Bus travel is back on the map. Have you tried it lately? It’s my option of choice for traveling distances of 250 miles or so—say from New York City to D.C. or Boston. Thanks to a dash of social, it has been reinvented. I bet other businesses could reinvent themselves similarly.
These are the typical choices available for traveling from New York City to D.C.:
- By train
Cost one way: about $143; time = about 3.5 hours. Depart/arrive downtown.
- By car
Cost one way: 250 miles x $.50/mile (the federal mileage rate) = $125 + tolls + personal wear and tear. Time = about 4 hours. Takes you directly to and from your destination.
- By plane
Cost one way: about $90 assuming advance purchase + misc. fees + personal wear and tear. Time = about 3.5 hours. Note: Airports tend to be far from downtown areas.
- By bus
Cost one way: about $25. Time = about 4 hours. Depart/arrive downtown.
Although the bus has always been the more economic option, its full price was high, given the inconvenience, discomfort and safety concerns associated with out-of-the-way bus depot locations. That has changed.
What’s new is a different model for bus travel, a reinvented one from the likes of Vamoose, MegaBus and Bolt Bus, which are clean, efficient, transparent, and convenient, with a dose of social added in. It’s a model that specializes in express travel to and from cities like Boston, New York and DC, picking up and dropping off in midtown locations and making few stops, if any.
The model offers transparency—with each of these bus brands, you know exactly what the price options are, whether $1, $15, $25 or $30. You see the options available and can select the time and price best for you. You bring your own food, aren’t charged for baggage, and can complete all transactions online via a self-service model. Contrast that to the never-ending surprises of airline surcharges! The online ticket purchase process epitomizes simplicity and efficiency, thereby eliminating the frustrations normally associated with traditional bus line models of phone or in-person purchasing.
Convenience across the board. Frequent schedules, easy pickup and drop-off, no luggage hassles, information accessible online. I haven’t yet encountered an oversold situation, but have seen additional buses brought rapidly online to meet increases in demand.
It terms of value, it’s hard to beat. Not only does the price put airline, train and car travel to shame, but think about the services usually available on these bus lines: WiFi and electrical outlets for free!
Bus travel certainly beats cars for safety. You can text, talk, email, read or even sleep during the ride without worry.
And you’ll find these new bus services engaged socially on Twitter and Facebook. Vamoose has just gotten started on both, with a particularly savvy email marketer routinely advising customers of boarding issues and sending out seasonal messages. Most recently, it announced an enhanced offering,Vamoose Gold, at a higher price ($50) but with more leg room. Bolt and Greyhound both have Abby in Dallas tweeting on their behalf and although the follower/following ratios are skewed, Abby engages with followers (2,000 for Greyhound and 24,000 for BOLT) Use #bolting in your tweets, and she’ll tweet with you on the road! MegaBus, although it doesn’t prominently promote it on its website, has close to 6,000 Facebook Fans and almost 3,000 Twitter followers. Perhaps you’ve caught sight of Chuck, the MegaBus mascot?
With reinvented bus travel fresh in my mind, I see three socially inspired opportunities that businesses might consider to similarly reinvent themselves.
- The web enables businesses to disintermediate and simplify unnecessary complexity that drives customers crazy. Can you be easier to do business with? What can you simplify and clarify in your business model? Is there a one-step solution to a specific issue?
- The social web offers organizations opportunities to rebuild trust with customers. Can you adopt and adapt transparency to do so? Can you simplify the purchase process? Can you eliminate hidden costs and offer additional value? Can you respond to feedback and improve your offerings?
- The social web also allows businesses to listen to and interact with customers as never before. Can you listen, respond to them and invite them to participate in a continuous cycle of collaborative improvement? What new trends do you observe in your customers? Bus travel now addresses our need to be connected digitally while traveling. Are there others?
If bus travel can be reinvented thanks to a dose of social, then surely so can other businesses. Which do you think has the most potential? And how do you see applying some of this thinking to your business?