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Transport Benevolent Fund - 2019
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January 09 2019
By Jessica Barton

Jessica writes for routeone, Group Tourism & Travel, and is the Editor of Coach Drivers Club News

15 minutes with… Nikki Honer

Go South Coast’s Head of Marketing, Nikki Honer, discusses her 30-year career in the bus industry

How did your career begin?
I was 17 and working in a bank, which I didn’t enjoy so I started looking for something different. I saw a job in the local newspaper at Reading Buses for a ‘mileage and revenue clerk’. Although I was unsure what this was, I went to the interview and thought it sounded really interesting. It ended up that I had to look after and balance all the drivers’ waybills and record any lost mileage. Neat handwriting and strong math skills were essential, so my bank training came in very handy.

Nikki joined Go South Coast eight years ago and ‘hasn’t looked back’

When did you join Go South Coast?
Eight years ago. I’d just turned 40 years old and I was still at Reading Buses, and although I had carried out a variety of roles in my time there, I thought if I don’t move now I probably never will. So, I started looking for opportunities. Go South Coast was looking for a commercial manager for its Bluestar brand. I knew of Bluestar already and thought it was a great opportunity. It suited my skills set and I absolutely haven’t looked back since. I now head up marketing and communications for all of the Go South Coast brands.

How has the industry changed?
When I first started, you had a handful of female bus drivers and a couple of ladies in HR and accounts, but everyone else was male. That was a long time ago and at Go South Coast we absolutely encourage women to apply. We’ve got female assistant operations managers and female graduates. It is really great to see other women succeeding in the industry. There are so many aspects of running a bus company, so there’s no reason why women shouldn’t consider this industry for a career.  It’s all about people and, in my opinion, many women are natural communicators.

What do you enjoy the most?
It’s the creative side of my role. There’s never such a thing as a dull day when you work in marketing because you’ve got the freedom to do something a little bit different. I really enjoy finding out what’s the right headline to try and convince people to do something differently – whether that’s to buy a different product, pay a different way or ride the bus more frequently.

Most memorable campaign?
We’ve all really enjoyed working on our current one – the Bluestar Promise. What we’re asking people to do is make a change, a behavioural change, which is always a big ask. It’s about encouraging people to swap one car journey a week to a Bluestar bus journey.  This is really important right now for Southampton as it has been named by the World Health Organisation as being at its unsafe limit for clean air.  Bluestar has invested more than £15.5 million in the last two years - bringing in a fleet of 73 buses with the latest euro 6 low emissions engines.

What’s your best piece of advice?
Remember to put your customer goggles on and look at your product through their eyes. You’ve got to forget what you know and try and see it from someone else’s viewpoint. If you have to think too much or it isn’t obvious, then it probably isn’t right.

Nikki won a Venus Award for lifetime achievement last year

Greatest achievement so far?
Last year was the icing on the cake for me. Go South Coast won many awards, including Large Bus Operator of the Year and the Environment Award at the routeone Awards. As a team that is a big achievement. I also personally received a Venus Award for lifetime achievement, so all of this together has been my greatest achievement as I am responsible for writing our entries.

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