Tag Archives: trains

Focus on where you want to go

Over the last few weeks I have been travelling in Australia and New Zealand. Sometimes I have been travelling with friends and sometimes on my own.
ImageI’ve learnt lots of new things, mostly through trial and error and with the help and kindness of strangers. Who knew you were not allowed luggage on the train from Wellington? (it has its own secret carriage) Or that shops often shut at 4pm and lunch finishes at 2.30?

I’ve been grateful to many people for their directions and help. I also have several observations.

  • People are kind and happy to help – and pleased to be asked for help.
  • People are proud of and keen to tell you about the area in which they live.
  • People like to recommend places to go and things to do and see.
  • People are interested in where you are from and how you have enjoyed visiting their country.
  • Most people have a friend or relative in the UK that they wonder if you know.
  • Most people are rubbish at giving directions.

Most people are rubbish at giving directions because they know too much about the area and tell you information that is irrelevant. Most people also start by telling you the way not to go. For example….

Helpful person 1

  • Helpful person 1: “So you come out of the station and on your left you will see the water.”
  • Me: “Great – So I look for water…”
  • Helpful person 1: “Don’t go to there”

Helpful person 2

  • Helpful person 2: “Go to the end of the road. At the roundabout see the big council building, with a yellow and blue sign and to the left of that there is a park.”
  • Me: “Great – so I’m looking for a council building, yellow and blue and a park”
  • Helpful person 2: “Don’t go that way”

Helpful person 3

  • Helpful person 3: “At the bus stop you see a deli type shop with beautiful flowers in the window and it does excellent coffee.”
  • Me: “OK – looking for the deli and flowers”
  • Helpful person 3: “Don’t go that way – go the other way”

OK so I think you get it. My question is; wouldn’t it be better to focus on what I should be looking for and where I should be going, rather than giving me information about the landmarks that I should avoid?

It makes me think of a driving analogy that a friend told me.

“You are driving. The road is icy and your car spins out of control. There are telegraph posts at about 10 metre spaces along the roadside. If all you think about is not hitting the post, the likelihood is that you will hit the post as that is what you are focusing on. What you should be focusing on is aiming for the gap. You need to focus on where you are going.”

We often spend time concerned with where we don’t want to go, whether in work, relationships, life or simply giving directions to hapless travellers.

If we focus on where we do want to go rather than on where we don’t want to go, surely we stand more chance of arriving at the right destination?

Today has been a bad day for customer service

Dear Richard,

Despite your entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen, I have had a decidedly below par experience of the Virgin brand this week.

Firstly, I have had to travel on Virgin trains a lot. And they are crap. They are crap because there are not enough luggage racks – on a long journey most people have overnight bags. Did no one think of this when they were designing your trains? While I’m on the subject, why put the luggage racks in the middle of the train?  It causes a bottleneck and panic as people scrabble to get off the train with their luggage.  The overhead racks are barely big enough to post a sandwich in. The trains are cramped, mostly because the aisles are cluttered with overnight bags, they are hot and stuffy and my carriage smelt vaguely of vomit. A shambles.

I’m only mentioning Virgin trains this now as I am freshly incensed by your brand today and the problems I’ve had with my internet connection.

In the last 24 hours I have spent over three hours on the phone to various Welsh people in a Virgin call centre. I’m sorry but life is too short for this.

At first I dialled the customer service number full of hope and optimism. My heart sank as an overly chipper automated person answered and asked me to key in my home telephone number ‘so that we can deal with your call more quickly’.

This initiated a multilevel filtering system, ‘to help us help you more quickly’. At some point in the process a helpful automated person suggested that I might want to go online to get help. Given that m I’m calling because my internet is not working, the offer just makes me more irritable. Which by this point is about 8 on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being very irritated indeed.

Finally, I get through to a real person who asks for my telephone number again and then puts me on hold because I need to speak to a the ‘national team’ whatever that means.  At this point I get the option of choosing my answer phone music. Presumably Virgin are aware that if you have got to this stage of so near but yet so far, that you might deserve some choice in how you would like your brain numbed. I zoned out after the pop and classical options and decide to stick with whatever genre I had been defaulted to for fear than any interference would prolong my wait time.

To be fair the various Welsh people who I conversed with were pleasant enough, if not somewhat patronising. I did resent having to tell my story afresh to each different individual. I also hate being called Madam as anyone who knows me knows – but today worse than called madam was being called Mrs Gower – that’s my mum.

So the helpful patronising Welsh person insisted that to test the service I have to remove the base of the phone socket to plug the phone line into a different socket. The last time someone tampered with these screws on the socket was probably about 1980 – so they are welded on. So there I am, wedged between the sofa and the wall face down trying to leverage the welded in screws with the helpful person at the end of the phone on speaker enquiring if perhaps I have any friends who can help, in a tinny voice laced with a level of irritation to match my own.

Eventually I got the screws off the wall. But I had to call back and navigate once more through the multi layer system. It’s apparently not possible to have a number to the right team, surely that would be helping me more quickly than me giving my phone number to every new person I speak to?

Anyway the outcome is that the internet works a bit, but like the internet worked in 1994. Slowly. Virgin say it’s the router and the router says its Virgin and I am now also broken with a fried brain from overexposure to hold music not of my own choosing.

This blog is like therapy. If I manage to post it and you are reading this – you are experiencing a miracle.

So I’m struggling to find a positive outcome, the only silver lining is in an attempt to find internet I discovered a great local café that has not only internet but excellent coffee and the best Chelsea buns I’ve ever tasted.

So whilst this letter isn’t a patch on this letter, I do want to highlight to Virgin and any other customer facing organisation some advice to keep customers happy.

  • Care about your customer
  • Employ real people
  • Answer the phone
  • Listen to people and record the conversation so they don’t have to keep telling their story
  • Don’t call me Mrs or Madam

Rant over. Thank you for listening.