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Andrew Curry writes:

Over the holiday I had to take myself and my bike by long distance train. I’d heard bad things about the bureaucracy involved, so I decided to visit my local mainline station to sort it out in person. And this story doesn’t turn out the way you’re expecting.

In fact it was one of the best customer service experiences I’ve had all year. When the ticket clerk heard when I wanted to travel, the first question she asked was whether I had some flexibility – travelling half an hour earlier or later made the fare quite a lot cheaper, and it helped that she split the journey into two separate parts rather than selling me a single through ticket (rail’s arcane pricing structure doesn’t do it any favours).

She then made sure that my seat reservation was as close as possible to the guard’s van, where my bike would be, reminded me that the bike needed a ticket attached to it during the journey, and finally, as about eight tickets popped out of her printer, put them all into a little wallet grouped by journey stage.

What I liked about this, apart from the fact that I saved about £30, was that my service representative had a picture of my entire journey in her head, and set about making it as straightforwards as possible for me. I’d like to be able to give credit where it’s due, and name the station, but I’ve heard (though can’t find a link) that at least one rail franchise has responded to the downturn by telling staff to maximise revenues. This is short-sighted, to say the least. Digital media consultancies increasingly say that “earned media” – where a company’s actions earn from their users good digital or personal plaudits, such as this blog – is the most effective form of promotion. The rail company has already earned its £30 back in promotion several times over.

The picture is courtesy of the London Cycling Campaign, and was taken by Lionel Shapiro. It is used with thanks.

One thought on “Taking the strain

  1. thenextwavefutures says:

    I couoldn’t help but think, as I noticed this story about a careless ticket office, and stunningly officious Virgin train guards, that companies can also make losses on their “earned media”:

    http://www.chortle.co.uk/news/2008/10/10/7566/arrest_threat_for_good_samaritan_comic

    You couldn’t make it up.

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