James Mayes

Twitter, customer service and employee trust – @SouthernRailUK

In Human Resources, Social Media, Twitter on October 24, 2012 at 10:56 am
So on route to #trulondon this morning, my train was running both late and over-crowded.  My ticket was valid, but not for first class. The entire train was packed, standing room too, except first class – completely empty.  No guard or conductor in sight to check with, so I just jumped in and settled down to work.
At this point, I thought I’d tweet the rail operator. Partially because they claim to provide customer service on Twitter which I wanted to test, but also because if I was going to get grief (or even fined!) I wanted to check that situation out quickly. I got a swift response, which was at least a partial result – though it only expressed some light regret at the situation rather than offering anything more constructive. I followed up, making my concerns a little clearer regards how a ticket inspector might react. At this point, the official account stopped replying… first failure point.
A third party jumped in to defend the role of the ticket inspector. Clearly s/he was trying to defend the poor inspector who probably finds themselves on the sharp end of disgruntled customers regularly, but I was intrigued. A quick scan revealed the user regularly responded to other Southern Rail customers, defending the staff.
A little further correspondence reveals yes, s/he is a railway insider – who thinks of the customer service staff on Twitter as being “parrots”.
Railway Customer Service
The exchange being concluded, a few thoughts:
  1. If you’re going to offer customer service on Twitter (or any other online platform) offer something USEFUL. “We’re sorry for the screw-up” doesn’t quite go far enough, in person or on line.
  2. If your own staff don’t respect your efforts to monitor and respond, what makes you think the general public will?
  3. The user finished by asking me to delete the tweets concerned, suggesting a culture of fear/blame exists. Why else would removal be requested….?
  4. Sitting on a train mid-discussion with an HR person who believes strongly in Employer Transparency… Irony?
The identity of the user in the screenshots is obscured for obvious reasons and original tweets deleted.
  1. […] So on route to #trulondon this morning, my train was running both late and over-crowded.  My ticket was valid, but not for first class. The entire train was packed, standing room too, except first …  […]

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