Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

Redbus.in: Make it Your Experience. NOT!

Posted on: June 7, 2008

redbus

If you really look at what is driving most of the sustainable internet businesses – starting from Seventymm, Storrz to Canvera, its in the ability to handle the logistics involved behind it flawlessly. If you want a grander example to learn from, understand learn from the multi-million dollar backoffice processes that Amazon.com has in place to process all their orders. The rule is very simple. You get paid simply because you can dissolve some of the complications of the customer. Most folks don’t have time and would be more than happy to trade money for time and effort saved.

So I’ve been hearing about redbus.in for quite sometime now. Its been three weeks since I have had a new born nephew and I have been meaning to go visit and finally thought I’d take this weekend to do that. A trip to the temple city of Madurai and back should be all that was warranted. I checked for bus tickets in a few places and everyone had tickets but all their offices are in Vadapalani – which essentially means 45 mins travel there and back just to get the tickets. It suddenly dawned on me that there was redbus.in and i decided to give it a whirl.

I selected the cities, the time and it spewed out all the results. Selected a bus in the timing that I wanted, and was very impressed with all the layout, the simplicity and all. Set the number of tickets to two (had convinced my sister that getting tickets was a piece of cake), and they had plenty of options. Since my credit card had expired and I am waiting for the new card to arrive, I asked them to deliver.

Two Minutes later: I get a call from a bangalore number, a lady on the other side asks me if I had booked a ticket. I confirm. She keeps trying to change the bus timing from what I had chosen to an earlier time. I reconfirm to the time I wanted. She asked what seat number I wanted and offers me two seats at the back of the bus. Redbus.in allows you to select seats and I said I am fine with 17 and 18 “as I had picked in the first place”. fine she says and all is well. She said by 2pm I can expect the tickets at my doorstep. I genuinely thought that trying to meddle with bus timing and seat numbers was their way of confirming if i was serious and if I was the same guy who made the booking – even thought to myself that that was a smart was to confirm.

Ten minutes Later: Get an SMS confirming that two tickets from Chennai to Madurai is booked and will be delivered by noon.
Reaction: Pleasant. Impressed.

2pm Today: I am waiting for the tickets and it hasnt shown up today. I call back the same number from where I got the confirmation since all the three numbers that’s listed on the site seems busy. Either they are taking too many orders or too many complaints. By now I am leaning more towards the latter. The same lady picks up and I tell her my situation and am wondering when I can expect the tickets. She hands it to a manager (bad sign when someone cant handle a simple query). I had my confirmation number that the site gave me when the booking was done and kept it all ready – Imagine me in the same demeanor and readiness as i am when usually calling a travel agent.

The Manager gets on the phone and asks for my name and the travel end points. Doesnt even care for the “confirmation number”. Asks where my delivery address is. I say its in Adyar – pretty much the heart of the city. He says that no one delivers there, and because they couldnt deliver, they didnt book the ticket at all. Then he goes on to say how the ticket is still available and I could book it online. I visit the site and it doesnt allow me to book anything for today, only tomorrow. I tell him that, and he goes on mumbling that it does and does. I mumble back to him saying that Parveen Travels to whom they are giving seats to has their on e-ticketing facility and why would I ever want to come back to redbus if this was the case. The only issue with Parveen is that I need to go to their office on the other side of the city to collect the ticket.

I realize I am exactly where I started off, with the same problem statement. Except that I am one day delayed, and might not get tickets anymore this weekend to go, and my sister is going to give me a piece of her mind for dragging her through this.

A pretty site, a couple of SMSes and a call is not going to cut it. What you essentially are solving is the logistical issue. And if you cant solve that, you should just shut down and crawl back into your hole. Thats for whoever is listening. Wouldnt recommend this nightmare for anyone – except for those I truly hate.

Update:

7:00pm Saturday: I get a call from Mayank the head of Marketing, mentioning that he saw the blog and he asks what he can do to help – even offers to email me the ticket that I can take a print out of and head to the bus station. Given that the bus station is a 45 min drive from my place, and the bus was scheduled at 7:30pm, I was already on my way – no way to gain access to a computer nor a printer. Plus, a relative of mine runs a bus fleet who decided to rescue me by getting me two tickets in his bus that was heading to Madurai. All it took was a call and asking to hold two tickets. Worked fabulously.

7:30pm Saturday. I get an SMS from redbus.in saying that the ticket was canceled. I assume that Mayank must have closed the open booking. Fair enough.

3:00pm Sunday. I get a call from a fella who claims that he is in my office to deliver the ticket. I am in Madurai at this point. I ask him to take a look at the ticket and its date. He says its …”Saturday”. I get the two second silence – I am hoping that he realized what went wrong – and said that he couldn’t deliver it on Saturday for some reason. I had zoned out at this point and was not very much in a pleasant mood to take excuses. I said, thanks for the effort and hung up.

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18 Responses to "Redbus.in: Make it Your Experience. NOT!"

I had used this site on a couple of occasions. I never had a problem because they sent me an e-ticket.May be they are overcommitting by promising a home delivery.

Sorry to hear about your less-than-ideal customer service experience. While thus far I had heard only good things about redbus, but for some concerns on return tickets (Pondicherry-BLR), what you went through is only partly a failure of logistics. The larger failure is one of training (& possibly attitude) – a screw up such as you encountered is a great opportunity to recover and convert to positive word of mouth, through [a] appropriate attitude – “Looks like we screwed up and [b] here’s our solution – even if it involves buying from this other vendor and having it sent across town to you by courier (Rs. 12)” such a recovery if rarely lack of imagination on the poor gal on the phone’s part, but one of training and empowerment. I hope your post helps them and other folks who are providing a value service and bringing value over legacy systems prosper.

im wondering, they are not allowing to print ticket(online) after booking ?

Oh Vijay, you didn’t have to be so hard on RedBus.in. After all, man, this in India and here sab kuch chalta hai!

Nah, just joking. I fully agree with you that more important than having a slick site and fancy technology is getting things right. At the core, a startups only value proposition is to truly satisfy the customer. If you can’t do that, you are going to have a serious negative word of mouth publicity on the internet.

If RedBus.in guys are smart enough, then perhaps they would have been monitoring their brand through Google Alerts, which would bring this post to their attention and probably compel them to reply. Lets wait and watch.

Looks like all Parveen Travels has to do is tie up with a courier company. I am surprised that they haven’t done it so far. What’s the point of being able to buy tickets online if you still have to go collect it?

Everything sud fall in place for a product to click ….., if it misses one,even the initial success wil fade – tis is demonstrated with this redbus exp of yours….

Hmmmm… Do you think something like this could work in the retail segment ? I mean, amazon is damn successful because they own their inventory and source it asap to the the purchaser from their warehouses. What if in India we could leverage the network of retail shops,kirana stores etc and deliver products on demand at doorstep in fraction of a time ?
With rising costs of fuel, this makes a great value proposition for the end consumer right ? And for the shopkeeper added sales without eating up shelf space !

I’ve booked with them when I was in India last year. It was for a trip from Bangalore. I didn’t have nearly as an unpleasant experience. They were pretty prompt in getting the tickets out to me.

Well, I had a different kind of bad experience. I had booked by tickets to Coimbatore for my friends wedding, well in advance, got my tickets printed and was all set to go and bang just the day I was supposed to leave, I get the call saying the particular travels i had booked my trip with cancelled the bus. bad..but cant be helped.

The worst was that I had to follow-up for almost 3 months to get my money refunded. now that IS bad.

Reminds me of my suffering. I had booked ticket through redbus in the initial days of launch, went to the bus terminal to find that someone else was sitting in the same seat. they said it was double booking and i reached bangalore travelling in the cleaner’s seat. After a complaint, redbus gave me a coupon worth the ticket money that i could use at their site, but i didn’t use it myself nor had any good enemies that i wanted to share it with :). As Srikrishna pointed out, S#$T happens and its how they handle when it happens is important.

one reason why I never trust travel agents (I term rebus as an online travel agent). Either go to the travel office (or atleast call them up), book tickets, and travel. This is what I do every weekend :)

I have booked my bus tickets on Yaatra.com and I have never had an issue with them. Have booked quite a few travels and all of the interactions were pleasant.. I wud suggest you do the same.. :-)

My friend, who is a frequent traveler, books his bus tickets with http://www.travelyaari.com

Its a newly launched bus ticket portal, with currently only Western India inventory. They claim to run their own reservation system at the bus owner’s offices to create a real time inventory. They then show this real time inventory on travelyaari.com

Since they have a 100% real time system, no ticketing etc is not possible. My frequent traveler friend says that they even provide on the ground support like call up travelers in case bus is cancelled and make alternate arrangements etc.

I am impressed. Haven’t tried them, since I am from Bangalore. Anyone in this forum has used them?

The online space – No 2nd chances right :) Everything has to sync together.

I used this service once. I have never even opened their site again. that day was a nightmare. after some 4-5 reviews some responsible guy form mumbai called me up, took me on a conferencing (tel) and gave a telebashing to the delhi executive. I was bent on taking out the word against redbus.in but then I stopped.
here is one review

I think that they had an issue with request tickets followed by a mess of some magnitude in the operations department. A company growing fast and you will get all this and more.

I had booked a ticket for travelling to Udaipur on 18-8-09 by Parshwanath Travels’ 7 AM A/c 1+2 seater bus through Redbus website. However, to my surprise, they changed the bus to Non-A/c without any information and intimation. When I asked them on phone, I was told that the difference in fare would be refunded in Shahibaug Office. However, after taking the non A/c bus at paldi pick up point when I reached the Shahibaug office, I was first told that my ticket is for non a/c only and hence no refund is permissible. When I insisted that it is for an A/c bus I was rudely asked where is it mentioned on the ticket? When I showed it to them, one of them told me that the Non A/c fare is Rs. 200 and hence I am entitled to a refund of only Rs. 20/-. When I mentioned that the non A/c fare on redbus site was lower than 200/- I was told it is not possible. I asked them to check up on the site but they insisted that as per their knowledge it is 200/- and if it is lower on redbus site – I may contact redbus. I tried red bus numbers also but their office was closed at 7.00 and hence there was no contact. Harassed in this shameless manner, I asked them to cancell my ticket – or at least write on it that the bus type was changed so that I can take up the matter with redbus. However, the staff on duty flatly refused to do even that. Infuriated, I told them that I will take them to task at all possible forums and that I did not want to travel by their bus. After a long ruckus they finally refunded to me Rs. 220/-. Because of this harrowing experience – I had to take a rickshaw to St bus stand and travelled in a Rajasthan roadways bus – causing extra expenses and delay. This rude behaviour and cheating by bus operator as well as this site will lead to lowering their goodwill and standing. I would say – NEVER USE REDBUS AND NEVER TRAVEL BY PARSHWANATH TRAVELS.

I also had a horrifying experience. I had a icket from Mumbai to Indore for 16th of october 2009, i was happy to be able to be at home on diwali. but the worst was coming, when i reached the bus pick up point, i was surprised to hear that my ticket is not confirmed, the bus operator told me that they had informed redbus that the ticket is not confirmed and i cannot travel on the bus on the seat mentioned on my so called confirmed ticket from redbus. i was adviced that i can travel in the cabin sitting on the engine near the driver. Imagine sitting on engine for 14 hours. When i called the redbus office they told me that the ticket is confirmed and they have not received any message from the operator. Imagine you going home for diwali and this happens to you. I had to make my own travel arrangement from mumbai to go to Indore and had to pay a premium price almost double just because i was bookiing on the day of travelling then what i would have paid if i had booked a ticket directly from the operator.

I would advice not to book ticket from redbus.in.

It is very bad example of what we call as convenience at home.

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