of how to engage with them in future interactions.

Increasing accessibility on your coach service

There are a number of solutions to improve the booking experience on your coach hire website. Every solution comes with its own unique opportunities and challenges. It’s only through studying your passengers, routes and business model that you find the best solutions to streamline the booking process and encourage return custom.

Using your mobile smartphone device on public transport

Integrating mobile ticketing on your transport service

By | Passenger Wifi, Public Transport, Sygnal Bites, Technology | No Comments

Mobile tickets, otherwise known as mTickets, are fast becoming a popular onboard technology for transport networks. But what are the benefits of switching to mobile ticketing, and can they be integrated into your network without disrupting services?

What does it mean for payments?

Payment systems can be set up easily through online payment platforms like Stripe, Braintree or Paypal. The cost of payments to transport companies is minimal, and can actually reduce overall costs. Additionally,  companies can centralise their revenues and better track how variant factors like national holidays, sporting events and even weather conditions can affect takings.

Providing all revenues go through a secure platform, online payments can reduce the risk of passengers underpaying or providing outdated and obsolete currency.

Onboard WiFi for mobile ticketing

Of course, passengers won’t use WiFi to load their ticket before they board, largely because WiFi becomes available when they board and waiting for everyone to load their tickets would add too much time to the boarding process.

However, the mobile ticketing machine can connect to the Sygnal server, which in turn communicates with a database back at the bus HQ to ensure all passenger information is up-to-date.

That’s why more transport companies today opt for an app, in which new tickets can be activated and cached beforehand. In this way, passengers can download their latest ticket before leaving the house, ready to show to the driver or scan through an m-ticketing machine.

For passengers, downloading tickets in advance enables them to check times and avoid using data. The same app can be used onboard (using Sygnal onboard WiFi, of course) for anything from real-time journey information to the latest ticket deals.

Using mobile ticketing service on public transport

Using mobile ticketing to reduce costs and drive revenues

Of course, adding m-Ticketing can be a daunting prospect to bus and coach companies, but it doesn’t have to be a disruptive addition. Many transport companies have opted to retain the ‘ticket on sight’ system, whereby passengers simply show the driver their ticket. Providing tickets are purchased through an app system, this won’t prevent companies from gathering data on the type of tickets purchased, at what time and by whom.

When a company does integrate mTicketing into their business, the rewards can be significant. Companies use less paper without the need to print tickets onboard. Less fuel is wasted as people don’t have to look for cash, which also benefits the environment.

With the addition of a mobile app, transport networks can more easily keep track of who’s using their services and offer personalised deals. For instance, if a bus company sees that someone commutes every morning and night, they can target that customer directly through the app with a special weekly ticket offer.

Streamlining your coach service

Not only can mTicketing reduce overheads, it can also streamline other aspects of the service. Because mobile ticketing reduces waiting times, services become more punctual, encouraging more people to use the transport. Passengers can be updated on new developments, including delays to services, changes to routes and new offers.

As national transport networks shift to multimodal travel services, mobile ticketing will be an essential element of this cross-transport technology. Integrations with other forms of transport such as ride-sharing and metro services become simpler when all the required access tools are centralised. For a passenger arriving by train in a new city, a transport service that functions on the same platform as their train ticket will be infinitely more attractive than one that does not.

Passengers on public transport

Issues

Of course, with the introduction of any new technology, there will be challenges. It’s true that not everyone has a mobile, or access to the technology to regularly download tickets.

Some critics have suggested the introduction of mTicketing shuts out poorer people in society. However, mobile usage is roughly the same across all social groups, and the proliferation of WiFi in public spaces has made the connection required to download tickets more accessible than ever.

For those without a smartphone or whose smartphone breaks or runs out of battery, presenting a ticket can become more challenging. That’s why many companies retain some kind of paper or ‘flash pass’ ticketing system.

So while there may be some initial kinks to be ironed out introducing mobile ticketing, the long-term rewards make it worthwhile.