Monday, December 22, 2008

Memorable Rail Journey - anything changed?

Dear readers of that customer orientated blog,

Have you ever felt the emptiness of your words when talking to a service employee at -any- railway corporation? You feel like a piece of luggage and nobody -from the official body- is appreciating that you are actually paying their monthy salary. I guess I am not the only one around with such memories (and to be honest as I travel quite a lot on the railway tracks, due to my green attitude;-), I happen so see regularly events that are not driving potential customers into the trains but rather drive them out in their car-pooling, using their own car, or just abandon the railways (and talking bad mouth about their experience:-().

It doesn't have to be that way:-))

The only thing it needs is the willingness and courage to see things, talk about them in open public (why not publish in the papers?) and make officials aware that the CUSTOMER is an asset!

Thalys Journey says more on what happened during an almost 10-hour-trainride (could have gone to Boston in the same time almost - not quite as the qeues at the airport in Boston could take another two hours:-().

Toyota, the world leader in corporate learning and empowering people to their strengths, sees in problems always to become better in the future. Am I wrong when I have a different feeling concerning the service problems at railways around the world? Especially the ones in Europe that are talking like they would be THE FIRST customer orientated corporations in the country don't play to REAL CUSTOMER SATISFACTION.


What was good?

Concerning that specific journey the connections between trains (in Frankfurt/Main and Cologne) was about the only thing that was good. Besides that I had to chance to have some rest and could read an interesting book (wouldn't have had the chance in a car;-()

What was bad?

Mis- and Non-Communication was the main driver to dissatisfaction and constant negative rememberance about the journey that started so well.

What have I learned?

Hm, difficult to say. Seems to be that every such event is like closed silo of information (nothing is leaking into the bigger organization and so nothing is changed, as far as customers can sense - you would surely run into similar difficulties again in the future. It is like my former boss always, "We have tackled the problem now, why find out what has been the root cause? Everything is fine now!")

Taking the initiative writing proposal letters to the railway officials seems useless and yet I can tell from own experience after some none-reaction efforts and letters you get to the RIGHT PERSON somewhere in the corporation dschungle:-) And things can change, if the pressure is really too hard and you are not the only one who is making noise. 

Getting papers involved in the issue is quite useful as an event showed during the flooding in Dresden in 2002. In official press bulletin of the German Railway it was that helpers who would help in the aftermath in Dresden would be transported free of charge by German Railway. Turned out -after a call to the press officer- that this offer was just valid to the Red Cross, THW, and other "official" bodies. As soon as I got -while I was in charge of the help organization- the first helper on the phone I told him the story and advised him to get in contact with either a newspaper or a radio station telling them about it.

Guess what? Only a few hours later we got a phone call by the office of the CEO asking what would be the problem about the issue. I told him and had -as we worked officially with the City Council of Dresden together- a few possible solutions to make sure that people wouldn't use the offer for free travels around the republic.

Everything worked out fine and I was surprised what is possible in terms of change and attitude towards customer needs:-))

Wonder how this could work out this time?

What is the next action out of this journey?

Interesting question and I would say, let go and see which intervention would be most useful to get the most for customers (potential, present and future) and the Thalys (by the way, German Railways, are also in need for some change towards customer orientation -but that is another story to be posted soon;-))

Please feel free to tell your stories (let me know and I will add you as contributor and writer on the blog).

Best regards and save and joyful travels around whereever you may be

Ralf

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