Warm ‘Welcome' on NorthLink Ferries with accessibility app
2nd July 2019
Company is first Scottish transport operator to introduce pioneering support service.
Serco NorthLink Ferries has partnered with one of Scotland's digital start-ups to improve journeys for customers who require additional support.
The ‘Welcome' app by Neatebox helps to overcome hurdles for passengers with specific accessibility requirements.
The free app allows users to indicate the areas they need customer service to be aware of and the specific assistance they require. Service providers are notified of the visit request and receive an overview of the users condition and top tips to aid their interaction with the customer.
Gavin Neate, founder and Chief Executive of Neatebox, said: "Our app helps disabled people to receive a better service, communicate with ease and travel with confidence. Even staff at companies with excellent customer service, like NorthLink, can struggle sometimes to know how best to support customers. We're delighted that they have seen how the product can help both passengers and staff, and hope that other operators will follow suit."
Seumas Campbell, Serco's Customer Service Director at NorthLink Ferries, said: "We use the Welcome app to make staff aware of the specific needs of their visitors in advance of their arrival. We can greet customers by name and offer them the assistance they may require. This greatly improves the confidence and interactions between customer service teams and passengers helping to build lasting relationships."
The move is the latest in a series of measures aimed at improving journeys for all travellers.
Earlier this year NorthLink implemented its new ‘Recite Me' accessibility tool to the website to enable more people to experience the NorthLink Ferries website in a way suitable to their needs.
NorthLink staff have also attended disability awareness training with Access Panel Orkney and in 2018, NorthLink teamed up with a sign language interpreting agency to improve access and user experience for its customers with hearing difficulties.
For more information Neatebox visit https://www.neatebox.com/
Serco NorthLink Ferries recorded more than 8,000 journeys during the start of 2021 as it continues to support essential travel. The service remains aligned to the Scottish Government's Strategic Framework, with NorthLink Ferries providing key worker, essential islander and freight connectivity between the Northern Isles and mainland Scotland.
Serco NorthLink Ferries is continuing to maintain vital transport links over the autumn and winter period - following the opening of its 2021 booking system at the start of October. The service remains aligned to the Scottish Government's Strategic Framework, and while passenger and car volumes are down significantly year-on-year they have shown further signs of strengthening over the last few months.
Four-legged friends can now travel with their owners between the Scottish mainland and Orkney and Shetland - thanks to new pet-friendly cabins on NorthLink Ferries passenger vessels MV Hamnavoe, MV Hjaltland and MV Hrossey. Each ship has two pet-friendly cabins available which have en-suite facilities, side-by-side lower twin bunks and tea and coffee making facilities.
Serco NorthLink Ferries has been operating a revised service during Phase 1 and 2 of lockdown, which has provided travel for key workers as well as essential islander and freight connectivity between the Northern Isles and mainland Scotland. During the period 22 March to 30 June, passenger numbers across all routes were 6,010 in comparison to 112,416 over the same period in 2019, representing a reduction of 95 per cent.
Serco NorthLink Ferries continues to request that travellers stay at home and help to save lives as the company was forced to refuse travel to 23 passengers since 22 March. As part of the national effort to deal with the current public health crisis, NorthLink Ferries has been monitoring passengers' reasons for travelling, which are captured during the booking process, and denying travel to or from the Northern Isles to those who disclose non-essential reasons.
A new temporary timetable has been introduced by Serco NorthLink Ferries, designed to continue to provide a lifeline service between mainland Scotland and the Northern Isles whilst reflecting travel demand during the COVID-19 outbreak. In line with advice from the Scottish Government and health officials, restrictions have been implemented in recent weeks to allow only necessary travel, resulting in a significant reduction in passenger numbers.
Stuart Garrett, Serco's Managing Director of NorthLink Ferries, said: "The wellbeing of our passengers and staff is always our top priority and since the outset of COVID-19 we have taken all the necessary precautions to ensure their health and safety. We have followed relevant guidelines and advice from the Government and health officials and continue to do so.
The MV Hamnavoe is due to be in dry dock from 13th to 26th January 2020 (inclusive), and there will be additional north and southbound calls into Kirkwall by the MV Hrossey and MV Hjaltland. During this time the MV Helliar will provide a replacement service on the Pentland Firth route.
Serco, the international service company, has been selected as preferred bidder to continue managing and operating the lifeline Northern Isles Ferry Services for passengers and freight between the Scottish mainland and the Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands, providing essential access and supplies for the islanders. The outcome of the tender was announced by the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands to The Scottish Parliament this morning.
Visitors to some of Scotland's main agricultural shows this summer could win free travel to the Northern Isles on board Serco NorthLink Ferries. Anyone stopping by the company's stand at the Royal Highland Show, Caithness Show, Turriff Show or Isles Shows will be able to enter a prize draw for a trip on board its vessels.