do you let drivers use their initiative?

Just like retail brands with their customer-facing staff, bus companies are heavily reliant on drivers to deliver their brand promise (assuming they've got one that is).

Drivers are expected to 'hello' a thousand times a day, the last one with as much enthusiasm and warmth as the first one. Each shift they are responsible for their employer's hefty vehicle investment and the reputation of their employers brand, not forgetting the safety of their passengers. They take the flak when things go wrong and rarely get any glory when services run like clockwork.

They are the main link between decisions made in the boardroom on pricing policy, routes etc and the customers they directly affect. That interaction between drivers and passengers is pretty much where any relationship with a company's brand, for most people, starts and finishes.

But how much freedom should they be allowed when dealing with customers? Should they be expected to tow the company line at all times or is a little bit of initiative the way forward?

For me, companies should give their drivers the opportunity to be a little flexible. Whether this means offering a regular day ticket passenger a discounted upgrade to a weekly ticket, offering a regular user a free ride for the day when the service hasn't been up to scratch or helping those in need across the road. It's the little touches that show you appreciate every one of the people who travel on your buses each day.

So go on, give them a chance to really grow your reputation for customer service - after all, who knows the customer better than the drivers who work a route day in, day out?