How Greyhound Is Trying To Stay Relevant At 100 Years Old

From restructuring its network to listening to employees at cross-country roadshows, Greyhound has transformed its business from operations-focused to people-focused.

According to Hallmark and grandmothers everywhere, the traditional gift for a 50th anniversary is gold. What, then, do you give for a 100th anniversary?

If you’re Dallas-based Greyhound Lines, Inc., you gift your customers with a fleet of new buses, updated terminals, and 21st-century technology.

We spoke with Dave Leach, president and CEO of Greyhound Lines, Inc., to find out what’s behind the company’s recent transformation, and how it got its employees on board. Here’s how they did it:

Embrace change to stay relevant.

Ten years ago, Greyhound noticed America’s demographics were changing on a macroeconomic level. "Times change, [the] country changes. People are moving to big cities," says Leach. Greyhound’s largest market is New York City, where car ownership is limited for a number of reasons, including lifestyle choice, cost, and parking.

Because of these changes, the company decided to restructure its business. Instead of running a national network, Greyhound needed to focus on where it could lead, and that meant around urban areas, Leach notes. "[We had to] get a bit smaller to become more relevant," Leach says.

Discover what’s important to your customers.

In 2008, Greyhound surveyed 7,000 people to find out what they wanted in an inner city bus system. Overwhelmingly, respondents wanted more on-board amenities like outlets for their mobile devices. Customers wanted on-board experiences that met their expectations, and relevant, on-time service at a value that makes sense, Leach says.

In speaking with its employees, Greyhound executives learned their employees wanted to deliver a consistent experience and create loyalty among consumers, but were held back by antiquated systems and technology. In response, Greyhound has hired a young team to rebuild the brand and focus on loyalty, pricing, capacity management and customer relationship management. The company recently released a mobile app for its BoltBus service and is working on a Greyhound app.

Establish meaningful, two-way communication.

Knowing big changes were ahead for the company, Leach and his team embarked on a national roadshow, visiting approximately 340 Greyhound locations over a two-year period. The two-hour presentations would range in size from one to 50 Greyhound employees, and consisted of executives discussing Greyhound’s plans and strategies, as well as soliciting feedback from employees concerning the company’s growth.

"[You] need to have two-way communication with employees," Leach says. In New York City, for example, Leach did three roadshows in one day, starting at 5 a.m. to catch the overnight employees, a 10 a.m. show for day shift workers, and a 1:30 p.m. presentation for the evening shift. That way, all employees who were interested had an opportunity to participate. "You can imagine how important that investment is to employees to see," Leach says.

While it’s nice to be heard, the follow-through is even more important. The roadshow team tried to answer questions during the presentations, and captured ideas or questions that required follow up. Leach says the team would later follow up with answers questions either directly with the employee, or in a group-wide newsletter.

Equip your employees.

When you open a new terminal where an old one had been, with new buses and the amenities customers want, with relevant schedules, your employees’ lives become that much easier, Leach says. But shiny new buses and gleaming terminals only go so far—you need to give employees the right tools to do their jobs.

To that end, Greyhound hired AchieveGlobal, a Florida-based training company, to develop a customer service program for all Greyhound employees. If an employee is alone and has a busload of angry passengers at a terminal, knowing they have a support network behind them and tools to handle problems is important, Leach says. Employees are empowered to make on-the-spot decisions, from refunding money to re-routing passengers.

"[Greyhound’s] changing from an operational focus organization to a customer and employee-focused organization," Leach says.

[Image: Flickr user Omar Bárcena]

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  • i haven't traveled greyhound in years, so cannot speak to travel amenities. i can speak to freight delivered by greyhound. abysmal. though the package arrived unharmed, the hassle was worth the extra money to ship ups. thot greyhound would be an inexpensive alternative. instead, had to track my package all over the country to get it delivered to the promised bus station. employee folks seemed unconcerned. it took over a week to find it and get it delivered. and, it had tracking and insurance. corporate folks told me the driver "forgot" to take it off the bus in the correct location. besides checking tickets and driving, what else to drivers do? seems simple enough, but not so. really disappointed. it could have been different. even the folks at the two greyhound stations told me to pay the extra $ and have it delivered by ups or fed ex. wow! if that's certainly not an endorsement!

  • Mike Cody

    One of the worst companies I've ever had the displeasure of dealing with. Terrible customer service, overcrowded buses and fellow passengers who are often smelly, psychotic or both. I've travelled on Greyhound many times out of necessity and can count on one hand the number of times I've had pleasant experiences with Greyhound employees. On my next-to-last Greyhound trip, I spent the first twenty minutes shaking with anger after a front desk employee screamed at me like I was a child. If Megabus expanded its routes and maintained the same high level of quality I've come to expect from them, Greyhound would die the painful death it so richly deserves.

  • Anna Galene

    Um. So I have literally received some of the worst customer experience I have ever had with any company from Greyhound, and consistently. They are the least customer-experience-focused brand I have ever had the displeasure of doing business with. East coast travelers, especially NYC <->Boston commuters, please choose GoBus or another alternative. They won't charge you heinous prices, won't expect you to scour the earth for a printer because of their archaic ticket policy, won't //throw your bags marked fragile onto the sidewalk despite very politely made comments to do exactly the opposite//. I have never posted a complaint comment anywhere but this has been boiling for a long time.

  • swr4244

    This is a very interesting article, but is not relevant.This is a one sided advertisement for Greyhound. Did Ms. Lavine interview any passengers, workers or the labor union that represents Greyhound workers. Greyhound has a history of poor labor relations and not being passenger friendly. Please contact ATU Local 1700, 646-592-0946 or 202-244-0484 and interview the Union that represents the Greyhound workers. Dave Leach has tried to improve many of Greyhound's deficiencies, but there still remains many areas in the Greyhound employee relations that need improving. Thanks for your interest in Greyhound

    Sesil Rubain, FS/T ATU Local 1700