The JUTC driver who makes a big difference

'Ground pilot' Bignall Young has passengers in awe over her customer service skills

BY DEANDRA MORRISON
Staff reporter
morrisond@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, May 20, 2018

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JAMAICA Urban Transit Company (JUTC) driver, Shaunice Bignall Young has found herself at the centre of attention after her “unusual” and “exceptional” customer service on the company's number 33 bus garnered her favour and praise from passengers and colleagues.

The Jamaica Observer caught up with her on the bus — which plies the route from Six Miles to downtown Kingston via Washington Boulevard, Maxfield Avenue and Lyndhurst Road — to find out what makes riding with her so different.

Minutes after boarding the bus, Young's voice rose clearly as she introduced herself and welcomed the passengers on board. She then announced the subsequent stops that would be made and the estimated arrival time in the downtown bus park.

Young ended by informing passengers that, “the air conditiong inside the bus has been adjusted to outside temperature” for their comfort.

After several moments of seemingly shocked silence, one passenger began to clap. Others subsequently began to express their appreciation that Young had informed them in such a courteous manner.

One passenger even shouted from the back of the bus: “Mi feel like mi de pon Air Jamaica!”

Another passenger, Angeiene Pommells, said she was travelling on the 33 bus for the first time, and “in the 11 years that I have travelled with the JUTC, I have never gotten this type of experience.”

She added: “She made me feel like I was overseas and like I'd want to take the bus just to receive this type of service. I think the drivers at JUTC should take a page out of her book.”

Pommells said that the announcement made regarding stops were especially important because sometimes persons were unfamiliar with the route and were reluctant to ask questions, for fear of being chastised.

Another passenger, who only gave her name as Ms Gayle, chimed in and said that this was so and recounted her experience as a returning resident from Canada.

“The other day I was travelling on a bus and I asked the driver where a certain number bus was parked and his answer was: “Lawd lady, yuh nuh see the bus park over deh so?”

Gayle said that she was not pleased with that answer but saw that drivers like Young were trying to make a difference.

During an interview with the Sunday Observer, Young, who has been employed at the State-run bus company for four years, said she had not received formal training from JUTC for what she has being doing.

“We were only trained in basic customer service, which included being courteous and saying good morning and so on,” she said.

The 34-year-old, however, noted that she had once worked as a passenger service agent for Ryanair Airline, at the London Stansted Airport in England, before what she described as her “involuntary return” to Jamaica in 2010 — 10 years after she had emigrated to the United Kingdom.

She said that since then she has held other customer service positions including one at a call centre, and that was where she honed her skills.

One passenger, who gave her name as Shaemell, said her field was in customer service training and identified that Young's strong point was soft skills — attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.

“It wasn't just a ride from point A to B, but it was an experience because she was so courteous and engaging,” said Shaemelle.

She pointed out that customer service in Jamaica was lacking in soft skills and recommended that Young be put in an area where she would be able to teach others.

Young, who is now fondly called “ground pilot” by colleagues, said she first started her announcements in 2012 when the 33 bus route was facing disbarment because it was not meeting monetary targets.

“I used to travel the route and literally would just talk to the steering wheel and the windshield because no one was taking the bus, and I could not figure out why,” she said, while adding that after much pondering she realised that passengers did not know where the bus was going.

She said that in an effort to save her route and raise revenue, she started loading the bus herself by “coming out and calling out to people that the bus was going Half-way-Tree, Lyndhurst Road and then downtown”.

Young said that she came up with the bus route announcements as a way to differentiate herself from overwhelming competition that also plied the same route.

“I thought it would be really nice if they heard something different,” she said, while adding that it took a lot of courage to start, but once she did, the rest was history.

Young said that she was especially motivated by the appreciation that passengers showed for what she considered a “small task”.

She called for the standard of customer service in Jamaica to be raised and argued that locals should not have to feel like they're in “foreign” when they received good service.

“Why can't people feel like they're in Jamaica because this is the norm in Jamaica?”

JUTC Corporate Communications Manager Cecil Thoms agreed by saying that public transportation was especially lacking in good customer service and courtesy.

Thoms commended Young for making what he considered a positive difference within the company, and described her strong people skills and service as a breath of fresh air.

Thoms told the Sunday Observer that he first learnt of Young's good work through a letter that was sent by a passenger who rode on the bus, and subsequently from talk show callers and videos that were sent, circulated, of her making the route announcements.

After meeting Young he said he was surprised to learn that she had taken on the initiative herself.

He said, too, that Young had earned herself a promotion and would be placed on the front line of customer care at the State-run company.

“We want her to lead the charge in training some of the drivers to initiate this type of response from passengers, because a lot of people appreciate the effort and it makes the ride more pleasurable and warm,” Thoms said.

Young, in response, said that she was looking forward to helping raise the standard of customer service that JUTC offered to customers.

“I want to transform the JUTC and help drivers to commit to a part of our mission statement which says we are a customer-oriented company,” Young said.

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