Wednesday 13th October 2021
As promised last month, a further quick update on my recent experiences with customer service teams in the public transport sector.
In my Sunday 19th September blogpost I explained how I’d encountered a problem at Tottenham Hale Underground Station on Friday 17th when the ticket gate ate my rail ticket and it disappeared completely (probably getting stuck fast to another ticket already jammed) leaving me no alternative but to pay another fare to Victoria then buy another single on the train back to my home station of Hassocks costing an extra £18.45.
I set out all the details on TfL’s online contact form that Friday evening and after receiving an immediate automatic acknowledgment by email the next contact I had was on Wednesday morning 22nd September when Andrew from Capita (they look after Oyster card issues for TfL) rang and within just a few minutes had confirmed my extra costs would be reimbursed. No messing. No querying. Totally accepting my story of what happened.
How good was that? Very good indeed.
Andrew arranged to pay the £18.45 as a web credit on my Oyster account which I can then transfer to my bank account. The money was with me the next day.
I’ve encountered TfL’s Oyster Card outsourced staff before when I’d inadvertently failed to touch out and been charged the maximum fare and always found them to be sympathetic and helpful.
They must have a “can do” attitude when it comes to resolving customer issues and it’s very pleasing to see. Readers will know I’m very sceptical about companies which outsource their customer contacts but I must say well done to TfL which must have given Capita a remit to resolve issues positively and efficiently. It really does make a difference.
TfL and Capita are in the Premier League for Oyster Card customer service handling compared to another issue I described – waiting for a refund from Loganair for the cancelled journey from Glasgow to Barra on 6th September. We confirmed to the airline’s staff at Glasgow Airport that day we wanted a refund on our fares rather than rebooking the flight yet nothing happened until one fare finally got refunded on 21st September and the other on 5th October just one day short of a month after the disappointment of not being able to travel.
A poor show from Loganair on timeliness and if the company didn’t have a monopoly I reckon they’d soon lose customers for such lethargic handling of refund requests. Transport companies are always quick to take money off you and they should be equally as efficient in returning it when it’s due.
Loganair are obviously aware their lack of timeliness is an issue. An automated email comes with the confirmation of a refund…
You may recall my other refund experience was with Arriva after being sold an incorrect ticket by the bus driver taking me from Bangor to Caernarfon on my trip on 14th September. I finally received the £3.80 credited to my credit card account on 29th September, two weeks and a day later.
Some might say that’s a good result, but I’m afraid my expectations are higher as I recall my time at Brighton & Hove when we always ensured reimbursement for issues where the passenger was not at fault should be done in a very timely manner – by return of post – to surpass customer expectations not just meet them. It was a simple but effective way of winning back customer trust when something had gone wrong.
That’s how customer service should work. And it’s good to see TfL’s Oyster doing just that.
Customer service recovery is always better than customer service.
Things happen, they go wrong. Often not the providers fault – it doesn’t matter where the blame lies – fixing it is the aim and the point.
Exactly the same result with TfL when I forgot to tap out a couple of years ago. Superb, rapid and unquestioning refund system. I was very impressed indeed.
As with everything, it all in the end comes down to resources, and the customer (or the taxpayer) ultimately foots the bill. London has the resources (or at least has, hitherto).
I’m always wary of over-criticism; staff may be decent, and working their butt off, but lack the resources and it won’t show in the product. So it’s great fun comparing chalk and cheese, but sometimes what is the point? I sometimes think, too, it’s easier to achieve a high standard in a smaller operation, it’s the bigger bureaucracies where there is a greater likelihood of differences in quality, and they are much harder to address. I think that the much maligned national customer services outfits actually make things better, not worse.
Certainly in the case of my local bus OpCo, national customer services seem to have been instrumental in getting the local depots to raise their game, or may be it’s the extra pair of hands helping to relieve a bit of the pressure?
I’m afraid I don’t always share the enthusiasm for this exponentially growing compensation culture. It often seems to me to be an excellent modern way to tax the poor to subsidise the rich. Of course it’s their entitlement, and the priority of the rich is always and everywhere to minimise their overall tax liability.
Of course it’s nice to have an extra non-contributory pension but someone (else) has to pay for it!
The TfL customer service in particular the phone side of it I always found to be helpful, cause as I tend to ride transport a lot in the capital the oyster does occasionally time out and charge me extra so I always end up ringing them a lot, to the point I’ve now just saved the number in my contacts, they are always patient, helpful, friendly and very proactive with sorting out issues.
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London has always outsourced the tickets I think.Years ago when it was still London Transport if something went wrong with those box like machines by bus stops that sold LT bus tickets you had to write to a firm in Gloucester to get your money back.Usually outsourcing is bad as it adds the further complication of a middle man.It must drive up prices too despite Thatcherite thinking on the matter as you have to draw up legal contracts with the middle man,pay them,etc .
I unfortunately had to wait FOUR months for TFL to complete my service delay refunds which amounted to quite a bit of money. Back and forth with telephone calls and emails. As I was about to call TfL for my deadlock letter on Monday to report the situation to the transport ombudsman someone from TfL called to say they are processing my refund and asked for account details. Ears must have been ringing 😆