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CEO Interview: Greyhound’s Boss on Reinventing a 100-Year-Old Brand

@SamShankman

Jun 17, 2014 9:40 am

Skift Take

Greyhound had to go outside its brand to find out what today’s travelers want and is now incorporating those learnings nation-wide in a customer experience overhaul.

— Samantha Shankman

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Luke MacGregor  / Reuters

A greyhound sits beside a Greyhound bus at the launch of FirstGroup's new Greyhound UK service in London August 19, 2009. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor Luke MacGregor / Reuters


Greyhound turns 100 this year and what was once of the primary mode of transportation in the U.S. is now considered a sometimes shady, sometimes cheap, and increasingly popular way of traveling.

Greyhound, the largest intercity bus operator in the U.S. needs to adopt its service and technology to cater to today’s riders, but turning around an institution is hard to do.

Rather than attempt to change the company’s technology and habits from the inside, CEO David Leach opted for “a fresh start,” a new brand where he could test what today’s riders wanted, how they booked, and where they ride with the intention of bringing those learnings back to the 100-year-old beast.

Today that project is known as BoltBus and is ridden by 2 million people a year. It’s as popular with millennial weekenders as business travelers and its ridership continues to grow.

As Leach describes it, “Bolt Bus is the same bus as Greyhound, but with one less seat and bright orange paint.”

BoltBus offers riders frequent direct trips between city-pairs like New York City and Boston or Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. It’s also active between San Francisco and Seattle.

“What we did is restructure our national network around these major metropolitan centers, provide a lot of frequency in the shorter markets so you don’t have to take a car and you have the convenience of multiple schedules between those two cities,” explains Leach.

“That’s really been the secret for us and where we’ve seen all of our growth.”

It’s a method that worked. In New York, for example, Greyhound moves 4.5 million people a year and has seen a 25 percent increase in passengers since launching BoltBus.

With it’s 100-year anniversary, Greyhound is getting ready to implement its learnings from BoltBus and will, in the next 24 months, roll out mobile ticketing, its first loyalty program and onboard entertainment for the nationwide network.

We talked to David Leach in detail about what the company has learned since launching BoltBus, how to cater to today’s travelers, and the future of Greyhound.

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