The winners of these awards deliver consistently excellent customer service. The operators demonstrate their success through sustained effort.
They show that they:
- are financially sound
- maintain high operational and engineering standards
- give priority to the Health and Safety of staff and passengers through comprehensive risk management
- invest in their fleet and staff
- form effective partnerships
- identify with and respond to the communities they serve
- always strive to sustain and grow the market for coaches and coach services.
As well as this award for the smaller operators, there are two others for businesses with fleets of between 21 and 50 and over 50 vehicles.
From the winners of these three awards, the judges chose an overall winner, named UK Coach Operator of the Year.
For each of the categories, customer nominations were sought from group organisers and other industry clients. Nominated operators are also invited to submit further information to the judges. The judging process also includes 'mystery shopping' of the nominated operators to test their commitment to customer service.
Winner, Gold Award: Allenby Coach Hire
Surrey based Allenby Coach Hire is a second generation family run company specialising in the 16-35 seat mini-coach market. The company has a strong customer ethos built around its three core values of being reliable, presentable and friendly. These values, which are delivered daily by its team, are recognised in its online review rating of 4.92 out of five, meaning that 99% of the customers who reviewed Allenby would recommend it. The company is a founding member of the government's Earned Recognition Scheme, a new way to prove you meet driver and vehicle standards launched last year. As members of the scheme, Allenby has to regularly share performance information with the DVSA. In return, its vehicles are less likely to be stopped for inspections. The fleet is regularly updated and all Allenby's coaches are Euro VI compliant.
The judges were full of praise for Allenby, which they described as being solid, innovative and consistent as well as punching well above its weight as a small operator. It's not surprising that the company is growing its business by word of mouth. A worthy gold winner.
Winner, Silver Award: United Minibuses and Coaches
For a family run company which dates back nearly 20 years, Surrey based United Minibuses and Coaches has gone through a radical digital transformation to implement a new pricing and quoting tool for the private hires and UK day tours. The new online tool gives potential customers an instant online quote. The new facility, along with the launch of 12 new UK based coach tours, promoted through social media last year, has seen a significant rise in the amount of business, as well as welcoming a variety of new clients from differing backgrounds.
The judges noted how quickly the ambitious company has grown over the past year and praised it for trying out new things.
Winner, Bronze Award: Kirbys Coaches
Throughout the three generations and 67 years of business, Essex based Kirbys Coaches believes in providing the best service possible. It achieves this by actively asking for feedback from every passenger and then responding to any negative feedback with what improvements will be made in the future. Kirbys has seen a 25% growth in business over the last 12 months, alongside investment in updating the coach fleet and in the customer experience. Drivers are selected and trained on providing customer service as well as making sure that coaches are kept to a high standard.
Kirbys impressed the judges with what they considered this to be a good operation. The panel noted the company listed several innovations such as a drivers' WhatsApp group, indicating how strenuous tours are likely to be in the brochure and ringing customers after they come back from a holiday.
Finalist: Yorkshire Rose Coaches
The team at Yorkshire Rose Coaches in Barnsley are very passionate about what they do and strive to deliver the highest quality service to their customers. Most of its customers come through word of mouth and via Facebook, though this year an advertisement on local radio is being tried. The company looks after its employees and staff outings are arranged. Yorkshire Rose also supports its local community, including donating 15 turkeys to a charity providing Christmas dinner for the homeless, and sponsoring a female football club.
The judges wanted to give a special mention to the entry from Yorkshire Rose Coaches. It was submitted, unknown by the owners, by a work experience student, who was very impressed with how passionate the company was about providing an excellent service. Although not all sections were completed sufficiently to score highly, the judges wanted to commend the enthusiasm that the entry portrayed - in fact just what the judges are looking for and they look forward to receiving more entries like this next year.
Who could be nominated?
The awards were open to all operators of coaches for hire to the general public or used on tours and excursions.
... and by whom?
Group organisers and other clients who hire coaches on an occasional or regular basis were asked to nominate the coach company which has delivered the best service to their groups. Self-nomination was also acceptable.