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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 27-Nov-09


Friday 27-November-09

Train chaos

Commuting into London is normally a tolerable chore and I read or type on the train as it stops at every hamlet on the way in and out. But it's a fragile complex system: one hiccup and it's chaos.

Recently, rains took out a bridge, and we were advised on an alternative route which included an hour standing on a remote platform in the pouring rain, waiting for a rescue train. As the water trickled down my neck I pondered on how easily a well-oiled and efficient machine falls into chaos. Whilst train staff did what they could and smiled through the frustration, they were essentially powerless.

Going home was worse. I got part-way back but ended up on a station where staff had no idea when the next train would arrive. Three train trips later I got home, with the abiding memory of unreliable trains and confused staff. I had several good chats with them and it seemed that they were just as frustrated as me. The system simply wasn't set up to inform them about what was going on and they consequently suffered at the hands of irate travellers.

The brand of the train company suffered that day and would have been worse had staff not kept cheer through it all. Front-line staff are your brand and they need to be kept right up to date with changing circumstances, especially in emergencies and when customers are upset and uncertain.

Coda: The initial estimate was that it would take at least two weeks to fix the problem, but in the end it took only a week. A good case of under-promising and over-delivering, perhaps. Again I have admiration for the people who were likely out in all weathers and times, working to get us back on track (literally). I hope they are well appreciated by their employers.

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