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.
What is FixMyTransport, then?
FixMyTransport was built by the not-for-profit organisation mySociety. We have a background in creating websites that make it easy to access civic and democratic rights. Our previous projects include FixMyStreet.com, WhatDoTheyKnow.com and TheyWorkForYou.com.
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.
Image by Tim Ellis, used with thanks.