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Intercape November 09 www. bus- ex. com 121 customer care, safety and best practice topics are all covered. " But the biggest thing we're focusing on now is the softer skills," explains marketing manager Corne De Waal. " For example, we offer a range of fares for each departure, so it's important for our sales staff to have the skills to make the sale and close the deal. Our market is also very visual, meaning that word of mouth marketing is very important. So we're focusing on sharpening the skills of our drivers and hostesses, and letting them know their importance in the whole value chain." Looking to the future, Arend de Waal sees significant opportunities for growth. " Statistics show that over a 12 month period, three quarters of the people visiting South Africa came from Africa itself, which means there is a huge opportunity for us." Services are likely to be expanded further into Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. De Waal acknowledges that the African road networks do need to be improved. " However, the roads are already much better than they were, and when they are ready in a few years' time, we will be ready to provide the service." - Editorial research by Paul Radbourne " Some of our routes are in excess of 1,500 kilometres, which is a 21 hour journey" preventive maintenance programme which includes a full safety check at each depot stop and a full vehicle service every 20,000 kilometres. The depots, located at all major stopover points, are equipped with full workshop facilities to carry out anything from a basic service to a full engine replacement, while major depots in Pretoria and Cape Town put the coaches through regular full roadworthiness tests. The preventive maintenance policy is paying off. " The first batch of new vehicles going through the two million kilometre check are doing so without requiring any major component replacements. So we've essentially doubled the life expectancy of our vehicles," Niewenhuizen explains. " Another contributory factor to this extended vehicle lifespan is driver behaviour," de Waal says. " Our drivers are incentivised to drive as efficiently as possible on each trip. Bringing down the maximum speed to 95 kilometres per hour has also helped." People are certainly at the heart of Intercape's business, and the company has been operating an in- house training school since 1999, delivering fully accredited training to those who deal directly with the public. The standard