The Customer Experience on One Railway (an open letter)

Following several earlier posts regarding my daily experiences with the woeful one railway, I decided after a difficult week to give the respondent and her team another chance....
"xxxx, you may know that we’ve corresponded in the past (ref: 143988) and, despite my better judgement, I have decided to give you all another chance to redeem yourselves with some superb customer service. You see I’m not really a complete novice when it comes to this sort of stuff. At work I live and breathe customer satisfaction, I’ve even been on the phones myself dealing direct with customers, that’s what makes my experiences with one all the more depressing – I know that it shouldn’t be that difficult to get it right.

I recently read a piece by Richard Branson, you know xxxxx, the one with the beard that’s got all those planes and trains? He said how proud he was that they’ve started to embed a culture of customer service amongst their staff, many of whom were embittered by years of pre-privatisation neglect. I genuinely hope that one are working this hard – from the very top of your organisation – to encourage such a helpful workforce. You know, I once heard a Chinese proverb which said “The man without a smile should never open a shop”, well, I hope you’re smiling.

Now, to the crux of the matter, every single day this week the 08:09 from Ipswich to Norwich has left Ipswich late. It does happen, I know, despite everyone’s best efforts, but every day this week? What makes is worse are two things (I’ll be nice and put them in bullet points so you can highlight them when you send the hard copy to your bosses)

:: The ‘due’ time on the departure boards kept increasing by a minute just as it ticked toward the latest time, so the train was due at 08:15, it got to 08:15 and suddenly it was due at 16, 17, 18 and so on.
:: There were never any announcements as to why each delay had occurred, what the estimates were for it to arrive, or what one were doing to help. Nothing, silence, just the received-pronunciation of your automated announcements.

What exactly do one want to sell me as a commuter? If your answer is ‘train travel’ or ‘a ticket from Ipswich to Norwich’ you’re wrong. What one should be offering is a journey experience. A visionary journey where the customer (passenger) is central to the experience. I want to wait for a punctual train at a clean, dry and comfortable station. I want to board a modern train, one that’s safe, reliable, fast, quiet, clean and superbly comfortable. I want every passenger to be paying a fare towards this service but a fare that makes sense. I want to be able to use a train toilet, read a newspaper, check my emails and get a coffee and croissant in the mornings. I want the conductor to be friendly, approachable, helpful and courteous. Is this what’s currently happening on one or is the reality more like this: I arrive at a cold, filthy run-down station to wait for a train that is always late but no-one ever tells me why. I sit down on a broken seat in old Virgin rolling stock amongst a pile of discarded papers and coffee cups. My ticket is glanced at by a bored bloke in his 40s but he ignores the kids opposite me with their feet on the seats who’ve not bought a ticket between them. We stop outside Diss for ten minutes where the heating breaks and no announcement is made, I await a refreshment trolley but one never comes. We move off and the knackered ex-Virgin carriages judder in to Norwich thirty minutes late.

These are not unreasonable observations; contrast the one London – Norwich service with:

:: On
GNER a month ago I travelled to York and surfed the web all the way there on my laptop through their onboard wireless service.
:: On
Virgin a few months ago I travelled to Manchester in blissful air-conditioned comfort listening to in-train entertainment and working on my laptop from the at-seat power point.
:: Grand Central Trains will not charge you if you have to stand.

So, some more questions for you and your colleagues to answer:

1. When will one provide new rolling stock OR rolling stock refurbished to a standard such as that seen on GNER’s flagship ‘
Mallard’ trains
2. What innovative changes to the service are one implementing to make their passenger experience exceptional, the sort of thing that makes people gasp (eg. wireless broadband)?
3. Why did one repaint Ipswich station in old Anglia colours during the summer?
4. Why does each ‘senior conductor’ provide different announcements when the train sets-off? Surely these should be consistent and meet basic Health And Safety requirements?
5. Why can you not find out the cost of an Ipswich – Norwich annual season ticket on the website (it only shows London season ticket prices) How difficult would it be to add an Annual Season Ticket check form where you input ‘from’ and ‘to’ click submit and it gives you a price?
6. Why do one not ALWAYS tell passengers why the delay has occurred and what they’re doing to resolve it?
7. Why are the ‘due’ indicators on the departure boards so inaccurate?
8. Why has the massive departure/arrivals board in Ipswich station foyer been broken for nearly a year? Is it THAT difficult to fix? (your website talks of investment in new passenger information systems… where?)
9. Why do one not use more (modern) matrix display screens along the platforms at their ‘rural’ stations?

xxxx, I don’t suppose you have all the answers, I don’t have the answers as to why our service is bad sometimes but I do know that we have a culture here of challenging this sort of rubbish. Knock on doors, speak to managers, pass this email round and get people to wake up to the fact that one are so far off the pace when it comes to customer service, innovation, progress and, quite frankly, the basics of providing a safe, efficient, reliable and comfortable service? Why not book a meeting with xxxx xxxxxx? Show him this letter, get him to call me. Are one serious about the customer experience?

The trouble is I have to use this service daily and in that respect it’s an easy target. You have to please me almost every day or I get upset. I get so upset I feel the need to complain only when I’ve endured a level of service that is woeful in the extreme, but that’s starting to be a daily occurrence.

No comments: