Our Our Berkshire and Beyond Correspondent considers the role of social media in the context of the recent industrial action in the capital. Omnibuses welcomes contributions
During the recent London bus strike, one small independent operator on the fringe of the capital reported that passenger numbers were down, not only on their TfL route, on which in actual fact they ran to a full timetable, but also on their local commercial network. This second element clearly hits them hardest, and is unfortunately brought about through no fault of the operator.
Returning to the first of the two problems, there may just have been something that the operator could have done about it. These pages have carried many comments questioning the hard cash value of social media. Could it be that what was missing was just the sort of closer engagement with the customer base that social media brings. An easily accessible on-line resource, and perhaps more importantly, a means of pushing a message out to the customer base making clear that the services were still operating?
Of course, you could argue that some passengers would not have travelled because of the lack of connections at the London ends of their journeys, that only a proportion of lost customers are engaged with social media themselves, and that this does not address that second work-shy group of stay-aways. Against that, with the cost of social media at almost nothing (yes it requires time, but you could argue that it saves more in reduced phone/e-mail/letter response costs) it only needed to change the travel plans of a very small number to have paid for any extra strike-day effort.
The purpose of this article is not to criticise the operator in question, but rather to highlight an example of a clear link between engaging with customers through social media and revenue, even in, or should it be particularly in, the most unusual of circumstances.