Greyhound Australia CEO Alex de Waal has great ambitions to see Australia’s only long-distance national coach operator become a technology leader in the coach services industry. “When I came to this organisation, technology was pretty much parked in the corner,” he explains. “The various departments of the business said, ‘We need this, we need that’, and the technology team went off and developed what they thought Greyhound Australia needed.
They invariably came back with something that wasn’t really what it needed, in a time frame that wasn’t suitable. That’s when I decided to create an internal team that is a mixture of staff across different business units to focus on technology solutions. Now the business takes an active role in defining, monitoring and testing all our technological innovations.”
With this team in place, Greyhound has experienced an uplift in productivity and has rolled out several technologies to create an even better experience for its passengers. One of these innovations is a coach tracker that allows customers to go online and see where exactly the bus is on the network. The company also introduced another technology that no other coach company in Australia has: seat selection.
“Obviously airlines have had it for many years, but, believe it or not, coaches have never used it,” Alex says. “Our passengers are now able to go online and select their seating. That’s proven to be significantly beneficial to us and we’ve experienced growth in demand since we introduced it.”
Another of Greyhound’s successful recent rollouts is its Whimit Bus Pass. “With the previous hop-on, hop-off package, passengers couldn’t go back the way they had come,” Alex explains. “With Whimit, they travel in any direction; basically, it is about travelling on a whim and travel without limits.”
Passengers can go on any route without constraint for the duration of their ticket. The options go from seven days all the way up to 365 days. “For A$1,499, you can travel anywhere in Australia as much as you like for an entire year,” Alex says. “It’s a really fantastic value proposition and that product has taken off. Where our sales had been in decline for 13 years, all of a sudden they have increased by 20%.”
The flexibility of Whimit has also seen an increase in the dispersal of tourists to rural parts of Australia. “On the average trip from Sydney to Cairns, where people used to stop at seven spots, they’re now stopping at 10 spots,” Alex says.
“They’re diving off to have a look at Longreach or going out to Mount Isa.
Regional communities are really benefiting from the development of Whimit, and I think customers who go to ‘off the beaten track’ locations have experiences that are one of a kind. Tourism customers nowadays are looking for unique, compelling, one-of-a-kind experiences – they don’t want to do the standard tour that everybody’s done.
Whimit is really conducive to helping people, in a very cost-effective way, get out to all the nooks and crannies, to really support our regional communities and encourage tourism development in those regions.”
Another initiative the company has launched is a national rewards program.
“Every time you travel on a Greyhound – no matter where you travel – you’ll accrue dollars that go into your account that you can use on your next trip,” Alex says.
“For instance, if you travel from Sydney to Canberra, 20% of that fare will go straight into your account immediately after you’ve travelled and you can put that towards purchasing your next ticket. It’s quite a significant benefit that is really tangible, not just some stamps in a loyalty book that you can exchange for a toaster in 20 years’ time.”
Looking to the future, Alex has plans to further engage technology and implement a DCD (departure–coach–destination) approach. This means
it will use data to connect a passenger’s departure and destination points with the coach. “It’s not just about the journey component that Greyhound provides, but also the pre- and post-journeys,” Alex says.
“We want to make sure that the connectivity with Greyhound in these areas is made as seamless as possible for the customer.”
“Leadership is not about being in front. It is about creating something that everybody wants to be part of.”