I recently travelled to Paris to consult with a client on best practice use of social media for reputation & SERPs management, & decided to travel by Eurostar for the first time. The experience started out well with a much smoother checkin than the usual mess at Birmingham Airport. One of the big sells of Eurostar for me was the chance to get some work done in much more pleasant & relaxed environment, so I was disappointed to find out there wasn’t any WiFi on the train & amazed to find there were no power sockets to charge the laptop, it’s an electric train after all!
Things got worse when a fault with the radio on our train meant a 30min delay while the engineer tried to fix the problem, eventually resulting in us changing trains, followed by another 30min delay while the food from the original train was transferred to the new train – only to find once we got going that there wasn’t any food available because the mircowave on the new train wasn’t working – perhaps for the best anyway.
Twitter Customer Complaints
Still had 3G to fall back on, for a short while before we hit the chunnel anyway, so I thought I’d tweet the experience & see if Eurostars customer service teams were monitoring the tweet channel for moaning people like me. They came back to me with a reply within the hour, they were open & asked for more information about the problems we’d been having.
Clearly the Customer Care service at Eurostar is running a monitoring service, at least bewteen the hours of 9-5, & I’d #Eurostar to make it nice & easy for them to pick me up in the stream. The Customer Care representative replying to me was responsive & gave me some good information relating to my gripes (upgrade plans for the trains on WiFi & power sockets) & they gave me an email address for their Travel Care team (who they said they’d spoken to) & asked if I could email my ticket info & they’d pick the case up directly with me.
@Eurostar Customer Care Channel
Great Customer Care service, right? I’d give it a 7/10, because although it was all very responsive, it was also very public. As you can see from the screen shots below, the back & forth dialogue we had about my moaning turned one short tweet from me into a nice big conversation describing in full detail the list of problems we encountered on the journey to Paris. Of course the Customer Care channel needs to publically broadcast service updates as well as send out crisis information where lots of people are affected (like French strikes, or the recent train breakdown), but individual problems are best delt with 121. In my opinion a more effective way of dealing with this kind of problem is to direct message the customer with a ref ID, telephone number or email address & take the conversation offline as soon as possible. Yes you need to respond via the same channel, but really all I’m looking for is some attention & for someone to help out with my problem – I don’t need to have a public conversation about it & it’s not in the brands best interest to do this, either for brand reputation or search engine results.
All the customer wants is for someone to listen & address the problem. You need to pick up & respond to complaints quickly, then take them out of the stream & importantly resolve the problem offline. If you can do this more often than not the customer will come back online at some point & praise the brand for putting things right – without airing the dirty laundry in public. See my experience with TNT from summer 2010 as a good example.
The meeting in Paris went well, but unfortunately for me I got food poisoning (karma for causing a fuss on the journey out?) so the return journey wasn’t a great experience either. No delays this time, but an overflowing toilet behind my seat wasn’t what I needed really. Ah well sh@t happens I guess!
I do have to say that as an alternative to flying the Eurostar experience wasn’t at all bad, it was certainly cheaper than flying & without the delays would have taken about the same time, taking into account the lengthy checkin at most international airports. The Eurostar is also around 10 times greener than flying, so you can feel a bit better about it as well, just charge your laptop before you get on the train & don’t expect to get online before 2012!
- One year after a Twitter backlash, has Eurostar finally got social media? (eu.techcrunch.com)
- Train Travel on the Eurostar is Green and Fast (treehugger.com)