How One Student Transportation Services Group Scales Up With AnswerPlus During The Back To School Rush

To honour the confidentiality of our client, their identity has been kept anonymous.

Student Transportation Services is responsible for getting thousands of students to school safely and efficiently each month. Located in Southern Ontario, this joint venture partnership between two district boards operates in 170 public and catholic schools and transports 31,000 students annually, the majority of which by school bus.

Unsurprisingly, the back to school season is a busy time of year for Student Transportation Services. As the summer winds down, they prepare their fleet of 460 vehicles to travel more than 35,000 kilometres daily throughout the school year. But the team at Student Transportation Services know they’re not the only ones preparing. From August to September each year the back to school season ushers in thousands of calls from parents about school bus schedules and student transportation services.

The Challenge: In-House Inefficiencies

“Before working with AnswerPlus, we would hire two to three additional casual employees to come on board and take the calls.” the Coordinator at Student Transportation Services explained, “The issue there was you still have approximately seven people, and you only have five lines, and more calls are coming in. It was very inefficient – you never get ahead that way”.

Other Student Transportation Services at the time were having similar issues. Some organizations would hire 20 additional staff with 20 additional phone lines and they still could not handle the volume of calls. Then they had to figure out what to do with all the extra staff they had on six month contracts after the initial influx. Other organizations had simply given up, letting their voicemail fill up.

In 2008, Student Transportations Services realized they needed some sort of system so they could get ahead of the back to school rush. That’s when they found AnswerPlus.

Finding the Right Partner

To find the right system, Student Transportation Services went through public tender. “We needed a trustworthy company, and we liked the flexibility that AnswerPlus offered.” Said the Transportation Services Coordinator.

He added, “It wasn’t just your ability to handle people calling in – it was the reporting, the ability to call people back, and the ability to answer questions unique to our callers.” AnswerPlus’ expertise and flexibility allowed the staff at Student Transportation Services to focus on more complex queries such as accommodations or routing re-adjustments.

Issues Tracked, Parents Called Back

Student Transportation Services also worked with a developer in conjunction with AnswerPlus staff to create an issue tracker. From questions about route stops to bus delays, the issue tracker enables their team to track the different calls types received.

“It’s a fantastic tool we utilize because I can assign the calls based on the issue type, which ensures parents get their call back and the information they need.” said the Transportation Services Coordinator. As a result, parents aren’t calling back a second or third time – they are receiving responsive service that reduces the overall number of calls.

To ensure the organization truly benefits from this partnership, the Transportation Services Team reviews the issue tracker in conjunction with weekly reports provided by AnswerPlus. “We had a staff meeting a few weeks ago and I did a comparison of how many calls came into AnswerPlus’ call center, and the number that had come in for our staff to handle. Your team is answering two thirds of the calls and we’re dealing with a third – the numbers don’t lie”.

Although Student Transportation Services uses AnswerPlus to scale up during the back to school season, “It’s a partnership,” the Transportation Services Coordinator said, “And when partnerships work, things go a long way. For us to use AnswerPlus’ services for this long… people have to realize it’s a good system. It’s the consistency.