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Wednesday, 24 February 2010

A tale of two experiences...

I have quite a few people to thank in this blog. Those of you who have been following my tale of eternal woe in navigating the non customer-friendly experience I have endured with FirstScotrail, FirstGroup, TheTrainline etc will be cheered to know that the saga is ALMOST at an end. By the latest counting, including today, we are now sitting at 73 days and counting, an additional 19 days since my '54 days and counting' Patience rip-off (

The people I want to thank for directly contributing comments and propogating this sorry tale by re-tweeting and blogging are as follows @dahowlett (Hope to see you at EMEA Sapphire), @buchanla, @mhdpartnership, @sharpsharp, and @TheFactCompiler, also thanks to those of you who left comments on the original blog (

This all resulted in a direct contact from my new friends at TheTrainline who were able to take ownership of the problem and with open communication and courtesy have endeavoured to resolve the issue (FULL refund PLUS £20 goodwill gesture). In the interests of completeness I will, hopefully, conclude this tale but with some very direct conclusions which I sincerely hope FirstScotrail heed.

#FAIL 1 - When allowing people to book online you provide a service which allows the customer to cancel their booking. Clicking on this link then directs you to a phone number with the message - sorry we were unable to complete your request.

#FAIL 2 - When calling the call centre you are told that the refund request has been raised but they are NEVER able to confirm this to you by email or provide a reference number linked to the request.

#FAIL 3 - The call centre seem entirely unable to manage customer expactations appropriately and can provide NO insight into the status of such requests.

#FAIL 4 - The web service channel provides a reference number but as witnessed by the customer experience I have endured is unable to offer ANY resolution at all other than continue to provide vague, standard responses to queries.

#FAIL 5 - ONLY when asked for the issue to be escalated was I then directed to FirstGroup's customer service department, a completely separate entity.

#FAIL 6 - On logging my complaint online I was sent a standard response along with my Case Reference Number that it may take up to 7 days to reply.

#FAIL 7 - Do not send standard customer service responses from a DO_NOT_REPLY@ address. This was the straw that broke the camels back and led to the video.

#FAIL 8 - When you say you are going to respond within 7 working days please do this.

#FAIL 9 - Despite very good communication with the TheTrainline a 'manual input error' has led to me still awaiting my full refund despite getting the £20 goodwill gesture credited to my account. I am assured that will go through this week - hooray!

And a final note, and possibly #FAIL 10, at the same time as all this was kicking off ScotRail was issuing self-congratulatory PR talking about their punctuality and customer satisfaction ratings of 90%. There is no point in self-promoting your punctuality and satisfaction ratings when it seems you are NOT engaged with the social channels which would provide a healthy dose of reality to any statistic you create. Every day since I blogged on my experience I read #Scotfail #FirstScotrail and #Scotrail comments on Twitter and I certainly did NOT see anything approaching 90% satisfaction, occasionally though there was surprise and astonishment that the trains were either NOT crowded or ON-TIME.

If you want to know how to do things the right way, look no further than here ( then hang your head in shame.


  1. Well done - you've done better than the guy (just over 3 years ago) who was dumped in the middle of Motherwell at 01.00 by British Transport Police, with no concern for his welfare (had he money, a means to get home etc), thanks to a) the failure of the ticket issue machine at Glasgow Central (Virgin) which he had to use because the ticket office hourse had been cut back and b) despite having a valid booking number and printed details and accepting the unreasonable attitude of the train conductor. demanding that he paid again for his ticket (advance purchase return) with a full price single fare. THe last straw came when the conductor refused to correctly fill in the credit card slip, and the passenger (who worked for a bank, and until that night made regular trips to London by train) insisted that the transactionwas correctly completed.

    As a result the Police were called for and we eventually set off from Motherwell around an hour late, arriving at Carstairs where passengers from Edinburgh had been hanging around waiting and engineers were fuming at the fact that they had lost an hour of vital time to do work on the track.

    The other passengers were appalled and shocked and it was us to took the banker's phone number and checked that he got home safely - and was forced to book a flight - and arrive late for his meeting in London - THe Police and Scotrail took no interest in his welfare when ejecting him from the train in a place where he knew no-one in the middle of the night.

    The whole incident including the hour's delay to the train was completely unnecessary - the conditions of carriage clearly state that where a passenger is unable to obtain a ticket at the place they board a train they can purchase the ticket they want on the train - or even at the other end of the journey (I've done this when first) the ticket machine on the unstaffed station failed and second) the conductor's ticket machine refused my card and eventually I used the card at the cash machine at the station I got off at to get cash and pay.

    There are unfortunately some rail workers who forget the basic product they have is a train running on time - a late train is worth as much as yesterday's news. So it follows that for details like ticket irregularities, which have no impact on the safe running of the train you do not stop the train and have a full blown feud. Keeping the train running, and sort problems like this out on the move is the way to do it - Transport Police can always be called to be ready at the next station, and even travel on with the train, so that the all the trains keep running on time, and passengers can always buy their ticket at the end of the journey if there are problems with ticket selling before this.

    Last contact I had with B he had never received any apology for his treatment. I think there was trouble over the train running late but not the action taken against the their passenger.

  2. In comparison my experience of poor customer service is pretty mild. I cannot understand the attitude of service staff when faced with an opportunity to solve a customers problem. Every customer problem really is an opportunity to engage and build trust and ultimately loyalty but perhaps it is more of an indication of low morale within the organisation.

    My Father worked for the railways for over 42 years and noticed with privatisation a growing loss of accountability, interest, and passenger focus over a relentless pursuit of profit for what is an essential public service. The once vibrant union associations such as the RMT and the TSSA are also falling into insignificance with dwindling memberships which I also feel is symptomatic of an ecosystem which no longer cares and just accepts the hands it is dealt.

    Ultimately those that suffer most are the poor mug punters!

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