Profits p*ssing off paying passengers
I have always felt a modicum of pity towards rail companies in Britain. They do get fairly short shrift.
They clearly have a lot to deal with… adverse weather conditions, mechanical failures and that pesky leaf that keeps turning up on the line.
Not to mention the seemingly constant barrage of negative customer comments because of service delays and disruptions (often thanks to said leaf).
Yes, they have a lot on their plate so we should proffer them an ounce of sympathy for their lot.
Well, at least that’s what I thought until today. Now, however, I realise that harsh consumer feedback from disgruntled passengers is the least they deserve.
Because they still profit, even when passengers are left out in the cold and unable to get to work.
Seriously, it really does beggar belief! Last year, rail firms pocketed £180m from delays!
The payouts come from Network Rail, which owns, operates and develops Britain’s railways.
Schedule 8 of the Office of Rail and Road’s regulations (that’s a mouthful!) compensates the operators when their timetables are affected by unplanned service disruptions.
(It apparently works both ways though. If the operators themselves are at fault though – for example, because one of their trains breaks down blocking a line – they have to cough up to Network Rail).
So, if there’s adverse weather – as is currently battling our country – trespassing or, heaven forbid, a suicide, as long as the delay is longer than one measly minute, the train operator is set to profit.
It is, apparently, a means of compensation for loss of earnings. Personally, I am not quite sure how that works, since train that may be running two minutes late gets a pay-out and still gets to collect passenger fares but hey, let’s just roll with it.
22 rail companies took a share of that huge, actually almost £181 million pot last year, including Southern, Virgin West Coast and London Underground.
Paltry pay-outs to passengers
Whilst the likes of London Underground saw a hefty £24m of the money (ok, that may not be a lot to them but it sure is to me!) only £74m found its way to compensating delayed passengers.
So, rightly so, passengers are not happy!
Let’s face it, rail travel is an emotive customer experience at the best of times. You stand around on cold platforms. Are made to wait for a train that is often late. And it can, therefore, impact on the rest of your working day. Or those dreaded words: ‘train cancelled”. Then you you then have to cram onto a bus that’s going to stop a gazillion times at get you to work (or home) a mere 4-5 hours late. Oh yes, the joys of rail travel.
In the meantime, however, the fat cats still have money rolling in, because they have been compensated for whatever issue has caused chaos for you and made your day completely suck.
It’s no wonder campaigners out there are calling for more automatic compensation across the industry in the hope of more passengers receiving what they are actually entitled to.
Train fares are expensive and times are tough, so it’s only fair more people get reimbursed where necessary. It would make life a little easier on the poor souls in the rail department customer feedback management teams too!
Give and take
Just like Schedule 8 working both ways, with the party at fault being responsible, the rules and regulations should work in favour of the customer too.
At the end of the day, none of us are blinkered: we know that (most) businesses exist to make money.
However, any money a business amasses is because of its customers. (Well, unless you have your own Network Rail sugar daddy to compensate you when things go wrong!)
And profits grow when consumers have a positive emotive customer experience. Why? Because they are likely to not only repeat buy but also tell their friends!
The rail companies are in a pretty good position as they have a fairly captive audience. People rely on public transport for a variety of reasons. Many don’t have other options. (Well, not unless they’re going to start using the bus which is even more time consuming).
So, it’s not like they are suddenly going to start losing customers because people are pissed at their profits and policies.
You, on the other hand, might. Because very few businesses are unique enough to be able to rest easy in the knowledge that customers will be unable to fulfil a need or requirement elsewhere.
So, make sure you treat you consumers fairly. Encourage customer feedback and take responsibility for your mistakes.
Compensate them when necessary. Respond to their comments and manage their expectations.
Bring in a user experience consultant (such as a member of our wonderful team here at The Monachie Project!). Make sure you understand not only your customers but also your business from their perspective.
Don’t be like the rail companies and simply wallow in your profits whilst customers freeze on the sidelines.
And whatever you do, don’t pass the blame to that poor leaf.