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Peter Pan Perks Puts Premium on Passenger Loyalty

Positive Promotion

Peter Pan

Peter Pan Perks is an aggressive incentive program aimed at attracting new riders and inspiring existing customers to ride more often.

Danielle Veronesi says that, recently, a few motorists have taken to Twitter and other forms of social media to thank Peter Pan for keeping them connected while on the road.

Elaborating, she said the company’s drivers have actually witnessed cars keeping close to the brightly colored buses to take full advantage of the wi-fi services the company provides to those who paid for a seat.

“It’s happening with greater frequency,” she explained. “They hang close to stay connected, and then some of them actually thank us for the free wi-fi.”

This makes for good PR — well, sort of, said Veronesi, the company’s marketing director, adding quickly that the Springfield-based transportation company is far more interested in keeping those paying customers happy — and generating more of them.

That’s why it recently introduced a new, alliteratively named rewards program: Peter Pan Perks, which, as that name suggests, provides even more incentives for riding the bus — beyond the ease, comfort, and, yes, the wi-fi.

Here’s how it works: customers earn $5 in credit for every $50 they spend on tickets (not including taxes and fees), and $5 for every survey they answer to help the company improve its service — and it does a lot of surveying. Members also get $5 just for signing up and can also earn points on their birthday and other special occasions.

All it all up, and those are hefty incentives, said Peter Picknelly, chairman and CEO of the 84-year-old, Springfield-based company, noting that most incentive programs offer a percentage point or, at best, a few of them. This is 10%, and riders, just a few weeks into the program, are certainly taking note.

“The response has been great so far,” said Veronesi, adding that the program essentially enables customers to create an account they can tap into and that enables them to qualify for other perks, promotions, and contests, such as free bus travel for a year, or for a semester for students.

The program was launched in mid-January, and by the end of the first week, 5,000 members had signed on. That number has grown steadily, and there are now more than 45,000.

There were several motivations for the perks program, said Melissa Picknelly, the company’s vice president, starting with recognition of the trend across this industry and almost all others to offer incentive initiatives.

“People expect them now; it’s becoming part of doing business,” she explained, adding that the company has never had one before. “Consumers are more savvy now; they look for ways to save and get value.”

 

Here’s how it works: customers earn $5 in credit for every $50 they spend on tickets (not including taxes and fees), and $5 for every survey they answer to help the company improve its service — and it does a lot of surveying. Members also get $5 just for signing up and can also earn points on their birthday and other special occasions.

 

A bigger reason, perhaps, is growing competition. Indeed, there have always been a number of bus lines competing across the Northeast, and now there is improved rail service to many communities, including many served by Peter Pan, including Boston, New York, Worcester, and others.

Then, there’s Uber and other online transportation network companies that enable everyday commuters to become revenue generators, a phenomenon that has had a profound impact on many facets of this industry, especially taxis and buses.

“We’re simply trying to reward customers who are loyal to us,” said Picknelly. “This will give them an opportunity to get free travel and, hopefully, to ride more often.”

The average customer currently rides six times a year, Picknelly noted, adding that some commuter routes, such as those that take people to Boston, Worcester, Providence, and other cities, generate more repeat business. The goal is to incentivize that average rider to take the bus more often instead of looking toward other means to reach their destination.

One natural audience for the perks program is college students, he said, adding that they travel home on weekends far more often than previous generations did, and the bus has become one of the more popular means of getting them there. The company is exploring options for providing still more incentives for that constituency, possibly in time for the fall semester.

“Students are a huge part of our customer base,” Picknelly explained. “And they want something extra, so we’re working on things to beef up the incentives program for them.”

And by students, he actually meant anyone with an e-mail address ending in .edu, and that’s a large constituency, especially around Boston and, more locally, the Five College area.

“We serve dozens of colleges and thousands of students, professors, and others who work at those schools,” he said, adding, again, that this large constituency has many transportation options, and Peter Pan Perks was created to get these individuals and others to not only ride the bus, but ride it more often.

And maybe wave to the motorists hanging close to get that free wi-fi.

—George O’Brien

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