British trains are well known for not being on time, severely delayed and even cancelled. Having known this all my life (I grew up next to a train station) I should know all their little foibles, such as at the last station before Brighton if the train was slightly early it didn’t bother waiting for the right time to leave, or if it was very late it didn’t even stop at all!
It’s weird how little train companies really care about their customers. Even the term for ‘passenger’ has been changed to ‘customer’, but that doesn’t make it any better an experience for them. Often I get the impression that their customers are a bit of a pain, as they stop the train service from working properly. They inconvenience the smoothing running of schedules, mess the trains up with their rubbish, don’t pay properly for tickets at the stations that have closed early or the clapped out ticket machines that don’t work in the rain, clutter up the corridors due to over-crowding because some carriages have been removed, and even have the audacity to sit in the wrong seats!
And then there are passengers that complain because they have to catch a slightly later train due to the earlier one being cancelled. What is their problem, they’re going to get to their destination at some point? Oh, you’ve missed your connection? – well, you can get the next one. It’s an hour to wait for the next one? – well, that’s not my problem, that’s the times that service has, and I can’t change it for you. No, they won’t wait for the connecting service, because it will ruin their schedule, and that would never do, would it?
What’s these customers’ problem, we have apologised several times over the tannoy for the delays, cancellations, etc. We know we’ve mismanaged the service, but it’s beyond our control. We can’t help flooding, leaves on the line, signals breaking down, the wrong kind of snow, delays due to maintenance of badly serviced lines, coach replacement services, bottle-necks on the main line coming into the station, waiting for the fast train to go through first, signal light stuck on red – we’ve apologised very nicely to everyone waiting on the platform and surely that’s enough?
What do you mean you can’t understand the driver’s announcements? We don’t expect them to be well versed in excellent diction, they’re only train drivers after all! You can’t hear them properly because of the noise of the train? Well, trains are noisy things, so you’ll just have to listen a bit harder. I’m sorry you missed your stop because you didn’t hear the announcements properly, the digital display was broken in your carriage, and we’ve stopped having a guard available to help customers during their journey, the station didn’t have adequate lighting to read its name properly. You’ll have to catch the next one back again.
No, you can’t take your bike on the train as we’ve taken the good’s van away and there’s no space for them any more. There’s no hot food available in the buffet car? Be thankful there is a buffet car, we’re thinking of withdrawing that service soon, it’s too much hassle and the servers cost too much. The loo is broken? Don’t blame me, I didn’t break it, and yes, there’s only one available on the whole train. You should have gone before you boarded the train, and you definitely should have provided your own loo paper.
What would your customers think if you ran your business like this? Would you have any after a while? Train companies get away with it because we don’t have any alternative if your car is unavailable, it’s too far to drive or it’s too expensive to go by air. But is that really an excuse? Think hard about how you treat your customers, what service you provide for them, how you can maintain them, and get them coming back for more. It’s worth treating them like gold dust, because they are your life and soul and they deserve only the best.
About the author:
Alice Elliott’s alter ego is the Fairy Blog Mother, a magical educational resource for all your blogging needs. Find out about her tuition and design services at http://fairyblogmother.co.uk