Customer focus – oh yeah

This is a rant, but only in the rail industry could you get a helpline that, well, can’t help you. I lost my senior railcard when my wallet was stolen and tried to replace it a week ago but it was not sent. So I rang up the helpline number for senior railcards listed on the website and when I started explaining what happened, the lady said I would have to go to the website.  But I had just tried that and it had logged me out, saying I was timed out.

So I insisted on giving my details, and rather reluctantly she put them into her computer. Yes, she said, you had made an attempt to pay but it had not gone through. That was news to me, as that had not been displayed on the computer, but I said could I pay by card now and you can send me the card.

No I couldn’t came the reply: ‘We cannot take card payments, we are just a helpline”. She must be used to angry callers as I did get rather heated saying this was impossible and utterly daft, but she held her ground – ‘we are only a helpline’. And senior figures in the rail industry wonder why it is such an Aunt Sally

  • Derek Monnery

    Of course the rail industry don’t like railcards and want you to pay full price, so make it as difficult as possible to replace a rail card. The fact that escapes them is that people travel more if the fare is discounted so they don’t lose out. Also they seem to be oblivious to the damage caused to the industry by bad publicity and accusations of bad customer service

  • John G

    Well said Derek, I recall the “Fares Fair” policy of GLC / London Transport in the early 80s – bus and tube usage increased by some 20% or so. Also in the 1970s and 80s, BR had Senior Citizens’ Railcard and Student Railcard special fare deals which also greatly encouraged train useage for those who qualified.

  • Anonymous

    Be prepared for my rants tomorrow – going down to KX on East Coast this afternoon; first time in months in the light of all the reports I’ve heard about service quality going down the pan…….

  • The TOCs seem to be completely insulated from reality. Have a look at ATOC’s complacent “response” to the Channel 4 Dispatches programme:

    Among other gems, “Buying the correct ticket is pretty straightforward”. Ha ha ha!

  • Anonymous

    I also found Chris Green’s response to Network Rail’s £1bn+ a year debt repayments equally hilarious: “that’s modern business practice” (or words to that effect).

    Maybe so if this was a proper privatised industry that was totally independent from the public purse, but not one that is getting billions of our money already!

  • Anonymous

    Two things I’ve just thought on here – being cynical – the attitude from a lot of TOCs is “don’t care if we get a bad reputation, as you will keep coming back as you have no other choice”; whilst equally operators that are demonstrably “on the way out” like NXEA, the temporary East Coast and dare I say it – Virgin WC – simply couldn’t care less because they will be history an a year or two and in the meantime can afford to simply cream off as much profit before the game is over without caring too much about their reputations.

    On a side note it is sad that East Coast were seen in a bad light with Richard Wilson getting a row from a rude guard about filming on a train into KX on the Dispatches programme. Aside from this – in the whole life of this temporary franchise it is sad that here was another missed opportunity to repair a lot of the damage done to the route’s reputation after the disastrous NXEC period, and maybe, just maybe they could have harked back to the early days of GNER (or indeed InterCity EC for that matter). The DfT, Directly Operated Railways or whatever they are called – could have taken the lead on simplifying fares, and made a concerted effort to simplify fares, be more forgiving when it comes to ticket and Railcard restrictions etc – and made a point of it. Sadly they just read off the same crib sheet as their two private predecessors…and looks like we’ll be stuck with years more of the same when the refranchise eventually happens.

  • Fandroid

    Referring to the ATOC response: ‘The vast majority of passengers buy and travel on the right tickets’ But how many are paying far more than they need to, or suffering the tight restrictions of advance purchase when they could potentially give themselves a lot more flexibility for about the same price or sometimes, even less? I regard myself as an experienced rail traveller, but only now that I travel around a lot for my voluntary work, have I begun to even partly realise how absurdly complex the ticketing system is and how I have paid out far too much for unnecessary tickets in the past.

    Back to Christian’s rant. I don’t know of any other outfit with a telephone contact centre that is incapable of taking a payment when it’s offered! Total madness.

  • montmorency

    I thought similar when BT started charging for directory enquiries. they missed the point (I guess) that the directory enquiry service helped them to get more phone call revenue, and starting to charge for it just brought ill-will. But I’ll bet someone got a bonus for making it chargeable.