OPINION: What is the point of ‘Viewpoint’?

In June 2023, I received an email invite from National Express to join their new ‘Viewpoint’ research community, as I’m sure other readers of this site did too.

We’re really pleased you’ve decided to join Viewpoint, our customer community for National Express. 

At National Express, we’re customer-centred and put your needs at the heart of our business. As a member of the Viewpoint community, you’ll help to guide our decisions and thinking around products and services. 

As a member, you’ll be invited to share your views through taking part in a range of activities including online questionnaires, group discussions, and video research. The day-to-day management of the community will be run by Verve, an independent market research company who specialise in online communities.   

We hope you enjoy being part of the community, and we look forward to learning from you.

Following my previous experience with TfWM’s own ‘community’ project, I had doubts and reservations, but I signed up anyway.

Sadly after six months, I fear I was right. As with TfWM’s community, this Viewpoint system is run by a marketing company, and most of the ‘activities’ and surveys that I’ve been invited to participate in have mostly been about the coach operations (which I do not use), or asking for opinions on such things as ‘branding’ or advertising, which in all honesty do not really influence my thoughts or opinions.

I was really hoping that National Express would have been interested in hearing thoughts and opinions about the bus services that they run, and allowing passengers the opportunity to ‘have their say’ on proposed service changes etc.

I know some people might think I’m a bit bitter because my own attempts at starting up a community here for bus users failed quite miserably, mainly due to an inability to promote the site and get people to sign up and actively participate in open discussions.

But really, is it too much to ask to expect transport operators and local authorities to want to engage with the people who actually use the bus services that they run?

I don’t know how much National Express are paying this company to run this site for them, but I suspect it is a waste of money – there’s at least £200 a month in Amazon vouchers being given away, if anyone ever actually wins one for their participation in these surveys.

If anyone reading this is a member of Viewpoint, I’d love to hear what you think of it, please do leave a comment below!

The trouble though is that I feel there isn’t much desire for bus passengers to come together and discuss ideas and issues – most people just want to complain and moan at bus operators on Twitter or Facebook, but I don’t think that actually achieves anything.

If National Express used their Viewpoint platform to engage with passengers and get their opinions on proposed local bus service changes, then I think it would be a useful and worthwhile venture.

In just the last few days, I’ve been sent the same survey three times asking me how often I travel on National Express coaches. Well I don’t, and to be honest, such things as free wi-fi and ‘comfier seats’ would not really attract me. If I need to catch a coach somewhere then I will, its as simple as that.

In my opinion, there really is no point to ‘Viewpoint’.

What I would like to know though is if there really is an appetite amongst bus and public transport users here in the West Midlands for such a community, that allows people to express an opinion or make a suggestion, for other bus users to discuss in an open and transparent way?

And if so, what format should it take?

I know I tried this before and it didn’t work out, but I haven’t given up on the idea totally, I still believe this is what is needed.

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About WMBU

Stu is the founder of this West Midlands Bus Users website.
He is not a bus enthusiast, but as a regular passenger takes an interest in public transport related matters, having relied on buses to get around for over twenty-five years now.

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