Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Virgin Trains quiet coach a damp squib

I, like several of my contacts, was pleased when Virgin did not after all lose the West Coast Main Line franchise, because their trains are a lot more comfortable than First TransPennine's alternatives - and their customer service is better.

At least that's what I thought.

Yesterday evening I was travelling home from Edinburgh by train as I often do.  I sat in the quiet coach, again as usual.  And someone behind me in the carriage was playing their music so loudly that I could hear it even when the train was going fast.

You're really not supposed to do that in the quiet coach.

I wondered whether to say something to the person concerned, but decided to keep quiet and let the train manager see to it.  Which I would have thought was part of what he is there for.

He came in to check tickets - and didn't say anything to the culprit about turning their music down.

Then he came through the carriage again - and still didn't say anything.

By now fuming, I tweeted:
What is the point @VirginTrains of having a quiet coach if you are not going to police it?!
Virgin replied:
Hi Emily, we do have signs, and sometimes the Train Manager will make announcements.
I fired off several tweets in quick succession:
@VirginTrains If someone is playing really loud music and the train manager TWICE walks past them without saying anything... Poor do!
@VirginTrains Signs and announcements are not always adequate, they need to be reinforced and enforced individually!
@VirginTrains That is your cue to ask me which train I'm on and send the Train Manager to the quiet coach to sort the problem... come on...
(Emphasis added for the blog.)

I really did hope the last one might spur them into action, given that I'd actually spelt out how I thought they should resolve the problem, instead of just expecting them to think of something to do and do it.

No such luck.  Their reply was:
sounds like there are some very naughty people in your coach :( but yes we do rely a lot on the public to follow
By now I was spitting teeth.  As my final tweet to them said:
@VirginTrains That is not good enough. There is no point YOU nominating a coach as quiet if YOU are not going to enforce it!
To which they made no answer!

People will not always obey signs.  And it shouldn't be up to fellow passengers to challenge those who break the rules of the quiet coach.  I'm a woman who's often travelling alone, and I don't want to - and shouldn't have to - go and challenge some hulking teenage lad who's got his iPod on too loud.  It's surely the train company's and train manager's job to make sure that passengers keep to the rules.  Otherwise there's no point putting up signs to make a coach quiet.

So Virgin Trains, on this occasion you have won a Damp Squib award for poor customer service!

UPDATE: I posted a link to this blog on Virgin's Facebook page.  They've had over 24 hours to respond but so far they've ignored it completely!  That's a double damp squib!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Brilliant service from a brilliant team!

Michael Heppell's team answer the phone, "Hello, it's a brilliant day at Michael Heppell, [person's name] speaking, how can I help you today?"

That greeting, spoken in a sincere, friendly voice as if the person at the other end of the phone is really happy to be talking to you and genuinely cares about helping you, was all it took this morning to cheer me up.

Why did I need cheering up?

I'd been struggling to book on Michael's seminar in Gateshead next month.  First the (third party) site had the wrong date for public booking, then it said I had to register and give my boss's details as well as mine (why?!), and then it said I couldn't book at the moment.  The lady at Gateshead tried to resolve the problem by referring it to their design team, but I hadn't heard from her in a few hours.  And when I tried to phone to book, the phone wasn't answered.

In a state of some frustration I rang my contact at Michael's office, Ruth.  She had been very helpful in advising me of the seminar in the first place, and then in advising me how to book.  And her friendly voice coming down the phone made me feel better straight away.

Ruth understood immediately the trouble I'd been having, and she personally rang the Gateshead office to try and book.  She had no luck either - and she rang me back to tell me so and that she would keep trying.  Now that is top service because she kept me in the picture.  She really did care whether I booked on the course or not.

Eventually, my contact at Gateshead said she would book me on the course herself if I would give her an address for the invoice.  That was good service too.

Thanks to both those ladies but especially to Ruth, who made me feel valued and appreciated as a customer and delivered brilliant service.

Why my Pinterest account lasted... 5 minutes!

I liked the sound of Pinterest - being able to make a collection of images and videos - so I created myself an account.

Then 5 minutes later I deactivated it.


When you pin an image or a video in Pinterest, you assign a category to it.  There was no category for "business".  Most of the articles or videos I would pin as "of interest to me" would be business-related.  So I contacted Pinterest support and asked if they could add this new category.

Instantaneously they came back with an answer.


No.  Because it was a template reply written by a machine.

The reply had my name wrong (addressing me by the first part of my business name).  It said 'Unfortunately, we’re a small team and we won't be able to respond to your email".  Pathetic!  Don't invite customers to e-mail you if you haven't got enough people to answer them!

I answered the message saying "well if you can't add a category, please can I add one?"

And got another template reply!

This time it said:

"We received your reply. We love interacting with pinners, but usually can’t respond individually to this type of request. Rest assured we are always listening and we’re frequently making improvements to Pinterest and our documentation based on what we read in emails like this one."

Well I'm sorry but I don't believe that.  If they "love interacting with pinners" why do they not respond individually to their customers?  And if they're "always listening" why do they send canned replies?

I'm a passionate believer in the concept of customer delight.  Customers should come away from an interaction feeling valued and cherished, even if the supplier can't always do what the customer wants.  I came away feeling like I'd been brushed off like an annoying fly.  Not nice.

That's why my Pinterest account has been deactivated.  And it won't be reactivated unless Pinterest sharpen up their customer service.