Busways is a transport solution provider that partners with Government agencies to bring innovative, reliable and flexible public transport services to Australian communities. They are a family owned Australian company, that has grown from humble beginnings in 1942, with one car servicing one suburb, to a major transportation service provider delivering over 22 million passenger journeys per year. The company provides school and route bus services along with expertise in transport operations, scheduling, customer experience, asset management and marketing and communications. A focus on customer experience, quality service and employee development, combined with an ongoing commitment to innovation, has been the driving force underpinning this remarkable journey. Having become a vital part of transport needs for many diverse communities, Busways is always keen to introduce relevant and effective innovation that brings a real benefit to its customers and they consistently performing at above industry standard for customer satisfaction.
In 2019, when the traditional ticket machines fitted to buses throughout the region were becoming increasingly unreliable and difficult to repair, Busways began to evaluate superior alternatives. Aware of the rapid trend away from cash to electronic payment all around Australia, and with the Opal Card payment system not available in the region, Busways wanted to provide an upgraded system that offered a cashless payment option to customers. Additionally, many functions associated with fares, scheduling and operations were in need of modernising, so the decision was taken to develop a custom-made application in-house by Busways software team. The application, called Nectar, makes EFTPOS available throughout the service area by creating a bespoke user interface using the Commonwealth Bank’s ‘Albert’ tablet. Developed in-house and introduced in 2019, this new ticketing and payment application delivers many appreciable benefits to both customers and the business. Customer are now able to choose to pay for their fare by simply tapping with a credit or debit card to make a cashless payment, or they can still pay by cash. Invisible to the customer, but just as important in creating an improved service experience, is Nectar’s operational functionality. Able to gather valuable data in more specific and relevant subsets, Nectar facilitates planning decisions to optimise vehicle selection by recording the number and type of passengers using a route at any given time. This was previously unavailable using cash only payments. Additionally, a reduction in cash payments on board helps creates efficiencies for the driver and passengers, reducing the time taken to pay when customer board and helping buses run more efficiently to schedule.
Australian consumers have demonstrated a clear preference for cashless payments. In the Reserve Bank of Australia’s Consumer Payments Survey 2016, it was revealed that cashless transactions had risen from 37% in 2007 to around 70%. . With analysts fully expecting this trend to continue, as evidenced by Transport for NSW also introducing fully cashless buses in metropolitan Sydney in 2019, Busways was keen to be pro-active in developing a method to provide a cashless facility to its regional customers. Nectar’s implementation has streamlined the customer experience. Its simple user interface allows drivers to quickly and easily select from multiple destinations anywhere along the length of the route. The customer chooses a payment method, cash or cashless, and tickets are printed and issued almost instantly from the Albert tablet. In a region with a high percentage of older Australians, Busways has taken a low-key approach to promoting the availability of EFTPOS payment options to customers, preferring customers to gently become familiar with the new system through driver interaction rather than undertaking a strong promotional campaign. As patronage continues to grow, and more customers become aware of the car payment system, it is certain that this percentage will rapidly increase in-line with national customer transaction trends.
In contrast to the previous bulky and outdated ticket machines, the Albert tablet is sleek, unobtrusive and modern. Nectar seamlessly integrates with the tablet’s proven EFTPOS effectiveness and reliability while benefitting from the advantages offered by the Commonwealth Bank’s superior payment gateway. The easy-to-use interface allows the driver to select destinations and fare types from a single screen without complex menu selections or scrolling, ensuring fast, error-free transactions and comprehensive financial reporting. The additional fare classifications and ticket types available through Nectar are logged, creating a much larger data pool than previously available. This data can then be sorted and issued in customisable reports for analysis to enable continuous improvement, fine tuning of service delivery and effective fleet replacement planning. The proprietary Nectar application developed in-house by the Busways IT team ensures an unrestricted ability to modify performance parameters in order to address functional issues, or make evolutionary updates, without the delays and expense that are unavoidable when dependent upon a third party provider. This includes the capacity to customise Nectar to access the Albert tablets’ existing built-in camera to provide a security video feed of the bus interior for the safety of both driver and passengers.