You might think that now you’ve used FixMyTransport to contact a transport operator, your work is done. Well, perhaps it is – sometimes, all you have to do is ask. But, more than likely, your issue could do with a little help.
Here’s what to do next, if you want to make FixMyTransport really work for you.
FixMyTransport allows other people to discuss or join your campaign – and you need to attract as many as you can. Campaigns with lots of supporters are taken more seriously by everyone, including the operator.
Keep the conversation going. Every time you receive a comment or a supporter, your page goes back to the top of the recent issues list – one of our most-read pages. So don’t just create your page and forget about it. It’s worth replying to others, adding updates, and drumming up support, perhaps over a period of several days.
Work that social media
There are buttons at the top of your campaign that allow you to broadcast your issue via Twitter, Facebook or email. You don’t have to bore the pants off your pals, but it’s worth tweeting a few times, maybe at different times in the day.
Twitter is also great for targeting those who will be interested in your specific problem. Why not tweet your campaign URL to a local blog, newspaper, or even a celebrity, if you think they’d be interested? Or use a hashtag (#) for the location of your problem. Many cities and towns have a Twitter account that automatically retweets mentions.
Take it into the real world
Not a big fan of social media? You can just as easily pass on the URL of your campaign page by word of mouth. Use a link-shortener like TinyURL, that lets you include a relevant a word or phrase in the new URL, and then it’ll be more memorable.
Put messages where they will be seen – how about a post office window just by the bus stop?
Or talk to your fellow passengers – they are the ones who are most affected by your issue, so they will care the most. Hand out that link and make sure they understand how to join a campaign (“Click on the big green button” should do the trick).
Don’t take no for an answer
Some operators just don’t send a reply. Or you might receive a response, but it doesn’t fix your problem. If you believe your issue is worth pursuing, don’t give up.
Now is the time to use FixMyTransport’s ‘ask an expert‘ button (as in the screenshot, above). Your message goes straight to the inboxes of the FixMyTransport volunteers, known as ‘Anoraks’. We have a long list of contacts, and several of us have experience in the transport sector, too.
Our Anoraks are on hand to help you, but you can also take action yourself. There are plenty of next steps you can take – each will be suitable for a different type of issue.
You might write to an independent watchdog, like Passenger Focus or Bus Users UK.
It’s always worth involving your local councillor – they have a duty to ensure that public transport is working for their constituents.
If your story has enough human interest, the local press might want to run a story.
See if there’s a pressure group with the same interests as you. The best fit might be a local cycling group, or an accessibility charity, or a commuter group… there are organisations for almost every issue.
The nice thing about FixMyTransport is that you can do all this from your campaign page. Your messages, and any answers you receive, are all published on the page, making a permanent record for anyone else with the same problem in the future.
First impressions are everything
Take a good look at your FixMyTransport campaign page, or maybe ask a friend to have a look at it. Remember that people will arrive on your page with little or no previous knowledge of your issue. Does it make immediate sense? Is it framed as an issue that other people will actually want to support?
If not, FixMyTransport does allow you to reword it. Just click the yellow button in the panel at the top of your page (image as above). Note – it does not alter the text of your message to the operator, which, in most cases, is sent as soon as you submit it.
Everything in order? Good! Now let’s see if we can get that bus shelter cleaned, that train to leave on time, or that ticket machine fixed.
FixMyTransport is raising all sorts of interesting issues as we progress towards making public transport even easier to understand for those who seek to improve it.
We really enjoy receiving feedback that challenges us, particularly when it concerns usability. One piece of feedback that has created an interesting area to look at have been the seventeen Network Rail Stations. Most of the 2,500 railway stations in the UK are owned by Network Rail and most of those are leased to a train operator who looks after most aspects of the station including customer service staff. The seventeen Network Rail stations are an anomaly, with Network Rail managing the station but most of the customer facing staff provided by the train operators. What this resulted in was Network Rail receiving complaints about staff they did not manage and unnecessary correspondence for users of FixMyTransport.
We were challenged to improve the situation through our feedback page and agreed that this was a gap that needed to be solved, so we set about finding who provided staff at Network Rail Stations.
It pondered a question though. Which staff members should we include? A driver or guard should be associated with a train service, so they were not strictly station based staff. Our discussions found that there were three different groups of staff that were based at stations and should be considered as part of our investigations. We understand there are other groups of people who could be encountered but they are usually subcontractors of the train operators or Network Rail.
Dispatchers – supervise the departure of trains
Booking Office Clerks – Sell tickets and provide information
First Class Waiting Rooms – Staff maintain a comfortable environment for First Class passengers.
We challenged our sources, using web forums and colleagues to find information about every Network Rail station. Some members of staff are not as obvious as others, particularly if they are placed in a corner of a busy railway station. We created a very comprehensive list of operator managed staff and have uploaded this to FixMyTransport. So if you have an issue with a member of staff at a Network Rail managed station, please don’t hesitate to use FixMyTransport; we have their details and your issue can be winging its way to the company responsible with just a few clicks.
If you want to provide feedback to the FixMyTransport Team, please do not hesitate to provide it through our dedicated pages located at the top of every page or through @fixmytransport
Credit: Image by Nicksarebi, used with thanks under the Creative Commons licence.
Cycles and trains should be perfect companions for car free travel but there can be problems as shown by a number of FixMyTransport campaigns.
Cycle parking at stations is often inadequate as shown in the strongly supported campaign for more cycle parking at Cambridge Station. The good news for Cambridge is that is was one of 68 places to receive recent funding to improve cycle facilities covering a mixture of cycle parking and cycle hire schemes.
Cycle parking is something which will require continued campaigning at local and national level, and this is where FixMyTransport can be valuable for gathering support and exchanging ideas.
Passengers can also find taking their cycles on trains to be a frustrating experience due to complex rules which vary from company to company and the need to limit the number of cycles on many services. Extra carriages are very costly so it is never going to be possible to cater for an unrestricted number of cycles.
Before taking a cycle on a train it is important to check the rules. National Rail Enquiries has a page of information for cyclists, including a link under “More information” to download the National Rail Cycling by Train leaflet.
In general folding cycles are always allowed on trains, whereas non-folding cycles are often restricted to a limited number per train, can require pre-booking, or can be banned completely.
When you are subject to a shoddy service from an operator or an authority involved with public transport, it is very easy to submit remarks in the heat of the moment that may not lead to the response you are looking for. As a volunteer on FixMyTransport, I see many different styles of complaints and it can be disappointing to see a really good point about public transport not make the impact it should do. The issues that follow a few simple rules are more likely to succeed.
Who is your audience
The first thing to remember is that someone else, who deals with issues like yours every day is reading what you have written and they need as much information as possible to ensure that they can handle your request appropriately. If they do not get this information, they are less likely to provide you with response that you are looking for.
Focus on your issue
An important aspect to focus on is to focus on your issue. If it is about late buses, focus on late buses. Avoid moving on to other topics that the operator is unlikely to be able to deal with such as bus shelters or the previous operator of the route. If you are going to cover two points, make this clear and keep the points separate. Try to avoid moving between issues because these two points could be handled by different departments within the company or authority you are sending your issue to.
The details are most important
The more details you can provide, the easier it is for the operator to work out who is involved with your incident. The most important pieces of information are date, time and location from which the operators can begin your investigation.
Rhetorical Questions, General Opinions and Sarcasm
These unhelpful comments can make it more difficult for those who are handling your issue to provide your complaint by increasing the length of your complaint unnecessarily. In addition, the time spent creating the unhelpful comments can prevent you from providing the useful information, which the person handling your issue can use to help your issue reach a successful conclusion. In addition, general opinions such as how it used to be better when you were young (unless this the issue you are raising) are also unhelpful. The customer relations people see these all of the time and are more likely to send you an email that does not answer your query.
Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar
It doesn’t need to be perfect but good spelling, full stops and commas in the right places, can help those reading your message understand it. The quicker they can read it, the more time they can commit to helping sort out your issue. It also prevents misunderstandings and it can make other people on FixMyTransport more likely to support your campaign.
We all have a bad day and I am sure that your issue has really screwed your day up. However, bad language is not tolerated by operators. As some have found with certain operators, they operate a swear filter, which will bounce your complaint. Even those that get through to the email inbox, could be ignored and some operators have even launched criminal cases against those who have threatened their staff through their Customer Relations channels. One issue that we have had is that sometimes members of staff swear and it is difficult to communicate this without using the word. I would advise you to replace them with asterisked or other descriptives rather than post the actual word (F***, the F Word and F*&^ are all ways to replace a rather commonly used swear word).
I hope that these rules help you improve the quality if the issues you try to raise through FixMyTransport. If you have any comments, feel free to comment below or tweet @FixMyTransport
Make your complaint as clear as possible with as many details as you can find
Keep to the facts where you can
No bad language unless you alter it
Thanks to Andres Rueda who provided the image at the top of this page
If you work for a transport company, large or small, this post is for you. It’s for anyone who runs buses, trains, trams, an underground system, or even an inland ferry. It aims to point out some of FixMyTransport’s many benefits for operators.
What would you say if your marketing department came to you with an idea that would:
cut the costs of your customer response strategy;
improve your profile among passengers – and those who have never used your service before;
give you unprecedented insight into what your customers are saying about you;
communicate what you are doing to keep your transport infrastructure running smoothly, quickly and easily…
…and would cost you absolutely nothing to implement?
FixMyTransport is an independent website which will bring you all those benefits, for free.
FixMyTransport uses the same basic idea as many of our other websites: it encourages complete transparency from both the customer and the operating company by publishing all correspondence online.
This allows others to read and comment on problems, suggest solutions, or add their thoughts to the debate. It also creates a permanent archive of the problem and any explanations or solutions offered by your company.
If that sounds daunting, read on.
Customer relations, out in the open
Until very recently, operators have been accustomed to dealing with passenger complaints through the private channels of email, phone and post.
But, with the arrival of social media, an expectation has arisen among passengers. People want to contact companies by the means with which they are most familiar. Increasingly, that means via Twitter, Facebook, or other public online spaces.
Social media brings challenges
Those organisations that rise to the challenge are rewarded with loyal customers – customers who can, and will, spread their positive opinions to their contacts within minutes. Equally, they will not hold back if they perceive that they have received bad service.
It can be hard to explain yourself within the confines of Twitter’s 140-character limit, or even Facebook’s status update box. FixMyTransport gives you as much space as you need to get to the bottom of your customers’ problems. You can reply as many times as required – and every time you do, you’ll be gaining brownie points not just with a single passenger, but with many thousands of other readers.
Excellent customer service? Amplify the effect
We know that most operators are striving to offer excellent customer service. And what happens when you do? A single person is satisfied; perhaps they spread the word among a few friends and family.
When fantastic responses are given via FixMyTransport, they stay on a permanent web page for all to see, now, and in the future.
That’s free PR.
Can’t solve the problem? No need to worry
We’ve spotted that customers don’t always want a solution to their problem. When you explain the challenges you face and give reasons why your service may not have been up to scratch, it can go a long way.
Show how hard you are working
Why hide your light behind a bushel? If you are investing a lot of effort and money in improvements, you should be shouting about it.
The average passenger doesn’t understand the complexities of timetable management or staff training. Much of the hard work you do goes completely unseen. Try putting a full explanation on FixMyTransport. You may find that it soon becomes the top Google result for a search like “why don’t bus drivers carry change?”. Not only are you educating people, but you’re also getting a chance to put your brand name out there, as a knowledgeable expert.
Cut down on duplicate emails – and save money
FixMyTransport works by grouping people together when they have the same problem. That means you only receive one email where previously you would have been repeating the same response to several passengers.
And you only need reply once, too – your reply goes to everyone who has added their name to the issue. How much does it cost you, in real terms, to answer one email or phone call? Now you can strike that off your balance sheet, times several hundred.
Create an archive for the future
It’s not just your present customers who you’ll be responding to – for repeated or persistent problems, FixMyTransport can act as a permanent record that anyone can consult in the future.
Find out what your customers are saying, and what they feel strongly about
Do you ever conduct focus groups or run customer insight questionnaires? Now all the information you seek is readily accessible, for free.
Your passengers are talking about your services right now on FixMyTransport. What upsets them? What would please them? What do they expect? It’s all there in black and white – and if anything is missing, there’s nothing to stop you dipping right in and asking them directly.
Be at forefront of online technology
The kudos you gain from being one of the first transport operators to take the plunge and interact directly with passengers on a site like FixMyTransport is invaluable. You may well find that it’s a move that is picked up and praised by mainstream and industry press, as well as countless bloggers. That’s what we mean when we talk about free PR.
Meet your users in their preferred space
Anyone who’s consulted a social media agency will have heard the first rule of social media for businesses – go where your users are.
Your website may be the best in the business, but your passengers will never know that if they don’t visit it. If you have a social media strategy, the chances are, it extends to Facebook and Twitter. Now it’s time to find those passengers – more and more of them each day – who are using FixMyTransport as their preferred place to hang out.
Banish copy and paste responses forever
Form responses just won’t work on FixMyTransport: the site’s public nature means that our users will soon sniff them out.
But wouldn’t you rather be giving your passengers individual, helpful responses that really please them? Any time you lose in putting them together should be well paid for in the free, positive publicity you get in return.
The practical bit
FixMyTransport was set up so that you, as an operator, need never visit the site if you don’t want to. When one of our users sends you a message, it is sent to your customer services email address. At the same time, it is published on our site.
All you need to do is reply to the email. Your reply is sent to the passenger. Depending on their preferences, it may also be published on their FixMyTransport page.
So, at a very basic level, you, the operator, need do nothing out of the ordinary. You just reply to the message as you would to any other.
However, if you would like to really seize the opportunities that FixMyTransport offers you, there are a number of extra steps you can take.
Set up a company profile on the site. Simply register as you would as an individual user. You may wish to use your company logo as your userpic. If you are a large organisation, use a group email address, and choose a password that you are happy to share with your team.
Use this profile to proactively comment on the issues that are addressed to your company.
How do you find them? On the Operator pages. Browse all operators here, or find your page with this format of URL: www.fixmytransport.com/operators/firstword-secondword – eg, www.fixmytransport.com/operators/london-midland.
Use our Atom feeds. You’ll find the link on every Operator page, next to this icon . Read our recent blog post to find out more about how to subscribe.
Have you dealt with a problem particularly well? Don’t be afraid to use your own social media – Twitter, Facebook, etc – to spread the link around.
Several transport operators have already created a profile and started interacting in this way, and we regularly hear that they have gone up in our users’ estimation as a result.
Still not sure?
We’d love to talk more about how we could make FixMyTransport work better for your company. Drop us a line and we’ll be happy to discuss any questions or ideas you have. We’re still in active development, so, in some cases, we can even make modifications to the site so that it works better for you and your backend systems.
They have used their logo as a userpic. Their profile page gives more information about the campaign, a URL for their website, their Twitter handle, and a list of the FixMyTransport campaigns they support.
If you’re a smaller group and you don’t have your own website, this page could even act as your sole web presence.
Find people who share your concerns
FixMyTransport may already contain reports about the issues you care about. Here’s how to find out:
Go to our Browse Issues page, and input your postcode, town or area (or click ‘use my current location’).
This will take you to a page with a list of all reports made in that area, and a map.
Use the blue controls at the top left corner of the map to zoom in or out, until you can only see the area you campaign within. The list of problem reports will change to reflect the area covered on the map.
From that page, click on each report’s title to read it.
Once you have a FixMyTransport profile for your group, you can use it to leave a comment on any relevant FixMyTransport problem report. Feel free to link to your site if you think your campaign can help our user.
You can also use the same technology to feed local problems onto your website: see Lichfield Live for an example: FixMyTransport issues within Lichfield are fed into the right hand column of that page. They’ve written a blog post to explain how to do that, if your site is built on WordPress.
Set up your own campaign page
If you can’t find any relevant reports, why not create your own FixMyTransport campaign page?
For maximum effect, we recommend focusing on a single issue. Make your request clear, and remember that visitors to the site may not know the background, so explain the relevant issues. Also include a call to action – explicitly ask them to join your campaign by clicking the big green ‘join’ button at the top of your page.
Once you’ve created your FixMyTransport campaign, you can tap into all the site’s functionality for spreading the word via social media, inviting comments, and escalating problems to people who can help, like local councillors and transport watchdogs.
Don’t forget to announce the URL via all your usual channels – your own website, your newsletter, etc (NB, if your URL is rather unwieldy, you may wish to use a URL-shortening service such as Tinyurl.com).
An example of a pressure group using FixMyTransport