How train companies could learn about customer service

Memo to train companies: I have had several recent dealings to put my children on the car insurance with Direct Line. While their ads may be irritating, their customer service is unparalleled. They will, for example, put someone on for a day or a week, just charging the pro-rata annual rate, and a modest £15 admin fee.  Similarly,if you need to take someone off the insurance, they will refund the whole amount, minus the same admin fee, a sum which can amount to hundreds of pounds for a young person

Now that is what I call customer service. Not for them ‘we can’t take credit card bookings here’ or ‘we cannot refund you because you have bought the wrong type of ticket’  Their service is user friendly, they answer the phone quickly, their staff are police and helpful – they’ve got it all.

Contrast this with train companies who once refused to refund tickets booked in advance for one of my children, because the event she was going to was cancelled, even though I was trying to do it a week before the tickets were to be used; or the myriad ways in which they try to extract maximum revenue from people, and yet never refund you if you have overpaid for a ticket out of ignorance of their amazingly complex rules.

I am not, generally, given to praising private companies but credit where credit is due. As I have said repeatedly, if we have genuine capitalism on the railways, then privatisation would have been  worthwhile. Instead, we have monopolies exploiting their position with no regard for their customers. Is it a surprise they get such bad PR?

So here’s a practical suggestion to operators. Go talk to Direct Line, learn how they do it and how come they can do things cheaply and effectively. And take the lessons on board.

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