Customer Service Award

Coaches are a people business and we rely on our customer-facing staff to provide excellent service to our customers and passengers.

Really good staff teams and individuals identify what their customers want and ensure they get it consistently day in and day out: the winner(s) of this award really will go that bit further to provide sparkle and added value in delighting their employer’s customers.

In this category, we are looking for outstanding work in customer-facing roles over a sustained period of time by a team or an individual.

Results 2018

Winner, Gold Award (Individual): Leigh Olsen

Belle Vue Manchester

Leigh Olsen came to Belle Vue on a part time basis to take sales calls, but through her own initiative, she has taken on much more providing exceptional assistance in several departments making herself indispensable. Within six months she was working full time. Her role is very diverse, dealing with customers, operators, contractors and staff, taking customer calls, confirming bookings, taking payments, arranging driver accommodation and parking, managing the vintage wedding buses, and assisting in the accounts department and in HR. Leigh has many achievements, but her management of the charity project and the vintage vehicles is exceptional. For the whole of December, she dresses the company's vintage double decker with Christmas decorations, lights, ornaments, presents, and someone dressed as Santa, to become the Santa Grotto Bus which helps raise money for Belle Vue's chosen charity. She goes to schools in the area that pay for the bus to be on their site, Santa has a singsong with the pupils and they all receive presents and a letter from Santa. Some children have never seen inside a grotto, never mind met Santa before. The joy this brings to the children's faces is what motivates Leigh to continue with the project year after year. Leigh has shown exceptional potential and is willing to try anything, and will be taking her CPC later in the year, something she has wanted to do since joining Belle Vue. She has also expressed an interest in learning to drive the buses and coaches. She is ambitious and has excellent organisation skills, artistic flare and effective communication skills. She likes to be busy and enjoys the diverse tasks she undertakes in her day.

The judges were full of praise for Leigh, who has achieved so much in such a short space of time. She has good ideas and takes on projects and sees them through to the end, putting a friendly face to the company. She is very self motivated and has aspirations to progress within the business.

Kirstie Pike, Vicki Excel & Ryan Yerrell from EastonsWinner, Gold Award (Team): 

Vicki Excel, Kirstie Pike & Ryan Yerrell

Eastons Holidays

Vicki Excel, Kirstie Pike and Ryan Yerrell are all Tour Office Assistants in Easton's Holidays tour office in Norwich. They are the first point of contact for its customers and therefore make the important first impression. The team have created systems and ways of working that interconnect and help each other to offer the best service possible, and each has their strengths and individual expertise. Vicki has many years experience in the travel industry. Having worked for several local travel agents, she has a vast knowledge and understanding of the travel industry along with delivering an exemplary standard of customer service. Kirstie has worked in the coach travel industry for five years and knows how to match the right customer with the right holiday. She is well known to regular customers who rely on her to ensure their holiday needs are fully met. Ryan, the youngest full time member of the reservations team, has learnt very fast. With the support of Vicki and Kirstie, he has been trained to deal with all types of customer and holiday requirements. Ryan now plays a critical part of the team, supporting Kirstie and Vicki across all functions. What he can also bring to the role is his experience as a driver on day excursions and tours. His first hand knowledge is a priceless resource for the tour office. Together as a team, they have developed an enviable system of efficiency and reliability, where customers' needs are always quickly identified and carefully met - and often exceeded.

The judges were very impressed with how these three work together as a team, covering each other's task and also each being able to bring their specialist knowledge to the role. The team deliver a personal and caring service and are a credit to the company.

Jacqueline Withey from Hythe and Waterside CoachesWinner, Silver Award (Individual): Jacqueline Withey

Hythe and Waterside Coaches

Jackie Withey has worked for Hythe and Waterside Coaches in Southampton for 27 years, starting as an Office Assistant, and working her way up to becoming the company's Transport Manager and a Director. Despite her promotion, she still delivers excellent customer service, both to the other staff (her internal customers) and paying passengers. Be it staff or customers, everyone is treated as if they are a family member, demonstrated with very low staff turnover and high rate of repeat business. Everyone's job or experience is considered by Jackie to be important. She loves to create 'fantastic coaching experiences' with the help of all the staff, from the first seed of an idea, to dropping off the last customer with a cheerful wave. She firmly believes there are no such things as problems just puzzles waiting to be solved. And she's not adverse to rolling up her sleeves and getting behind the wheel of a coach to cover a school contract if needed.

The judges were impressed with Jackie's ability to give excellent customer service to staff and customers alike. They considered that it was good to see someone at the top of the business setting such a good example and being willing to 'muck in' when needed.

The team at National ExpressWinner, Silver Award (Team):

National Express Customer Response Team

Set up in early 2016 with a team of three, the Customer Response Team has transformed the experience of National Express customers in an incident for the better. Proving their worth, the team has been expanded to five people working shifts to cover 0600 to 0100. This specialised team act as an interface between the Operations Team and the customer when an incident such as traffic delays or a missed customer pick up occurs. While Operations deals with the driver and vehicle elements (diversion of route, alternative driver or vehicle, etc), the Customer Response Team deal with the customers. Their role is to act quickly with incidents to provide timely and relevant customer focussed response providing information alongside options for resolution. These could be arranging onward travel on alternative modes of transport such as rail or taxi, if there are no other options on the coach network. It may also involve accommodation if same day travel is not possible, a refund or compensation. Where an incident involves the possibility of missed flights on airport transfer services, the team act as early as possible, which is key given the possible financial implications for the business in meeting its obligation to get customers on their flight. Prior to their set-up, passengers received limited real time information and incidents were mostly handled with customers after the event. Thanks to the efforts of the Customer Response Team, customers are less inclined to express dissatisfaction and instead are vocal in their appreciation, and more likely to recommend National Express.

In this well evidenced entry, the judges could see that this team has had a very positive impact on the business. By devolving responsibility and giving them the right technology, the team are able to deliver some excellent customer outcomes.

Teresa Kearns from Woods TravelSpecially Commended: Woods Travel

Teresa Kearns

Since joining Bognor Regis based Woods Travel eight years ago, Tour Escort Teresa Kearns, has certainly made an impact, both on her work colleagues and the many customers she has travelled with. Having previously worked for 20 years in the cruise industry and then in hotels, she has a lot of experience to bring to the role. Her happy and cheerful demeanour is infectious to all who meet her, and coupled with her unquestionable professionalism, she certainly is a fine ambassador for the company. Teresa's tours have taken her to many parts of the UK and Europe, and she has dealt with a variety of issues. Sometimes excursions have to be cancelled due to bad weather or arrangements have to be changed due to illness or injury to one of the customers. Her kind, calm, considerate and helpful personality is certainly an asset in these situations. Together with the driver, they ensure everyone is kept informed, and any concerns are dealt with efficiently and effectively. She radiates warmth and kindness to all who meet her, from the first encounter and throughout the time she is in their company.

Clearly a good people person, Teresa impressed the judges with her calm and friendly manner and ability to think on her feet and make sure that her customers have the best possible experience.

Debbie Jackson from CrosskeysFinalists:

Debbie Jackson, Crosskeys Coaches

Debbie Jackson is the Private Hire Manager at Kent based Crosskeys Coaches in Folkestone. She is described by her employer as 'being the backbone of all that is customer service'. She goes beyond her role and meets all challenges with a smile and cheery voice. No problem too big or too small, everything is tackled with gusto and poise. When there is an issue, Debbie can fix it. Thanks to her excellent work and constant commitment to high standards, she has created relationships that have blossomed into continued work and an increase in the network of companies Crosskeys works with.

Office Staff, Ellen Smith Tours

Rochdale based Ellen Smith Tours nominated all its office staff for their excellent customer service. From answering the telephones to booking taxis to take customers to the coach and sending out Travel Packs, the team undertake all the essential back office functions to keep the tours on course. Many customers consider the team to be friends, and the staff ask about their welfare and their families. There is always concern if a regular customer cancels due to ill health, and if they have not been heard from for a while. It is not unusual for a staff member to call personally to a customer's address to make sure all is well. Ellen Smith's advertising is minimal, and its main customer base is built on regular travellers and word of mouth, which speaks volumes for how effective the office team are.

Fiona Bucksey from Hythe and Waterside CoachesFiona Bucksey, Hythe and Waterside Coaches

Southampton based Hythe and Waterside Coaches' General Manager is Fiona Bucksey. She is responsible for a wide rage of tasks necessary for the day to day running of the business, and is very good at researching and meeting new clients, gaining new contracts, and keeping them. She receives many commendations from customers for her thoughtfulness and going that extra mile to ensure that their day excursion or holiday goes well. Any problems that may occur are sorted out immediately, leaving the customer very happy and always wanting to return.

Who could be nominated?

This Award was open to individuals or teams of people employed in the provision of customer-facing services in coach companies and associated functions, including but not limited to:

  • Telephone sales and enquiry offices
  • Courier services and tour guiding
  • Travel shops
  • Customer service and operational staff at terminal facilities.

Nominees should have been employed in the function for a continuous period of not less than twelve months at 30 September 2017.

… and by whom?

We welcomed nominations from all eligible organisations, both of their own employees and of outstanding staff with whom they work in partnership or as stakeholders. Self-nomination was NOT appropriate for this category. In all cases, the consent of the person  had to be obtained. 

Criteria and Entry Requirements

The award is made on the basis of the quality of the submissions made, which needed to set out:

  • The length of service (for individuals) or time worked together (teams)
  • The nature and extent of the matters for which the nominee or the team is responsible
  • The consistency of the achievement by the team or the individual
  • The special nature of the contribution made by the team or individual to the provision of outstanding customer service by their employer

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