Case study: Months of work completed in minutes and hundreds of happy parents. They’re the Bullocks!

Case study: Months of work completed in minutes and hundreds of happy parents. They’re the Bullocks!

The 2020 Covid pandemic meant a reduction in staff during one of the busiest times in Bullocks Coaches’ admin calendar.

As parents began booking seats on the school coaches for the September term, directors Alan and daughter Clare stepped up to process the travel passes. Hours in, Alan and Clare realised just how labour-intensive and flawed running a manual application, ticket and payment system really was.

250+annual admin hours saved
285,000journeys protected annually

What a lot of Bullocks

In 1928, grandad Ralph Bullock set out to deliver milk from farms to dairies across the North West. He perhaps didn’t envisage how successful his enterprise would become. Almost 100 years later, the family firm is still taking huge pride in delivering ‘joy in every journey’, albeit with a very different precious cargo on board.

Four generations of Bullocks have transformed the original haulage company into a thriving coach business. Today, they offer school services, corporate transport, leisure trips and private hire from their base in Cheadle, near Manchester. And with 750 independent school travellers, the family says it best themselves – “We’re not like other coach companies. We’re the Bullocks!”

Manual checks across multiple records: “The middle of July to the middle of September was full on.  We were double-checking everything.”

Stepping into the breach, Alan Bullock saw first-hand the chaos surrounding the creation of passes for children wanting to travel on the company’s coaches in the coming school year. 

The manual process was clunky and open to human error. For the whole of August, Alan and Clare spent seven days a week matching application forms to student photographs, taking phone payments, chasing non-payments or banking cheques. There were around 750 applications to process and invariably many had information missing. The pair resorted to spreadsheets to cross-check each stage of every application.

“I bet it was pushing 300 hours between the two of us just doing passes. I thought we did quite a reasonable job, but I was already thinking there must be a better way than this,” said Alan.

As the new school term approached, there was the usual last-minute dash for tickets.  Clare said, “A new pass could take anywhere from one week to a month and some students received theirs after the start of new term”. 

Bullocks Coaches

Immediate results with ShuttleID

A quick demonstration of ShuttleID’s purposely designed school service system offered hope.

With everything in one complete platform, a new bus pass application suddenly took parents three minutes to complete, with passes issued instantly.  “That’s because the system collects all the right information, with photos in the correct format, and payment is digitised via GoCardless,” said Emma from ShuttleID. For Bullocks, the paper trail disappeared overnight, and the weary data cross-checking became a thing of the past. “All that was just so time-consuming,” said Alan.

As well as digitising every step from application to renewal, ShuttleID presented Bullocks with a host of features and reports they have since found invaluable.

Precision and control

The system’s inbuilt email verification proved a major forward step. Alan said, “Very often, parents with a Gmail or Hotmail account found our emails in their junk folder. Having parents write their emails down led to mistakes too. That problem has all gone”

The advantage of digital timestamps now means Alan and Clare know exactly when a parent joins a waitlist or when payments are made/declined. Crucially, pass renewals are handled automatically. “Before, all the new and existing application forms were mixed up in a pile. Those who left it until September to renew didn’t get a place on the bus and they kicked up a stink,” said Alan

“The renewal button saves us so much time – I hadn’t fully appreciated that. Combined with the waitlist, we can really control the new intake. I just download the list and split it by service. It’s a powerful, time-saving tool.”

In fact, in the first year, over half of parents renewed within a week of the notification email being sent out. Even for those late to the party, the system coped with last-minute demand freeing Clare and Alan to focus on their main roles.

Clare BullockClare Bullock, Operations Manager

Hundreds of happy parents

Parents are happy because they don’t have to wait for passes and they relax once they know their child has a place on the coach. Plus, they’re only paying for services they use.

“The custom ticket option is so much easier,” said Alan. “I set up all our routes in ShuttleID in several hours, and I’m no techie! Parents can buy single passes, or I’ve got quite a few on custom options that suit them better, for example morning and afternoon services but only Monday to Thursday. Before, my manual system wouldn’t have coped with that.”

Student using QR code

Bullocks’ former colour-coded system relied on drivers checking ticket validity. Physical tickets also had the potential for fraud with their handwritten ‘valid until’ date. Alan said, "The drivers didn't take to the other systems we tried, but they have taken to this. ShuttleID tickets are barcoded and scanned automatically for authenticity. It means drivers have less to worry about.”

Parents love the service alerts, which preempt queries about delayed coaches due to traffic or weather events. Calls to Bullocks’ office have reduced as parents catch on quickly to the ShuttleID system. Clare said, “One parent told us she booked both children, at two different schools, onto our coaches – all while on a 10-minute taxi journey to the station.”

More power, less effort

Reducing the manpower time has been the major advantage to Bullocks, which manages passes on an annual basis. Alan says, “Imagine if you were doing passes termly – there’s potentially an even bigger time saving to be made.”

With an accurate picture of who is travelling where and when, Bullocks has been able to maximise capacity on every route and even waxes lyrical of the benefits to others. He said, “We’ve been demonstrating it to new schools off our own back because it’s a win-win for schools and parents.

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