In September 2006, Hamish Nuttall launched Naked Bus to challenge the long-distance bus monopoly. Naked Bus challenged themselves to use digital technologies to create a customer-focused service that delivered exactly what students, commuters and independent travellers were looking for: a no-frills inter-city bus service with seats for as little as $1.
So how did Naked Bus transform the long-distance bus market? Simply by putting their customers first. “We were really focused on what the consumer wanted, which was just about getting from A to B rather than anything else – so that’s what we delivered,” says Hamish, “people had problems either with travelling or engaging with bus companies, Naked Bus managed to solve those problems.”
Hamish encourages business owners to step into the shoes of their customers and identify 3-4 customer pain points. “Don’t start with the technology, start with the customers, understand their pain points and keep asking yourself: ‘how can we actually solve them?’. Technology was then a useful way of solving those problems because you can do things you can’t do without technology very quickly.”
Naked Bus solved two problems this way, “bus companies didn’t take bookings while the bus was on the road because it was too hard to communicate with the driver, we fixed that by building an app that transmitted bookings in real time and with that, we increased revenue overnight by 10%. This also enabled us to track where the buses were, which helped us solve another customer ‘pain point’ what we call ‘bus stop anxiety’ (when people are at the bus stop and the bus is late). We could text passengers when the bus was running 20 minutes late so they knew that the bus was going to turn up. Customers are much happier when they know what’s going on.”
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Here are 5 more tips Hamish recommends for businesses to become more customer-centric through digital transformation:
- Take a step back and look at the big picture. Once you have that vision, start small and try new things.
- Engage with people who understand future trends, technology and how they can bring that to solve your customer problems.
- Listen to the people in the company who are dealing with the customer, sometimes as a business owner you are removed from everyday interactions with customers. Find out “what do people complain about?”, “what are the things frustrating customers?”
- Ask younger people in your team how they would interact with the business, “they’re the future and they’re leading the way.”
- Reflect on your own behaviours as a guide to understanding your customer’s thoughts and actions. “Before engaging with a business, you might go online, or Google something. Find out where your customers are talking and be part of that conversation.”
Throughout this process, don’t be afraid of the barriers or challenges you might face. Disruption isn’t easy.
“In 2006, e-commerce wasn’t very big in New Zealand so for many of our customers, buying a bus ticket was the first transaction they made online. We had to educate people on how it worked and that it was safe, that no one was going to steal their credit card details – all the stuff we take for granted now. But the reality is we never knew what would work and what wouldn’t, so we had to test and measure everything we did. As a result, we identified all sorts of things our customers were happy and not happy with. People are prepared to embrace change, but you need to make it easy for them.”
“Digital and technology are hugely important because it can solve problems that in the past, you would have regarded as a ‘fact of life’. Now, almost nothing is unsolvable, and you can give your business a huge competitive advantage by solving something nobody thought was a problem.”