Monday, 6 July 2009

When There's A Delay, The Importance Of Saying Something (Anything…)

My tube journey on Friday morning was a familiar tale. Delays on the circle line, a 20 minute wait for a train at Tower Hill. As passengers got agitated, checking their watches and the indicator boards, we were treated to repeated recorded announcements saying ‘the circle line is running normally’).

There was zero communication, no tannoy announcement saying when the next train was due, so we could consider other options. Nothing. In the circumstances, even an announcement saying ‘Sorry, we have no idea why the delay is, we’re looking into it’ would be better than nothing. It would have been reassuring, and it would have been courteous.

And – of course – the same is true in business. Don’t give your customers a Circle Line communication void when there’s a problem. Tell them what’s going on, tell them you’re looking into it, tell them if you’re anticipating a delay. I've seen too many suppliers guilty of not bothering; they're scared about how to fix the problem so they say nothing. Even small companies – where communication should be easier – fail to get back to you; they don’t know anything their end, so they don’t know what to say to the customer.

The answer is simple. As soon as you spot a problem, a delay or a headache that’s going to impact the customer you jump on it right away. Tell them, ‘we have a small problem, but we’re on the case and we’ll get back to you soon’. Keep them appraised at every stage.

How did I resolve my frustration on my wait for the tube? I marched up to the ticket office, found a member of staff and asked what was going on and why we weren’t being kept in touch. He radio’d control and asked what was going on, and I got my news on when the next train was.

A good move but should’ve done that from the start. I felt like grabbing the tannoy and telling all the passengers myself. Next time maybe I will....

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