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tramscape
08-29-2017, 13:57
He may be a drama queen and a lone wolf but Dr Gordon has issued a prescription for PS Waverley which a) will retain full-time opportunities for those who wish them, b) satisfy a fair chunk of what the "nutters" require out of the ship ... with one big exception I suppose, and c) retain trading losses close to those already suffered and certainly withing the limits bridgeable by grants and donations .............. and give her a chance to restore her credibility and build from there

It is enough to be going on with......

Restrict services to Class V Clyde waters

Offer two daily cruises of 3 – 4 hours each

Restrict pier calls only to those which are strongly revenue positive

Do not sail from Glasgow on a Saturday or Sunday

Do not operate an advance booking system

Offer an e-mail reservation system for a limited number of places on cruises expected to be at or close to capacity

Improve public (and press) relations and relations with opinion formers, grant-aiding bodies etc

Improve use of social media including own FB/Twitter to inform and involve customers

Answer critics (mail and social media) promptly and non-robotically. Make critics feel that their issues are genuine – and act upon them

Develop and open and inclusive customer-focused culture throughout the organisation

Bring heritage preservation and “all surpluses reinvested in ship’s preservation” to the top of the marketing message

Bring weather / sailing conditions caveats to the top of the marketing message

Develop more family friendly activities and cruise pricing structures

Be welcoming to customers, helpful and informative as part of the on-board experience

Actively recruit corporate sponsorship of sailings, parts of the ship etc and advertising on marketing materials

Change name of the operating company

Change funnel colours

Replace boiler with batteries. Retain cranks for show but “pull” them by the turning crankshaft

Combine Friends of Waverley scheme with PSPS membership

kylemore
08-29-2017, 15:05
He may be a drama queen and a lone wolf but Dr Gordon has issued a prescription for PS Waverley which a) will retain full-time opportunities for those who wish them, b) satisfy a fair chunk of what the "nutters" require out of the ship ... with one big exception I suppose, and c) retain trading losses close to those already suffered and certainly withing the limits bridgeable by grants and donations .............. and give her a chance to restore her credibility and build from there

It is enough to be going on with......

Restrict services to Class V Clyde waters

Offer two daily cruises of 3 – 4 hours each

Restrict pier calls only to those which are strongly revenue positive

Do not sail from Glasgow on a Saturday or Sunday

Do not operate an advance booking system

Offer an e-mail reservation system for a limited number of places on cruises expected to be at or close to capacity

Improve public (and press) relations and relations with opinion formers, grant-aiding bodies etc

Improve use of social media including own FB/Twitter to inform and involve customers

Answer critics (mail and social media) promptly and non-robotically. Make critics feel that their issues are genuine – and act upon them

Develop and open and inclusive customer-focused culture throughout the organisation

Bring heritage preservation and “all surpluses reinvested in ship’s preservation” to the top of the marketing message

Bring weather / sailing conditions caveats to the top of the marketing message

Develop more family friendly activities and cruise pricing structures

Be welcoming to customers, helpful and informative as part of the on-board experience

Actively recruit corporate sponsorship of sailings, parts of the ship etc and advertising on marketing materials

Change name of the operating company

Change funnel colours

Replace boiler with batteries. Retain cranks for show but “pull” them by the turning crankshaft

Combine Friends of Waverley scheme with PSPS membership

All good apart from the engines!

Largs should be developed as the main base of operations and a long term deal with Calmac assuring her place there hammered out. Remember the Calmac ferry to Cumbrae must surely eventually move from this congested town centre site so Waverley could emerge as owners and operators of Largs Pier.

Marisco
08-29-2017, 17:55
You missed off addressing the totally unacceptable current catering provision - though it will cost quite a lot to bring it up to modern standards!

kylemore
08-29-2017, 18:02
You missed off addressing the totally unacceptable current catering provision - though it will cost quite a lot to bring it up to modern standards!

If you're based at Largs for mostly shorter cruises hive it off to Nardini's with staff living ashore.

I think they would interested for the advertising value alone.

If most cruises are shorter (3-5hrs) then less need for full meal service - and keep the booze to a few wines, local beers and selected Malts etc

If most prep is done ashore then expenditure on onboard facilities would be modest

tramscape
08-29-2017, 18:05
The reasons I did not address catering were

- quality / price is a matter of opinion : some like it, others don't - but yes, it has not proven ideal for what has been needed in the past
- Waverley will never be a "fine dining" boat
- with short cruises there would be no need to provide anything other than a basic drink / sandwich / cake / ice cream sundae service

It would then allow all that nonsense about Sunday Roasts with the best views in the world to be dispensed with and replaced by "Food and drink available"

Edit : Thanks Kylemore, we we were typing a pretty similar message at the same time !

Marisco
08-29-2017, 19:22
If you're based at Largs for mostly shorter cruises hive it off to Nardini's with staff living ashore.

I think they would interested for the advertising value alone.

If most cruises are shorter (3-5hrs) then less need for full meal service - and keep the booze to a few wines, local beers and selected Malts etc

If most prep is done ashore then expenditure on onboard facilities would be modest

So why not do that now!

Marisco
08-29-2017, 19:28
Tramscape - for organisations like the National Trust - catering and retail are major major profit centres. The market has moved on - people expect quality catering if they are investing in "an experience" even if it is just for 3 to 5 hours.

tramscape
08-29-2017, 20:25
Tramscape - for organisations like the National Trust - catering and retail are major major profit centres. The market has moved on - people expect quality catering if they are investing in "an experience" even if it is just for 3 to 5 hours.

I'm not so sure - country houses, museums etc which I visit (not that many mind) have a very basic cafeteria generally - and they are surprisingly disappointing in the range and quality of stuff on offer. Waverley is definitely no worse !

The trouble with Waverley is that you cannot dine at leisure and look out at the scenery - go to the cafeteria downstairs and you miss the scenery. She cannot provide people with a seat, table and decent view.

Even on Swiss steamers you don't get dining to any great degree unless you are on a special dining cruise. In first class you will usually get a seat, table and view and most will have a glass of wine or something like that ...... In second class it is very spartan, with little inside seating and people rarely consume anything at all. Few will dine in the restaurant.

I know that Waverley make quite a bit of money from catering now, but on short cruises there is still scope to sell things if people want them. OK, there is less revenue, but costs can be kept low to a large degree. They have to market first and foremost the scenery and the ship, with food as a service, but a good service and if you don't offer the earth, there is less scope to disappoint

kylemore
08-29-2017, 21:00
So why not do that now!

It's difficult if you're operating out of multiple bases and stravaiging all over the British Isles!

tramscape
08-29-2017, 21:35
Talk about Italian style ..... Although I think you could eat on PS Concordia on her haul up to Bellagio from Como, once she was on her two mid-lake cruises, this is all you got !

I did not see a crew man there, let alone one being troubled !

1015

stanley37uk
08-29-2017, 21:39
Why not base her at Ayr as a floating restaraunt ?

tramscape
09-02-2017, 15:56
Maybe once the above list is completed she could get a big one like this .....

1020

Active Supporter
09-04-2017, 22:11
Just caught up with Dr Gordon's almost excellent prescription (almost as cant agree with loosing the engines). He is so right to stress the need for a customer focused culture, but it goes much deeper than that. What is needed is a culture that respects all customers, stakeholders and employees.

After six years as a winter volunteer, I have a huge respect for the ability and commitment of almost all the WEL personnel and PSPS members I know. It is not generally appreciated how hard they work in difficult conditions to keep the paddler sailing. Yet I know many supporters, customers and employees who are disillusioned at the way the company conducts its affairs. One result of this has been the complete turnover of engineering personnel and almost all the winter volunteers which cant have helped.

It is a disgrace that it is four weeks since WEL last responded to a Trip Advisor comment. It is understandable that, with the cancellations, office staff currently have a huge amount to deal with, so why not ask PSPS to provide someone to help with this task. There are certainly those in PSPS who have the skills and knowledge of the ships operations to do this task. I suspect the answer is that WEL don't want PSPS involved in such things.

Unless WEL and WSN recognise the issue of culture and take appropriate action I fear for the future of the ship.

tramscape
09-06-2017, 09:56
I was just reading back through some WSN Annual Reports (as you do !) and in last year's one I came across this statement which I had really glossed over too much before ......

"This financial year was a successful one despite a series of challenges which were overcome and did not impact on the many passengers who sailed on Waverley during the season"

Re-reading this, I am amazed by this statement, or more to the point amazed that it could be included. If I remember correctly from the customer reviews I saw, many of the passengers were impacted upon

Marisco
09-10-2017, 12:22
I was just reading back through some WSN Annual Reports (as you do !) and in last year's one I came across this statement which I had really glossed over too much before ......

"This financial year was a successful one despite a series of challenges which were overcome and did not impact on the many passengers who sailed on Waverley during the season"

Re-reading this, I am amazed by this statement, or more to the point amazed that it could be included. If I remember correctly from the customer reviews I saw, many of the passengers were impacted upon

Thanks for posting this Tramscape. I am also more than a little surprised that your highlighting of the statement hasn't caused more comment from anyone else, but it does show the degree of disregard to the general public from the top. I do wonder if they ever discuss such issues. Who would be there to speak up for "the paying customer" ? Is there anyone within WEL/WSN/PSPS who is nominally charged with customer relations?

I do rather like many aspects of the The Doctor's prescription.

tramscape
09-18-2017, 21:47
Those who come to the clinic for a consultation with the doctor would be referred to an example web page, set up quickly at zero cost and with little need for maintenance for a low-cost but still full-time paddle steamer preservation operation. It would be all that was needed to showcase the doctor's prescription in an official way

The photo is not the one I would use, but under the circumstances it is the best I have got for the moment

Click here to see :

http://paddlesteamers.info/Largs%20Rothesay%20and%20Kyles%20Website/Clyde%20Cruises%20on%20Paddle%20Steamer%20Jeanie%20Deans.html

Note: If paddle steamer Waverley were to maintain its current programme, the doctor's prescription would require any new enterprise to be operated on the Schonbrunn/Shieldhall model basis

Marisco
09-19-2017, 08:35
Excellent Tramscape.

Your imagination and transforming that vision into virtual operational reality is laudable.

I would be interested to know what the staffing levels would be required. Operating her 6 days per week and sailing 10.30 to 19.00 hrs, with say 2 hours pre-sail prep and 1.5 hrs post sail clean up?

2 Crews - 4 days on and 3 off ?

I wonder what other restrictions would be imposed.

Well done - thought provoking as we would expect from The Doctor.

tramscape
09-19-2017, 11:52
Thank you for your kind comments my friend !

Yes it is a long day and longer than hoped for ..... It is based on the sort of timings Waverley do now anyway, but is not cast in stone - and this is where the experts in this field come in, (Any surgery should be staffed by experts in various fields .....)

My other option (not shown here) was a shorter morning taster cruise of round the Cumbraes and the longer cruise on the afternoon, either the Round Bute one only, or the two suggestions on alternating days

A weekend-only Schonbrunn/Shieldhall operation would inevitably require the shorter cruise included

Let's provoke more thoughts !

Active Supporter
09-20-2017, 02:24
Good to see the fresh thinking in Tramscape's prescription though am not sure it is the answer, but maybe a potential useful idea for the Clyde season.

If she is to sail at all, Waverley has to cover the high costs of winter maintenance and then the fixed weekly cost of a full crew. Could she survive if she was based at Largs throughout the year? I suspect not and she certainly gets good loadings on the South Coast and Thames.

The fundamental issue is marketing to ensure that empty trips, especially in the Clyde, are better loaded and the key to this is an effective on-line marketing strategy, especially as if the ship's operations are to be sustainable in the long term the younger generation needs to be attracted. Currently WEL posts a handful of Tweets each month with lots of retweets essentially aimed at those who already support the ship. It's Facebook page mirrors Trip Advisor reports on which genuine complaints remain unanswered for almost two months. Unlike many steam railways, WEL has no smartphone app which could promote the undoubted attractions of the ship and secure bookings.

None of the above is intended to be a criticism of hard working office staff, whose workload must have increased with recent cancellations. The point is there are those who have the willingness and expertise to help but in my experience such help is not welcomed. In this respect it is noteworthy that, for their charter this year, the PSPS Scottish Branch had a full ship on a foul night, in part due to social media promotions.

Of course I may be mistaken and it may be the case that WEL are actively developing an on line marketing strategy and seeking help from PSPS and others who could help deliver this. If so I would be delighted to be proved wrong.

tramscape
09-20-2017, 10:42
I've run the figures through my financial model testing numerous scenarios - and my plan does not work unless there is a substantial cut in central costs and a big reduction in marketing costs (the latter I know goes against accepted wisdom and AS's assessment) but I stand by it. Losses would likely be of the same magnitude as at present

I was hoping that restricting to class V etc might have some effect on those enormous dry-docking costs etc ..... but I know that that is probably not realistic. However I look at some European examples of heritage ships which survive nicely even on the coast but which wouldn't have a chance in hell if they had to pay out what Waverley has to.

If we look at how the model might work if WEL adopted it (not that they would .....)

Waverley is based away from Glasgow for over half her week anyway, so the trick is to try and persuade Glasgow boarders people to get to Largs by some means (and more quickly than sailing there). Those who really want to go will probably do it, but yes, there will be some loss of passengers. For many, getting to Largs might not be all that much more difficult than getting to the Science Centre. My plan would be to try and avoid booze cruisers altogether

How to fill up those less than full midweeks? Well, I would say that two short trips might attract walk-ups and such like, but I would not expect to fill her. When she's busy she's uncomfortable, so I would go with a 484 max pax if I could have crew reduced accordingly. My model would work with around 500 fares per day on average (split over the two cruises). Waverley even with plenty of midweek sailings originate on the Firth indicate they require 600)

Although the Thames provides heavy loadings, there have been big costs to sail there and if things go wrong as they did last year, big costs to put things right let along the customer unhappiness. This season her south coast revenue has already been cut to not much more than half the expected level with not an enormous cut in expenditure. so again, I am not sure how beneficial the season there is except to help contibuted to those large central costs, which in my plan would be much reduced.

Know what your overall costs are and then assess whether the business you think you can reasonably achieve will yield - and in my plan, the result comes out acceptably ..... fort a lot less effort and one one my bugbears removed - much less potential for customers to want to give one star reviews

Marisco
09-21-2017, 12:14
I was just wondering if you had thought of adding Millport (Keppel) to your Largs - Rothesay schedule as it would be a nice addition for trippers. Millport is a lovely little town and used to have a great beach. It is a nice brief trip from Largs especially if there was a regular bus meeting the vessel at Keppel and transferring passengers to the Stuart Street area of Millport. Doing Largs - Millport - Rothesay circle might gain local support. I am thinking that Dunoon has so many problems associated with the exposed pier so I would drop that trip. Maybe add Greenock?


Do you think a Balmoral type vessel would work on this schedule?

tramscape
09-21-2017, 12:15
Waverley of course got caught out by the Class III after dark ruling and had to curtail things and bus Swanage customers home as well as Weymouth ones - with some additional cost

I would hate to lose the southern sailings if they make financial sense (and generate widespread goodwill) - and the light issue as well as what appears to be prevailing climatic conditions suggest that the time has come to move the southern sojourn to the opening part of the season and assess the situation after a few years' experience ..... before any more radical solutions are adopted

However, if financial success only comes from people being carried along like sardines in a tin.....the goodwill might not stretch to all corners of the compass !

tramscape
09-21-2017, 12:33
I was just wondering if you had thought of adding Millport (Keppel) to your Largs - Rothesay schedule as it would be a nice addition for trippers. Millport is a lovely little town and used to have a great beach. It is a nice brief trip from Largs especially if there was a regular bus meeting the vessel at Keppel and transferring passengers to the Stuart Street area of Millport. Doing Largs - Millport - Rothesay circle might gain local support. I am thinking that Dunoon has so many problems associated with the exposed pier so I would drop that trip. Maybe add Greenock?


Do you think a Balmoral type vessel would work on this schedule?

Thought of it - but there is a time issue and I don't know what the yield would be. There is a good connection between Cumbrae and Largs anyway, so people wanting to go to Cumbrae that way would do so anyway and anyone staying on Cumbrae coud probably get to Tattie Pier on the same bus route and connect at Largs without too much hassle. Also would not want to abstract from cal-Mac traffic - but adding to it is always a few brownie points !

However, as you say, adding Keppel on to the short round Cumbraes morning taster trip makes perfect sense

Dropping Dunoon would be a big decision. My take would be that Argyll & Bute Council have been sympathetic to Waverley, so unless they wanted to discourage others, then they are worth getting close to. Dunoon is still a "resort" to visit, even if faded in its glory and one of the best sources of coach tour business. Greenock from what I have seen and read is alays a bit of a disappointment for passenger numbers and may only abstract from Largs numbers.It would also add time to the day - and as you know it is already pretty full !

Balmoral ? Well, why not. It has lower costs but of course a lower profile and possibly less intrinsic attraction. Of course, if Waverley is continuing as she does, then the premise is that it would be a weekend-only operation Shieldhall-style. I would fear for getting the requisite number of volunteers for her on the Clyde to enable it. It would also require getting Balmoral's dry-docking etc costs down to Shieldhall levels, plus a fair bit of supporter donations

As a PSPS man, I would not recommend that Waverley is replaced by the more modern (just !!) vessel !

stanley37uk
09-21-2017, 12:57
Millport Keppel is quite a way from the town . A bus trip for the elderly .

tramscape
09-21-2017, 13:01
It's the sort of thing which is needed

http://www.buteman.co.uk/news/new-hotel-planned-for-rothesay-1-4565480

.... but would it attract more people to the area ?

kylemore
09-21-2017, 16:37
It's the sort of thing which is needed

http://www.buteman.co.uk/news/new-hotel-planned-for-rothesay-1-4565480

.... but would it attract more people to the area ?

Could they be persuaded to include a steamer pier in their ambitious proposals!

tramscape
09-23-2017, 11:16
Although nobody else seems to, I still very much like my earlier proposal to offer a discount to first-time customers

I will therefore add £ 5 to adult (only) fares and boldly state "£ 5 OFF ADULT FARES FOR FIRST-TIME CUSTOMERS"

Of course the system works on trust - those who abuse it will know who they are ..... but they still pay a fair rate. Those who come often will presumably be sympathetic and understand that the operation really needs the additional money

Through this way, I would want to keep public appeals, begging bowls and other such signs of desperation, which in themselves indicate an unhealthy preservation, to a minimum

I will amend my demonstrator web page accordingly !

The more I look at it the more the numbers stack up - and if the season could be extended by operating on weekends only outside the main season with a volunteer crew, that would make them look really good

Active Supporter
09-25-2017, 00:50
In many ways I like the idea of a Clyde only operation. However the question that has to be answered to validate it is what proportion of Waverley's operating expenditure is unavoidable annual fixed costs. I don't know the answer, although the annual accounts seems to indicate such fixed costs are around 40% with winter maintenance costing close to half a million. If this is the case, it's difficult to see how Clyde only sailings can recoup these costs and WEL are right to maximise income by operating the ship on the South coast and Thames.

One way to attract more customers is by attracting those interested in steam heritage who don't know of the ship's existence. Preserved railways have shown that there is a huge and sustainable demand for a steam railway experience. Innovative marketing both by print and social media should be able to tap into heritage railway's customer base. Social media also offers the opportunity to attract much needed younger supporters and could create a virtual presence which is needed as, unlike heritage railways, Waverley does not have an identifiable physical base.

So to ensure the preservation of the ship the required approach would seem to be sail her to as many different areas as possible and effectively market her, which was, in essence, the early WSN philosophy.

tramscape
09-25-2017, 10:50
If we consider the situation with regard to Waverley .....(remember, my proposal is not vessel-specific and I have named it Jeanie Deans !)

If you include annual maintenance and a signed-on crew as fixed costs - then based on the 2016 accounts, around 87% of costs are fixed

Therefore you don't need many aboard during sailing season to make at least some contribution to fixed costs ( I make it around 70 minimum for a longish day). of course you can't run a business that way except on the extreme exceptional day
To keep crew on and just cover variables, I make it around 220, so extending the season on the Clyde doesn't make a lot of sense as WEL do confirm by not sailing in early June. Running on weekends out of season Shieldhall/Schonbrunn mode would contribute a large amount, however

Certainly, the revenue from a non-disrupted southern shoulder season is essential based on the current cost structure. Again it would be interesting to know the figures for the various areas individually. Although in theory half of the south coast revenue was lost this year, maybe a number of those affected would have re-booked. If all re-booked then it is not a major issue

Scotland-only doesn't work with an extended full-time programme into the shoulder seasons unless fixed costs can be cut substantially. Where could these costs be reduced? Well, some suggestions ...

Reduced staffing as no need to process bookings/refunds (although remaining staff and volunteers could be ticket-issuers for part of the day)
Move office to cheaper premises (Largs, maybe !)
Reduce marketing spend by concentrating on one area whilst keeping inexpensive on-line presence. Presence is the best advert
Reduce variables which effectively become fixed once your programme is established - eg insurances, pier dues, pilotage

Whilst the southern season is revenue positive, there is no real incentive for the existing Waverley company to change - and there are still good non-financial reasons for going (not least PSPS's charitable objects). However - at what cost? - Wear and tear on the vessel ? Stricter requirements for Class III certificates ? Need to keep a booking system - and the cost in terms of money and customer confidence if things go wrong. Cost of rectifying problems when so far from base. Massive marketing costs to attract custom outside existing customer base

I know I am ridiculed by most diehards who think that complaining customers are the real "nutters" but having been a businessman in sales and customer service - for me, customer reputation is one incredibly important issue that defines a business - and ultimately its success. My plan is to get any operation (Waverley too, if it wants to) to be not just on a level with its peers, but better in all respects. I won't be satified until the TA review profile for any business mirrors at least that of Shieldhall, SGV etc etc

tramscape
09-25-2017, 12:05
One way to attract more customers is by attracting those interested in steam heritage who don't know of the ship's existence. Preserved railways have shown that there is a huge and sustainable demand for a steam railway experience.

I suppose it is how far people are prepared to travel It is nice to see a working steam engine (I assume!) and especially in a station/heritage centre (!) setting. But I never quite understand the attraction of being in a carriage when you can't see the engine !!! If it is the only way to see a spectacular bit of scenery, well that's a different thing

For me, I haved lived only a short distance away from the North York Moors Railway for best part of 30 years and been well aware of it, but have never seen it let alone gone on it !

However, I have no problem jumping on a plane at any time to go to a European city with tramways !