The ugly face of customer service

I went into KFC the other night. We had been travelling for an eternity and still had one more train to catch. So with a 10 minute wait at Liverpool Street we called at KFC to grab some food where they do a 1 piece (of chicken) snack box for £1.99. I asked for “two 1 piece snack boxes” as one who wanted two 1 piece snack boxes would. The man said “£6.99 please” to which I questioned why two £1.99 snack boxes would be £6.99 to which he rudely said “why didn’t you ask for that” I was bemused but it got me thinking that the type of customer service the colonel wants KFC to deliver is not the same as the type of customer service Jo Bloggs working at the Liverpool Street branch actually delivers.

The same can be said of Greater Anglia railway company. I’m sure Mr Greater Anglia spends hours coming up with glossy pamphlets and exciting customer service training courses for their employees to pass onto customers with the aim of topping the most satisfied customers leader board of the UK train operating companies. I have to say on the journeys I made with Greater Anglia the trains were on time, I had a seat and the overall experience was not bad. However two members of staff, one who came across rude and the other inexperienced for the job they were doing ruined the experience and that’s what sticks in my mind. That’s what I take away from my journey with Greater Anglia.

The first was a women at Liverpool Street ticket office. There were a huge queue. There were only half the ticket office windows open which is frustrating in itself. One would rather have less ticket windows but have them all open then lots of windows that train companies don’t have the resources to ever fully staff. I’m sure Greater Anglia’s vision is that at these busy times their staff serve customers attentive to their ticketing needs, with a smile on their face and prompt to keep the queues to a minimum. A friendly “sorry for your wait ” wouldn’t go a miss either just to acknowledge that customers do register in the minds of the frontline customer facing staff. Instead though when she finished serving a customer and instead of acknowledging a huge queue and promptly serving the next customer she decided between each customer she would have a few minutes straightening her leaflets, having a little chat with her colleagues and counting her money all with a sly smile to the customers as if to say ” you will wait until I’m ready, I don’t care if you miss your train”. A few people fed up of waiting braved her wrath by going to her when the last customer had left before she pressed her ” position number 5 please” button. To these she said “I’m not ready yet” making them go back to the queue but then literally calling them back over again when she was ready a few seconds later. It was almost comedical to watch had I not just missed my train to Southend!

The second incident was at Stansted airport the following day. I assume this was a revenue protection employee. He had the Greater Anglia badge on but a security companies jacket so possible somebody hired in for the gateline at the station. He was training another person so one would expect him to know his stuff. I showed him my passes, asked for the ticket I wanted. He told me £70. I informed him my tickets should be about £9 and showed him my passes again. At which point like in KFC he said ” you should have showed me them first”. No mate, you should have looked at them when I showed you them first time round. If I hadn’t have done by homework and knew what fare I wanted you would have charged me £61 too much. You shouldn’t have to explain the best ticket to the guy selling you the tickets! To be honest neither of my complaints are the direct fault of Greater Anglia except albeit a lack of supervision of staff but it’s Greater Anglia I’m frustrated with because it’s their company name on these employees badges.

The unions love to list all the faults of the rail industry, most of them they claim the fault of Management when actually in my experience the majority of problems I face on the railways is a lack of good quality front line staff who instead of providing top notch customer service are smug jobsworths whom know as members of the unions are untouchable regardless of how they treat customers. The tickets I use can’t be purchased online or from machines but given the choice I would prefer a machine or the internet (but not -see my recent blog post) to buying tickets at the ticket windows anyday. If other customers also saw that buying train tickets online or from the ticket machines at stations is actually incredibly easy, straight-forward and not as complicated as the unions make out in scaremongering “ticket machines sell you the most expensive tickets” utter nonsense aimed primarily to protect the over inflated salaries of their members then train companies could reduce some staffing levels which would benefit customers in the long run from reduced costs and to be honest ticket machines that are not smug as people selling you a ticket!



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