Arrow Stage Lines' Luke Busskohl was named METRO Magazine's Innovative Operator of the Year for 2016. The award ceremony took place Jan. 12, 2016 at the American Bus Association's Marketplace held in Louisville, Ky.
When it comes to finding ways to provide its customers with the best possible service, Norfolk, Neb.’s Arrow Stage Lines is not afraid to embrace the future and explore new ideas.
“Our company is very intentional in giving the customer what they want,” says Arrow’s Chief Operating Officer Luke Busskohl. “After every single trip we do, we ask for customer feedback on every facet of their trip, from how we could do it differently and what they would like to have available to them on the vehicle, to how our driver could improve and how simple our paperwork and payment processes were. It’s a changing world, and if you don’t adapt, you die.”
That feedback has spurred the company to explore ideas ranging from an electronic paperwork process to responsive websites, as well as working with seating manufacturer KIEL Seats North America to create a more comfortable seat that provides more legroom.
“One thing our customers talked about was wanting more legroom, so we were able to redesign our seats to create more legroom while maintaining the same amount of seats,” says Busskohl. “I don’t know if any other coach company has this type of seat. When you get into one of our motorcoaches and sit in that leather seat, the comfort level is outstanding.”
Also onboard the coach, Arrow took 110-volt outlets and Wi-Fi to the next level with Arrow Connect — a Wi-Fi option with a unique landing page that allows customers easy, one-touch access to a variety of different media, including social media, news, stocks, shopping, entertainment news, stocks, games, sporting news and more.
“The landing page gives them access to all the different types of media that our customers have asked us for, but we built it so it’s simple and streamlined,” says Busskohl. “It really appeals to millennials, but even the older generations are using it and have been impressed with how next-level our coaches are.”
All of this attention to detail and focus to provide the best possible customer experience for the customer is just one of the reasons METRO Magazine recognized Arrow Stage Lines as its 2016 Innovative Motorcoach Operator of the Year at the American Bus Association’s Marketplace in Louisville, Ky. in January.
Keys to success
Busskohl says the key to Arrow’s success boils down to its people.
“There are things that separate us from the competition, but at the granular level it comes down to the people we have,” he says. “The people we have brought in recently have brought a different set of eyes, a different set of thoughts.”
That new way of thinking has combined well with Arrow’s senior team; some of which has been with the company up to 20-plus years and has helped cultivate a seasoned and intelligent way of thinking.
“In addition, the leadership team has been teachable and keeps an open mind, meaning we may have always done things a certain way, but we are always willing to improve it and get better,” Busskohl explains.
Another key for Arrow has been diversification.
One offshoot is its ground transportation consulting team Arrow Nationwide Ground Logistics (ANGL), which helps universities, corporations and other groups manage their transportation experience across the country.
“We believe we know the highest quality motorcoach companies to work with in every single state,” Busskohl explains. “For the person who has to book all the motorcoaches and manage all the group transportation for a university, for example, we want to make it easier for them and make them look good.”
The idea, which began as a service for major universities, such as the University of Nebraska, has proven to be a real win-win, Busskohl says, and is showing growth, including some work for Pixar Animation Studios.
In 2014, Arrow launched its Entertainer business, based in Kansas City, Mo. The luxurious line of three motorcoaches —which offers features including plasma TVs, surround sound speaker systems, leather sofas and 12 sleeping bunks — have taken famous musical acts such as Justin Timberlake, Aretha Franklin and Luke Bryan out on tour.
“It’s a different business, but we know the vehicles, service them well and have the right drivers to handle it,” Busskohl says. “We have had very steady growth since we started the business, so we have a plan to continue to invest.”
In fact, the company’s goal is to add two motorcoaches a year to its fleet until it reaches the 12-to-15 motorcoach range. Although the coaches are based in Kansas City, Mo., Busskohl says the motorcoaches can deadhead to any city to begin a tour, and then typically, be out on the road anywhere from two to three weeks to two to three months.
Busskohl likens Arrow’s diversification to a mutual fund.
“It’s wonderful when all of the businesses are clicking on all cylinders and doing well, obviously. But, diversifying gives you a bit of room — if one market is down, another can pick it up, or if one segment of the business is struggling, the other can support it and bring it back up,” he says.
As for the future, Busskohl says that Arrow is always focused on improving and continuing to look at new markets for growth across the country.
He adds, most importantly, that Arrow is currently taking its current brands and continuing to enhance them, while forging ahead into the next generation, which will offer a great traveling experience for all ages and keep the company’s services relevant for both today and tomorrow.
“We want people to recognize that Arrow makes their lives easier and hits on every transportation need they have,” Busskohl says. “It’s exciting to continue to work toward that on a nationwide level.”