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Discussion in 'Fares Advice & Policy' started by rdwarr, 6 Mar 2012.
(Hint: when in a hole, stop digging)
Not the railway's problem (unless the sign isn't there)
"Good customer service" is simply giving in to the customer when they are wrong. "Bad customer service" is telling the customer they are in the wrong and not giving in.
You are always told to read the T&Cs with online sales and to click a tick box to say you have done so. If the National Conditions of Carriage are not mentioned at all I will be very surprised.
Well, it's not unreasonable to ask if you are at all unsure about a route.
You maybe, but in my experience, most people ask if it's okay or they know either way.
Once again you can only really say for definite what you would do, or what you think others would do based on experience. I would expect you to think the same of me.
Just so we are clear, revenue has nothing to do with validity of routes.
Well, if we are making assumptions, the railway should also assume that if a customer says they are making a particular route, they are taking that particular route, unless either it is not possible to do so, or they ask about another route.
You are entitled to you opinion, I don't have to agree with it.
There are two men sitting on a train travelling from different stations, one looks as if he's been sleeping rough for five years, the other is clean shaven, in a smart suit, holding a smart leather brief case. Both claim the ticket machine at the starting station was smashed up and both have the correct change for their ticket. Who is telling the truth?
If you can't answer that definitely I don't believe you are in a position to say the "penalties" should only apply to the "blatantly exploitative passengers".
Feel free to stop, then
Because you would have to be leaving - breaking your journey - at Glasgow.
Firstly, the journey I suggested involved going from Glasgow to London, not vice versa. Secondly, even if you were arriving into Glasgow Central, the NRCoC says you do not break your journey when you leave a station to join a train at another station, for example Glasgow Queen St. So you would not be breaking your journey in that situation.
I tend to find many passengers in the original situations with "off route" tickets have selective reading ability.
Passengers clutching tickets marked "Route Via Hebden Bridge", "Route Via Burnley", "Route Via Stockport" or "Route Via Carlisle" etc but going no where near those routes but are taking another permitted route always, without exception, claim they didn't see that bit and nobody told them about it.
Passengers with tickets marked "Route Any Permitted" but are not on any sort of permitted route or who are doubling back all instantly point to the ticket and say "It says that any route is permitted".
Apologies for the blind spot As for the second point, please remember we have re-written the NRCoC to cater for the new system
I think we need to put away the Crayolas and agree that allowing any route at all really won't work.
Of course we used to have "Any reasonable route" but the problem with that is unreasonableness is not defined. Who's to say a guard one week thinks your route is reasonable, but the guard the next does not? I believe the Rout(e)ing Guide could be simplified - making it recursive would be a good start but at least there is a system (in most cases) to work out if you can take a route or not.
It probably ought to be mentioned in a bit more training for the people who work on the railway though (I appreciate many guards/ticket sellers know all about it but often they seem to have sorted this knowledge out for themselves).
Well yes - but it seems that the wording on the ticket
Route: Any Permitted
Any route is permitted, as long as it's permitted.
Which is where we came in.
On a recent trip it took me a very long time, using NCoC, RG, and advice from here, before I could be confident the route I wanted was actually valid, and even then I was warned staff and/or ticket barriers might not agree that it was! What chance does the ordinary punter who doesn't haunt these forums have?
Whatever else you say on here, and I agree with many of the comments you made in that post, but that is very very wrong.
Edit to expand - good customer service is about viewing things from a customer position, about ensuring that explanations are clear and sincere. You can give someone a penalty fare and offer them good customer service at the same time...
I agree with some that Any Route Permitted can be one of the conclusions a confused passenger can draw, however this is an absurd conclusion. I can just about devise a route that passes through any station you want in the country for a local fare between two nearby stations without doubling back, in the majority of cases. We might as well make the railway free to use for everyone. That is not to say that the wording cannot be improved.
The best I have come up with is Route: Permitted Only to fit within the 16-character limit, without the confusion the word Any causes.
Not wanting to put words in people's mouths, but I think hairyhandedfool put "good" and "bad customer service" in quotation marks to make an allusion that this was the perception or term used by the general public rather than his own opinion.
Sorry that's utter nonsense.
Good customer service is taking into account the 'lifetime value' of the customer and their propensity to recommend your services to others.
Bad customer service is relying on terms and conditions to resolve any problem.
If a customer has such a bad experience that they a) never use the service again and b) tell all their friends (so they never use the service again) then it doesn't matter who was 'right' or who was 'wrong'. At the end of the day the company suffers by losing future revenue - and eventually staff suffer when jobs are cut back.
Conversely, if a customer has a good experience they are more likely to recommend the service to their friends and family.
In short - showing a bit of 'flexibility' today can pay dividends in the long run. Whereas always sticking rigidly to 'the rules' might be 'right' - but it's no good if it loses you a customer.
People that don't understand the difference shouldn't be working in roles where they come into contact with customers.
While I agree with this to a certain extent, I must question what is then the purpose of terms and conditions?
True. However showing a bit of flexibility does not always guarantee that the customer will then be "happy". Where do you draw the line? How flexible does it have to be in order to make everyone "happy"? I thought individual discretion was built into the system to allow that little bit of flexibility.
It's not absurd at all (well, it's only 'absurd' in examples such as going round the country).
But here's how it can happen in real life. Take a journey such as Newcastle to Gobowen. The ticket says route 'Any Permitted'. 'Normal' routes for this journey would be via Manchester & Chester or via Manchester & Shrewsbury. Looking at the journey times though, the fastest journey will often be via Birmingham & Shrewsbury. But this is not a permitted route according to the Routeing Guide.
However a passenger holding their ticket could well infer from 'Any Permitted' that it meant any route was permitted - i.e. that they could use it via Manchester & Chester, Manchester & Shrewsbury or Birmingham & Shrewsbury (as well as a whole host of other more esoteric routes such as via Carlisle).
In short, going via Birmingham seems reasonable to the customer. And (from their perspective) the ticket doesn't preclude it as it doesn't say 'not via Birmingham'.
Everyone on this forum has a certain level of experience of the railway. So we look at any given situation with a point of view. But if you step back from that knowledge and look at it as the ordinary 'man on the Clapham omnibus', it's becomes clear that the 'Any Permitted' wording is ambiguous and I can understand how the passengers misinterpret it.
This is a very valid point actually regarding fastest journey times. I am of the opinion that sufficient discretion should be exercised as it is a quite reasonable assumption for the passenger to make. As for the implications on revenue for the TOCs concerned, NRG has provisions for unmapped routes which have a higher fare than the Any Permitted fare. This could be an example where a higher-priced route-specific fare should exist.
Isn't that a clear case for "Not Birmingham" and "Any permitted" (permitting via Birmingham) tickets with different fares (if the loadings on the Birmingham route are such that there is a good reason to deter use of that route)? Or does adding an additional route to the "any permitted" conflict with regulation of fare increases or some other reason why it shouldn't be done?
It is pretty ridiculous that the fastest route between two stations is ever a non-permitted route.
In general they should be used as a last resort, and not the first thing to be quoted when trying to resolve a customer's problem.
Let me give an an example from a non-railway context.
I used to work in the software industry. To use the software you accepted (in much the same way that you accept the NRCoC) a software licence agreement. One condition would be that you are only allowed to install the software on one computer at a time. Which is reasonable - if you want to use it on two computers, you buy two copies. However what happens if the customer buys a new computer and wants to move the software from one to the other?
Well, following the "only having the software on one computer at a time" rule means you'd have to remove the software from the old computer before you could install it on the new one. But most people would probably want to make sure they had everything up and running properly in the new computer before removing it from the old one. That sounds perfectly reasonable doesn't it?
Now let's say company representative A tells the customer that they must remove it from the old computer first otherwise they'd be in breach of the terms and conditions. What do you think would happen? Well, firstly the customer will probably do it anyway and secondly they'd be p***ed off with the company. They're going to start thinking about swapping to a different software provider to get future updates, etc.
Imagine instead that they spoke to company representative B. He knows that technically doing what the customer wants is in breach of the T&C's but he recognises the bigger picture. He knows there's no point in losing a good customer over something so trivial - especially as he recognises that no harm is being done to the company and no revenue is being lost. I don't call that 'giving into the customer', I call it the sensible option. And I know which of the two people I'd want working for me.
To use a railway example... take Advance tickets. You're not allowed to resell tickets. But say circumstances have changed and you no longer need to make the journey. You can't get a refund. So what is really wrong about letting the customer sell the tickets on to someone else for face value? Yes, it's against the T&Cs - but it's not really losing the company any revenue.
So where do you draw the line? In short, the rule of thumb is "Are they taking the p**s"? If not, then let it go. If yes, then you use the T&C's to their full extent.
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I would agree that a higher-priced via Birmingham ticket would be a good addition for situations such as this. But I think we must improve the wording on the ticket, in order to remove any ambiguity.
I spotted this blog where one passenger has mocked-up their suggestion for an improved ticket. Have a read, their observations are spot-on and their mock-up ticket is a really good starting point.
In my view the Routeing Guide is based on the wromg premise. Right at the start it states: Most customers wish to make journeys by through trains or by the shortest route.
I suggest that, in fact, most people wish to travel by through trains or the fastest route. This is backed up by journey planners (both rail and road) offering the fastest route as the default.
Back in the days of reasonable routes, the fastest route was always deemed reasonable. Most ordinary travellers would expect it to be 'permitted' today.
They are. That's why guards have discretion. I am not disagreeing that in the case of fastest journey time which you have given, it should be appropriate for the guard to exercise discretion. Such a matter could then be reported and resolved by other means, such as rewording routeing permission on the tickets, to enable such a journey to be made with one ticket.
Unfortunately in cases where, using your own words, the passenger is quite obviously "taking the p**s", discretion is not normally appropriate.
I am sure you will start having problems when representative B is giving permission for customers to start installing on lots more machines in various places, even if that is what the customer might be "happy" about.
I doubt that the company would be so lenient if it is easy to detect cases where two copies are being installed at the same time. If it is unenforceable, why not as well be generous and make them happy?
The railway industry largely works off the same principle.
The only reason I am questioning this is because you gave the impression in your earlier arguments that it is vitally important to keep the customer "happy". I think we quite agree on the middle ground that if what the customer/passenger does is reasonable then there should be some leeway irrespective of the background terms.
Of course there are differing opinion as to whether reselling tickets at face value or lower is reasonable and losing TOCs revenue. One argument is that due to the lack of flexibility with Advance tickets, TOCs would naturally expect some people to not make their train and have built this fact into the costings and hence pricing of Advance tickets. If tickets can now be resold, they might have to take into account the fact that some people who currently buy tickets from them will instead be buying from those whose tickets were previously worthless and reconsider the price of Advance fares.
TOCs do allow reasonable transfer of tickets by virtual that it is not enforceable, such as preventing the transfer of a ticket from one person to another within the family or between close friends and done in private, provided that the correct discount entitlement is obeyed. Similar arguments apply with people on invalid routes which are reasonable, where most guards would exercise discretion, partly because it is not always practical to check NRG for all tickets. Doesn't the software industry work in similar ways?
Furthermore there is also the complication if Advance ticket could be resold that there will be differing terms for different tickets in that respect, which is not what we really need on top of the maze we already have today.
Yes, the design of tickets can be massively improved and I believe the industry is working on a solution for that.
There are many good examples that people have done, however I do not believe this one quoted is. What happens if the passenger has more than one reservable leg to his journey? I don't believe that we can achieve a consistent design across all ticket types which can include all reservation details on one coupon, given the physical constraint of the size of our tickets, without reducing font size significantly. However it would be quite possible to include everything on two coupons.
I'll grant you that, having looked at it a second time
To my mind, I think that the vast majority of passengers use the rail network without a moment's consideration about the Ts & Cs (has anyone ever surveyed passenger awareness of these things - there's an intriguing A Level or Undergraduate project for someone), never mind the routeing guide, restriction codes, and so on. And for the vast majority, this never creates a problem.
Discounting people who are just trying it on, the issues arise where one of the following occurs:
1. Where, often with good reason when you stop and think, but only if you stop and think, Ts & Cs contradict 'common sense' (eg that you can't get off early on an advance ticket).
2. Where people are undertaking 'complex' journeys - stopping short, taking out of the way routes, doing triangular journeys etc.
To my mind, group 1 are a bit unlucky, but have usually broken the rules. That's where the murky discretion can come in, and in here various factors - maintaining rail regulations, PR for rail travel, customer service, succesfully completing job - all need to be taken into account. Unless you take some sort of hardline or softline, pretty much any judgement can be rationalised!
For group 2, I have less sympathy. The reason I first found this website was when, as an inexperienced traveller, I was looking to do some more unusual travelling (ie not point to point). It seems reasonable to go to the effort to check out the regulations in these cases.
You need to look back at the posts that led to the comment, not the comment in isolation.
That's quite a well balanced view, cuccir, certainly from an outsider's point of view.
May I add 2 observations?
Many of us on here would be interested to learn the results of that analysis and also from a similar survey of staff awareness. (I'm sure a great many working on-board, on gatelines, in Ticket Offices have little awareness of these intricasies, either.)
I regret that I cannot be as sympathetic. In my own 'test case' where I wanted to make an unusual journey, I asked several (at least 6) ticket staff the same question, all in advance of travel. In that case, I received 5 different answers plus "Whats' the best price you've been offered so far?". Now that doesn't give the passenger the impression that a definitive source to fare calculation even exists, does it?
I suspect for your analysis of passengers falling into 'group 1' or 'group 2', we need to be sure that the definitive source of rulings actually exists; that it is utterly dependable; that those in relevant positions of authority are aware of that definitive source; that decisions by those in relevant authority are informed by that definitive source; and that reference to that definitive source is how questions are answered.
That isn't happeneing. In common with many on here, we don't lay the blame at any personnel or even any TOC. The blame for the underlying lack of consistency, accountability and awareness lies at the door of thosee structures hastily created 15 years ago. Its 16 years' wait now, so we shouldn't be expecting any service along here soon.
Sadly, I can't wait to get home, so I'm just going to take my chances and jump on the next 'group 2' train!
No that wouldn't happen, because B would recognise that allowing it would cost the company revenue and it fails the "taking the p**s" test.
Well, I find it difficult to argue against these sort of fantasy posts without writing an essay, which I don't have time to. They're so fundamentally flawed it is difficult to know where to start!
Anyone doing the Real Ale Trail (to give just one example) would be very unhappy at your proposals, and anyone planning to go to several places in one day would be severely disadvantaged and that rule would put rail at a disadvantage compared to other modes. It's easy to do multiple trips if you have a car, but some of us don't and it's hard enough by rail as it is without making it harder.
It would be impossible to enforce also.
What I would find very useful as a passenger is the ability to interrogate the routeing guide in a user-friendly manner to list all the permitted routes for a particular ticket. Something like CORE was, but official and legally defensible.
From a naïve outsider's point of view it seems like this ought to be relatively straightforward - something like a code number or even barcode printed on the ticket, which would take me to a webpage listing (or even better, illustrated using maps) all the routes and times for which that ticket is valid, taking into account all the restrictions, easements, etc. It could even be displayed by the TVM when buying a ticket - "these are the routes and times on which this ticket will be valid". This thread suggests that the data are available in a form which would make something like this possible if there were the will to do it.
Most passengers would probably never use it, but it would be a way of defusing the "ROUTE: ANY PERMITTED" misunderstanding which the OP details. I once heard a woman in the seat behind me telling her friend how she'd got a ticket that PERMITTED her to travel ANY ROUTE, and how useful that would be. Luckily I think what she was planning to do (Chester to Bristol via Euston and Paddington) was permitted, or at least the ticket inspector seemed to reassure her it was, with the exception of the Underground, though it was fairly clear it would have been quicker to go via Wolverhampton.
The routeing issue is something which I'm not sure that some of the proposed ticket redesigns (e.g. by CX Partners, Robert Hempsall and Neil Martin) have dealt with very well.
Personally I'm inspired by projects such as Mayo Nissen's City Tickets and BERG's redesigned receipts to think about what could actually be done using the existing TVMs, printers and ticket stock - imagine the option to print a set of 'route cards' to accompany your ticket, with the permitted routes and times illustrated clearly, if necessarily compactly.
It would be useful to tourists, and could even include details of attractions or instructions for how to do things such as take a bus in London which often cause confusion. But it would also be useful to people making journeys who find themselves - for whatever reason - missing a connection and wondering whether the ticket they hold will be valid on the next train which looks like it is going to the right place.
And from the TOCs' point of view, having a very clear reference which both passengers and staff can access equally easily would reduce so many misunderstandings, arguments and hassle between passengers and staff, and make it much more difficult for passengers to say "the guy on the platform said it was OK".
There's probably some obvious reason why this wouldn't work; it would be great if it did.
I totally agree. I believe the wording is deliberate as ATOC do not want to admit that passengers want to travel by the fastest route. If they were to admit this, they would be admitting that passengers are not infrequently denied travel by the route that they would want to travel, and admitting that passenger satisfaction is not as high as claimed.
This is particularly the case on routes where there are either very fast trains that call at few stations or very slow trains that call at many stations (such as certain flows on the West Coast Main Line) where it can be much quicker to take a longer route due to service patterns, and also it is particularly the case on Sundays, and during engineering work.
It is very convenient for ATOC to claim that passengers travelling between, say, York & Dore wish to travel via Pontefract Baghill on a Pacer, but completely and utterly false and there is no evidence to backup their claims whatsoever.
Why not word it: Route: Any authorised?
Still has the word "any" but the use of authorised instead of permitted changes the tone of it.
I recommend you consider attending a Fares workshop
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I don't think authorised is that much different to permitted?
Why not put something like this:
"As per Guidance" (with the "Guidance" being the RG, which is then advertised on the back of ticket stock)
Not necessarily that exact wording - "Guidance" is a bit iffy for my liking - but something similar...?