I was poised earlier this week to write a ranty blog post. You know the drill…”This beggars belief…” and “Never have I been so disappointed with so-called customer service…” Venting is often the most cathartic way of exorcising those frustrated demons and I do love the occasional rant.
But I was stopped in my tracks – literally.
The problems began earlier in the week. I needed train tickets for a meeting and thought I’d be all organised and pre-book them so all I had to do on the day was turn up on time, collect and go. I’d seen the TV ads for trainline.com, tempting me with their promises of ‘saving an average of 43%’ and in my capacity as frugal business owner I thought I’d do exactly that.
What I didn’t do is look anywhere else for a price comparison – let’s call that mistake No1. Mistake No2 was booking whilst in the middle of making a million other tiny mental calculations, including such important decisions as “What to wear”, “Where’s my grey cardy?” and “Seriously, was that 2 day glimmer of sunshine the British Summer?”.
I wanted a return ticket to London, leaving after 9 to ensure I fell into the off-peak category. As my meeting was late morning I thought I’d plump for the 9.47 giving me time to mess around on twitter get myself organised and leave the house looking relatively professional. I skipped through the ordering process, ticking boxes, assuming I was doing the right thing, congratulating myself for multi-tasking so successfully. I even added in a travelcard right at the end, mentally high-fiving myself for thinking of everything. Going through the payment process I ignored the fleeting thought that it was a bit on the pricey side; “noooo, this is a cheap tickets website; of course I’m getting a great deal.” My email confirmation arrived and I printed and filed it on my desktop ready for later in the week.
That’s where the husband found it. That’s when the husband told me I’d been ‘done over’ and, seeing as it was a journey he used to do 2-3 times a week, I half-believed him. I was travelling north that day so I checked at the station. Imagine the horror when I realised that the price from the station was nearly half what I’d been charged. So I did what every Social Media addict would do in this situation, I tweeted my disgust.
What followed was an almost immediate reply from trainline.com on twitter, who turned out to be a very nice Welsh man called David. Over the course of that day we had a progressive conversation, until I got a bit spooked, thought he might just be a random train enthusiastic, and called customer services instead.
That would be mistake no3 in this tale. Trainline.com use offshore customer services and this conversation was obviously scripted, lacking in any more than perfunctory compassion and hugely frustrating on my part. It was confirmed to me on this call that in order to cancel my two tickets, I would be charged £10 per ticket… Twenty quid to cancel a ticket that cost £45?!? You’re kidding me, right? Sadly, no….
At this point I gave up, retreated back to twitter and vented some more. David popped up again, keen to resolve the matter and, despite my misgivings, I took a leap of faith and allowed him to do exactly that. I got the resolution I wanted, I also received excellent service from someone intelligent and articulate and rather than losing my business entirely, trainline.com has confirmed itself as my ticket provider of choice.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the true power of social media. It’s not about broadcasting how great you and your company is. It’s about looking for opportunities, lurking and ensuring that the right interactions take place. This kind of result takes time and investment, needs people who understand communications, who have the skills and expertise to deal with irate women who can’t multi-task quite as well as they thought they could, and who are dedicated enough to keep working to a satisfactory resolution – that might just possibly deviate from a script. A verified account would help, although it’s not something easily available yet – it would have saved me the call centre experience though.
And the less said about offshore call centres, the better….