Monitoring can be key to assessing whether your service is meeting the transport needs of the community for which it was designed.
Monitoring helps you to:
- See whether your service is meeting expectations – financially and in terms of the number of passengers
- See how well your service is meeting local needs – is there a need for any changes?
- Maintain and improve service quality and user satisfaction.
Types of service monitoring
There are three levels of monitoring
- Routine monitoring: this includes aspects such as the number of passenger trips each day/week/month, income and expenditure, number of active volunteers etc. This kind of monitoring tends to be quantitative and is very useful for spotting user trends, informing future service planning and when making applications for external funding.
- Feedback from passengers: ideally you will have a means of capturing compliments, complaints and suggestions from passengers. This will give you the passengers’ views on the quality of service you are providing and any changes they would like to see. This can allow organisations to deal with issues as they arise and know when they are providing good service. Often these suggestions will come through the driver(s) whose feedback is invaluable when monitoring a service.
- Consultations with users through user forums or questionnaires: these can help direct the way a service develops. It can be narrowed to cover specific areas of interest to the service provider and help an organisation understand why a service is well supported or under utilised. This is the advanced stage of monitoring and is probably most suitable where schemes need a more detailed understanding of their users’ needs, experiences or expectations.
Asking for customer feedback on a regular basis is a useful exercise to undertake, especially in the context of services which are designed to meet the specific needs of the local community. If a community’s transport needs have changed, then so should the service. The best services evolve, mirroring the changing needs and dynamics of the local community.
Financial monitoring allows decisions such as fare levels, fundraising or grant applications to be planned in ahead of time, providing service stability and continuity.
It is important to have a treasurer who can keep a track of any arising financial issues and can communicate these effectively to the services committee. A service which has one financial crisis after another can be unsettling for vulnerable users as well as people involved in its running. It can also indicate a lack of attention at the planning stage.
Monitoring and funding
If your service makes a small loss and you apply for funding, most funders will ask for information about your service. This can vary from very general annual information, for example, the number of passengers who have travelled in a year, to much more detailed information on a quarterly or monthly basis; for example: Which sector of the community you are serving? Where are passengers travelling to and from? How many have mobility difficulties?
By regularly collecting this information you will have a bank of useful information for your own use and for your funders. By building in all three levels of monitoring into your organisation’s activities, maintaining a well run, effective and relevant service becomes easier to achieve.