Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Train travel in Melbourne OR how to take your chances about where you'll actually end up.

Following on from yesterday's post about "customer service" and call centres, I am pleased to report that just before 9am, Valerie from Citylink called me.  I think Valerie must be in the other building where head office is.  She had located my missing payment.  How easy was that!  It took a far shorter time than a week and temporarily restored my faith that integrity still exists.


After that splendid start to the day, imagine my annoyance when the train I am travelling home on has whizzed past my stop, and the next one, and the next one, eventually leaving me in another area all together.  I dashed (as far as this was possible in a peak hour crush in the rain) to the opposite platform only to have the doors on the train close in my face, leaving me to wait.

I went to speak to the staff.  At least this was a station with staff, so there was someone to ask.  The woman had obviously been to the call centre school of customer service.  The first step is to stand well back from the glass barrier.  The handbook must specify that if the customer can hear you, you are standing too close.  Move back!  Your next move is to mock the person speaking to you.  If you can treat them like an actual idiot and project all fault for the plight in which they find themselves, then you're doing exactly the right thing. When the customer raises their voice (as they inevitably will when you mock them) you then have justification to move even further back from the glass.

When evidence is produced (say in the form of an official printed timetable) the staff member must then randomly select any other piece of information which confirms that the customer is an actual idiot, even if it has nothing to do with the issue being discussed.

When it all becomes too much the ultimate defensive move is to wave the phone number of the call centre "customer service" department and speak in encouraging tones about the satisfaction which will be attained by calling them.


Of course I called when I arrived home.  Eventually.  I spoke to Carl.  Carl was a little distracted by the endless stream of text messages coming in on his mobile phone or a phone near him.  The long periods of silent, dead air were the give away that I had been placed on mute.

I told the story.  Carl, as a customer service professional dedicated to providing no service whatsoever, failed to even acknowledge the inconvenience, frustration or difficulty of finding oneself four suburbs away from home.

I drew Carl's attention to this fact and he gave me this response:

"It's not up to me to apologise.  It's nothing to do with me."

I asked him who he worked for.  Perhaps I had called the wrong number and was talking to someone entirely unrelated to train travel in Melbourne.  No, he was from Public Transport Victoria, the overarching body for public transport in Victoria.

I suspect that Carl hates his job.  I don't blame him.  Being the person who has to take complaints from the travelling public would not be fun.  I wonder what gets him out of bed in the morning.  I'm sure that the individual people who are so horrible to deal with in the call centres do not set out to be horrible to deal with.  Surely! They must become so worn down by the grind of conflict with faceless strangers that they adapt accordingly.

Ordinarily the idea of boarding a train to a random, perhaps unknown, destination seems like a cheap way to have a home town adventure.  When I'm doing that, I'll pack a picnic and be wearing appropriate clothing.  I'd also bring friends.  I just want to be clear that I'm not opposed to adventure.  There is a difference between adventure and inconvenience.

How did you travel home today?  Was the trip eventful or dull and predictable?  (Just the way I like it at the end of a busy day.)

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