Latest Rail News

14.08.12

East Coast customer service

Source: Letter from Robert Powell

Your article, ‘East Coast complaints rise by 80%’, comes as no surprise. I have had a personal experience of the ticketing problem and have seen the transition from what was an excellent customer service operation to an extremely frustrating ‘customer experience’. Note, customer experience and not customer service. This is a shame as the actual train company is excellent. The Advance ticket service offering savings is great when it works and the trains are usually on time. Coming from a service background in a different industry, I see customer experience as key in the consumer-driven market.

There is a huge disconnect between what consumers are experiencing and what is being done to resolve it to enhance the customer experience. I agree that on the most part it is down to ticketing issues, although a cultural change towards customer focus is also needed.

Experience 1: Online service when booking an Advance ticket was not possible; the system crashed leading to errors in information regarding direction of travel, time and pricing. Solution; telephoned the call centre who immediately checked the system and resolved the problem over the phone and the correct tickets were also purchased during a very friendly and helpful experience on the phone. Job done.

Experience 2: The same problem with the online system causing the same errors. This time, the telephone was answered by someone in India who, without looking into the problem immediately denied there was an issue. However, after persisting, the advisor agreed to check. Several phone calls later the tickets were put through online and hey presto, I received the wrong ones in the post. It then got even worse. I had no choice but to travel on the outbound section of the journey due to timings. I assumed that the ticket office staff would understand the problem and sort it out, oops, no they didn't. I had to pay again at an excessive rate to get back home. I eventually received a refund via a lengthy process and via an independent ombudsman who, after investigation, found and proved an error did occur with the system at the time of booking.

Bring back call centres to the UK please. It is not cost effective to outsource if everything, including customer retention is taken into account!

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