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Customer service resolutions (or not).

Sunday 19th September 2021

I thought I should provide a few updates after my post a month ago about unsatisfactory experiences at the hands of various rail companies and their hard to reach customer service departments, or often, their sub-contracted outsourced companies.

I explained how South Western Railway had twice declined my delay repay claim for a cancelled journey to Christchurch I was unable to travel on and their phone number was not able to receive any calls for more than a week.

I’m pleased to report the phone line was restored soon after my blog back, but I didn’t need to use it as I received an email from Jack, SWR’s “Video Contact Centre Team Leader” explaining the reason my second attempt at a Delay Repay for the cancelled journey had been rejected as a ‘duplicate claim’ was because I needed to appeal the claim rather than submit the claim again and he helpfully included a step by step guide how to appeal against the decision to refuse my delay repay claim which I managed to do as per the correct procedure.

The only trouble was the appeal got rejected because “we have checked the journey you have claimed for and we appear to be missing multiple legs of your full intended journey. Therefore, your claim has been rejected on this occasion.”

I’d only claimed for the cancelled Southampton to Christchurch journey but my ticket was for Hassocks (my home station) and Bournemouth (my intended return point). So I emailed Jack back to ask what more information they were after in addition to confirming the journey I caught with Southern from Hassocks via Hove to Southampton and got a helpful reply the next day from Rupert, SWR’s “Customer Service Centre Advisor” giving me the full background…

“I’m sorry your claim was rejected, the reason behind this is because the Southern Journey from Brighton was delayed in its arrival to Southampton and arrived at 09:21 leaving you only 3 minutes to catch the 09:24 train had it run. So if we are to compensate based on the old timetable rather than the last minute amended timetable then we need to take this into consideration and normally Southern would be liable to compensate you, however due to the nature of the compensation being based on a different timetable, it is likely Southern would reject the claim. Hence to compensate you I have raised a cheque for £3.88 to cover the 40 minute delay, please allow up to 20 working days for this cheque to arrive.”

So, in a nutshell, even though SWR cancelled their journey completely, their Delay Reapay system rejected my claim because the Southern train I arrived into Southampton on was two minutes late – arriving at 09:21 instead of the scheduled 09:19 meaning I only had 3 minutes to ‘not’ catch the cancelled SWR departure at 09:24 instead of a minimum official allowed 5 minutes (I’ve actually done it in 2 minutes in the past).

Interesting logic, and I’m not sure Southern would have fallen over themselves to compensate me for a two minute late arrival!

In the event it all ended happily as I received SWR’s cheque for the delay repay claim and have banked the £3.88, even though I was happy to accept Rail Vouchers.

Meanwhile I also heard back from GWR, receiving a reply the day my blogpost went live from Simon, GWR’s “Customer Relations Manager” on 18th August:

“Thank you for your webform received on 07 August 2021, which has been escalated to me for review. I am sorry for the delay in coming back to you. I was concerned to note your commentary regarding your rejected delay claim and have reviewed this for you. I can confirm our 09:29 service from Gatwick Airport on 6 August was cancelled because of staff shortages. Our systems were then updated to reflect this at 01:17. However, our rostering team continued to work to cover these shortfalls and were able to crew this service so it was later reinstated but I regret our information systems, that feed National Rail’s, weren’t updated to reflect this. Clearly unacceptable, and I have raised this with our control team so it can be reviewed with a view to prevent a reoccurrence of this nature. I have also asked for our Delay Repay team to overturn your rejected claim.”

So that was an encouraging and positive outcome. I received my compensation in the form of a Rail Travel Voucher as requested, and hopefully similar circumstances will not recur.

The third issue was with Southern at my home station Hassocks where I brought their attention to a simple matter that just needed their attention so it could be resolved. After my blogpost went live I received an email from Sarah, Southern’s Customer Service Advisor which was a bit of a standard ‘cut and paste’ job …

“I do apologise for the inconvenience you experienced at Hassocks station. Please be assured that your comments have been logged as feedback to be reviewed by the relevant department. Customer feedback is vitally important to us, and is used to help improve the service we provide to passengers in future.”

… and I also received a courtesy phone call from Sam in Southern’s Customer Service ‘department’ (outsourced company) asking me if everything was now resolved, which I confirmed it was, as I had been advised by the staff at Hassocks that action had been taken.

You’d be forgiven for thinking the moral of these experiences is …. if you have a complaint about a short coming or a suggestion to pass on, the best thing to do is to start writing blogposts and publish them online ….. but I’m sure it’s just a coincidence these matters were all resolved just after my blogpost went live.

Another upside is blog reader Brian Davies kindly put in the comments section a listing of the email addresses for every train operating company so you can avoid those annoying online forms. I’ve now added this to the content menu at the top of the home page on this website so it’s easily available, and many thanks to Brian for this. I’m hoping to gradually add bus company email addresses too, to avoid those infernal forms. Let me know if you have any to add.

Finally while those three matters were resolved I’ve subsequently opened three more case files following recent unsatisfactory travel experiences.

Almost two weeks after a promised refund from Loganair for the aborted return flights to Bara on Monday 6th September we’re still waiting. Come on LoganAir this is not good enough. And I haven’t received a reply to my request they refund the easyJet fares from Gatwick to Glasgow as a ‘consequential’ loss particularly as we didn’t take up their offer of an overnight hotel stay in Glasgow that Monday which would have cost Loganair even more than reimbursing the cheap easyJet fares. Is a two week delay to pay a refund after a cancelled flight acceptable? I do not think it is. Loganair, I’m not impressed with you.

Secondly, my Twitter followers will know I had a problem on Tuesday morning when the driver of my Arriva route 5C in Bangor incorrectly sold me a £3.80 Arriva Day ticket for ‘North West and Wales’ instead of the £3.70 ‘1bws’ ticket (available on all bus companies) I had asked for and sadly I didn’t spot it in time for the driver be able to annul the ticket.

Arriva’s Twitter team eventually linked me to their online form to request a refund as well as another of the team giving me their email address the next day.

I had a go at using the form just for the hell of it and it really is a minefield. You have to specify what category of complaint you’re making from a limited range of options, none of which described my issue, but I plumped for ‘fares’ and then got flummoxed by the drop down menu to confirm the mandatory field of what route number was involved because the routes are listed in computer code order with every conceivable route Arriva operates nationwide so you can imagine finding 5C is not straight forward st all (it comes after routes 59, 592, 593, 5A, 5A Sapphire, snd 5B)

After a while I completed all the compulsory fields marked with an asterisk, attached images of the £3.80 ticket and the £3.70 ticket I bought on the Gwynfor bus and hit ‘submit’ receiving an immediate acknowledgment from ‘Arriva Group’ and a ‘you’ll hear from us within 10 days’ type commitment.

On Friday I received an email asking me to confirm parts of my credit card number for identification purposes so I assume a refund is in hand, but nothing has appeared in my account yet.

As a postscript to this I would add I did point out the error to the driver as I got off the bus in Caernarfon and he apologised for the mistake and immediately issued a correct £3.70 ticket to hand to me but when I queried that he would now be £3.70 out of pocket which he confirmed was the case, I insisted he take it back and annul it so he wouldn’t lose out as I fully understood mistakes can easily happen especially when there’s a multitude of different day tickets. I thought that was very good of him.

The third issue was on Friday at Tottenham Hale station when returning from another day of our LCBS Anniversary Tour (blog to follow) and the inbound ticket barrier machine gobbled up my ticket without spewing it out to open the barrier but when LU team member Mick came over snd opened up the machine all he found inside was another jammed ticket.

It was a mystery where my ticket had vanished to but my travel companions and I concluded it must have got stick to that other jammed ticket and Mick didn’t realise he was holding two together, Paul Daniels style.

I’ve filled in TfL’s online complaint form and explained it all with copies of receipts for the ticket I bought from Bishops Stortford to Hassocks (that disappeared) and the extra ticket to Hassocks I then had to buy to get home. I’ll be interested to see how they respond,

I’ll let you know when I hear from LoganAir, Arriva and TfL. Let’s see who resolves the issues most efficiently and effectively.

Roger French

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BusAndTrainUser View All

I used to run a bus company but in retirement am a full time passenger travelling all over Britain enjoying its splendid scenic delights by bus and train. Currently social distancing at home.

12 thoughts on “Customer service resolutions (or not). Leave a comment

  1. I’ve always found that Twitter is a good place to get in contacts with TOCs – I’ve had quick replies from Avanti, tpe, grand Central, TfW, GWR, Greater Anglia and LNER. admittedly these weren’t delay repay but more simple questions but I’ve not had any issues with delay repay and I even had EMR do one for me automatically after my train was cancelled and I had an advance ticket!

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  2. You seem to be having a bad run at the moment, Roger.
    I have a couple of gripes regarding refunds that seem to have been around forever. Firstly, the railway tends to focus purely on its own ecosystem. Trying to persuade them that a train journey is part of a bigger journey is some challenge. For example a 25 minute delay leading to missing a bus connection is not seen as their problem.
    Secondly the value of time that the railway has in regards to passengers seems to be very low. This is due to being linked to ticket price. With the journey being a derived demand, in most cases but perhaps less so for readers of this blog, there needs to be more focus on the impact of delay, rather than ticket price. For example missing the first act of a play may be worth a lot more than the ticket price.
    Finally a minor peeve is that so many customer service departments seem very poor at giving passengers confidence that praise is passed onto staff members. The holding reply normally tells me that my complaint is important, which rings hollow when it is praise.

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  3. Lufthansa took almost 18 months to complete our refund and Hotels.com have taken 3 weeks short of 2 years to the day of purchase to refund (for a hotel which THEY cancelled!). Absolutely ridiculous! On the other hand, I had to cancel my easyJet flight and had the refund in my account within 40 minutes!

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  4. GWR aren’t alone pulling that one. I got rejected by TfW after they cancelled a bunch of trains due to possible flooding and advised people not to travel, only to reinstate them later at short notice. Of course they didn’t offer a refund because the train ran, regardless of that fact that anyone connecting onto the train who took their advice and delayed starting their journey was more than an hour late and entitled to a full refund. Evidently I should have blogged about it rather than appealing.

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  5. The delay repay sytem is flawed in so many ways, but at least on most occasions you do end up with some form of recompense. It’s not really a surptrise that apparently less than 20% of people entitled to delay repay successfully claim it.

    My bigger gripe lately is overly complicated on line or app ticket purchase sites. I overpaid for some tickets the other day because I have a gold card but wanted two adult tickets (both with Gold card discount as it covers up to 4 passengers) I entered that I had one gold card and got one discounted ticket and one full price ticket. Having realised my mistake, for my next purchase I put two gold cards and managed to get two discounted tickets and a child ticket. The infernal things are too complicated, even for someone who is relatively computer and rail pricing savvy.

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  6. Glad i could help with the email addresses! I like that you have put a list on your blog! That is a brilliant idea so all trains and bus company emails are in one place and easy for people to find!

    Another new one for you to add:

    LUMO:
    customerexperience@lumo.co.uk

    Also i forgot to mention that on my list for Greater Anglia and Stansted Express the two emails addresses that end in @abelliogreateranglia.co.uk no longer work so they should both be removed. But the two emails that end in @greateranglia.co.uk are both still fully working so you can keep these. All the other TOC ones listed are correct too and have been checked recently.

    If anybody reading your blog has any working email address for First Bus please let us know! First Bus is an a absolute nightmare to contact! I am still yet to find a working direct email address for them!

    Their contact form is also one of the worst. It asks for far too much information. For example it will not even let you send the form without inputting your phone number. But surely if you are contacting them online than you would want a response by email and not by phone so why ask for your phone number! And then you have to tick that you are sixteen or over but what if a fourteen or fifteen year old wished to contact them (many children as young as ten travel on buses on their own) so do they not accept enquiries from under sixteens! One of my granddaughters is only ten and uses the bus on her own to and from school so would she not be allowed to contact First Bus if she wished to ask a question!

    All of the email addresses that First reply from when you use the contact form do not work when you try to send an email directly to that address. They just come back as “Email Delivery Fail” so they do not work. I think that First Bus are doing this on purpose to force people to use their ridiculous contact form. Even Arriva have a working direct email address (although they do keep it extremely hidden) so it is a disgrace that First do not. Lets just hope that Stagecoach do not follow First as i hear they are moving to a centralised centre that will deal with all UK operations.

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    • Many thanks indeed Brian – have updated with Lumo and deleted the Abellio addresses. I have approached contacts in First Bus for an email address but so far without success. You’re right – their form is useless as a feedback form for the customer.

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      • No worries! Glad to help! Just to point out you forgot to remove the two @abelliogreateranglia.co.uk addresses under Stansted Express further down the list too.

        The one other thing that annoys me with First Bus is that their customer service team seem so utterly clueless with any question you try to ask. I remember trying to find out the Single and Return fares from Guildford to Woking on the RA2 and they kept denying that the RA2 existed and said it was run by another company and i should check the Traveline website!

        Arriva are not much better. I remember a couple months ago when i reported an out of date 724 timetable near Uxbridge i was told to contact “Greater London County Council” as they manage the bus stop timetables. The only problem is no such council exists!

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      • Oh yes; now deleted those under Stansted Express too, thanks.
        The First Bus/Arriva issues are a reflection of the centralised approach and sadly Stagecoach are following suit in a true ‘race to the bottom’ for appalling customer service.

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    • Network Rail also seem not to want any contact from the public by e-mail, directing all issues via the TOCs even though they may be infrastructure related and therefore Network Rail’s responsibility.

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  7. When I had a fares discrepancy a couple of years ago with First Essex, the First travel shop in Chelmsford (which has since closed) gave me the email address firstsouthuk@firstgroup.com. Although it seems to be a legitimate email address, two years later I still await a response!

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    • That firstsouthuk@firstgroup.com email address used to work up until about a year ago but it no longer does. If you send an email to that address it comes back with an automated reply a few minutes later saying that the inbox is no longer in use and tells you to use their contact form.

      Like

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