Passengers moaning on social media

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Now understandably, lots of passengers are unhappy with a certain aspect of rail travel, be it high fares, overcrowding, old trains, too hot, too cold, late running etc…

Many will take to social media and complain, in many cases quite reasonably so (although personally I don’t think social media is the most effective way to engage constructively) but I many cases people seem to moan for the sake of it, often about irrelevant issues, often very rudely and often in such an incoherent manner that there isn’t much a TOC an do.

Leaving aside grievances the public may have, how do you think a TOC should use social media to a) inform/educate users about issues and b) engage/respond with their passengers?

(Please note the two are different, there is one way communication and two way communication)
 
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reb0118

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[H]ow do you think a TOC should use social media? a) To inform/educate users about issues and b) engage/respond with their passengers?

(Please note the two are different, there is one way communication and two way communication)

Are the two mutually exclusive? The way you have phrased the question implies that you do not think so........
 

Tetchytyke

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Leaving aside grievances the public may have, how do you think a TOC should use social media to a) inform/educate users about issues and b) engage/respond with their passengers?

The two things are not mutually exclusive.

That said, social media is interactive. If a TOC does not wish to interact, it should not use Twitter. Ignoring people does not make them feel better about the service, and it often makes things worse. DB Regio have found that up here, customer satisfaction ratings were tanking because they stopped responding to questions and comments on their Metro Twitter feed. They've started again now, strangely enough, as satisfaction is something that Nexus target them on...
 
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Are the two mutually exclusive? The way you have phrased the question implies that you do not think so........

I don't think so. However I am approaching this with an open mind.

The reason I split it into two is, Twitter is useful to announce a new timetable a delay or cancellation, publicise work done by Network Rail etc or information about extra trains following an event etc.

You only need to look at positive information messages from a TOC and see the abuse that gets thrown at them in response to see what they have to put up with.

I personally think using social media isn't the best way for a customer to get a response to a complaint. It is a good way to report a broken ticket machine for example, but in all likelihood the TOC will know about that anyway.

It's also a good way for the customer to vent and get things of their chest, something we all need to do. But lets face it if you want to make an actual complaint you're not likely to be able to do it in 140 characters on twitter are you?
 

Johnny_w

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Both! Although I've never engaged in the use of Social Media to discuss problems with a TOC it does appear that it's a method of getting instant results.

Who remembers the toilet paper incident upon a Virgin service?

It's not always negative.

JW
 

D1009

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Yes, but my question was how do you think they should use it.
Surely it depends on the nature of the moaning. If as often happens it is phrased in such a way that it becomes obvious that any reply from the TOC side would be counter productive from their point of view, they are fully justified in ignoring it.
 

LowLevel

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It depends. Sometimes it's fairly useful. However when I get some knuckle dragging waste of oxygen taking a picture of me to try and further some spurious complaint (that and 'I want your name - no, your full name!!!' as if the train operator won't know who the train's guard is) it leaves me quite happy to pull the plug. For dealing with real time issues it's fine, but it doesn't allow for any time for reflection and cooling down when making a complaint often giving the impression that the person behind it is a foul mouthed 12 year old rather than the professional business person they often turn out to be. Our lot have taken the fairly sensible step of only formally considering conduct complaints if the passenger then completes the web form or writes in rather than just based on tweets alone following several spurious complaints leading to people being hauled off the job.

It's also irritating when I walk past a person 3 times and only by tweeting do they mention they have a problem with a seat reservation or the bogs broken, leading to me having to take a phone call from Control before I even learn of the issue, let alone take steps to resolve it.
 
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SJN

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There was a woman on out twitter over half term complaining that all the commuters took the parking spaces and so she couldn't take her kids on the train. It ruined their day and she demanded to know why the company couldn't save some spaces so people could park later on. They tried to help a best they could but she was having none of it lol. I don't know what she honestly expected the company to do.
 

hairyhandedfool

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Social Media certainly has it's place, I've warned Northern of non-functioning lighting at an unmanned station, told Grand Central about lost property given in to another operators help point. I know Northern passes on 'praise' for staff that they receive by social media too.

That said, I've also seen how quickly it can be used to complain and the gist of the complaint being missed, partially because of the character limit, causing more annoyance.
 

phil1960

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Leaving aside grievances the public may have, how do you think a TOC should use social media to a) inform/educate users about issues and b) engage/respond with their passengers?

(Please note the two are different, there is one way communication and two way communication)

Yes, all the TOCs plus National Rail Enquiries see Twitter as an important means of broadcasting up to date info out. Yes, of course it does open up the floodgate for abuse, requests for info there and then often even whilst the TOC controllers are working on formulating a plan.

The other aspect is that journalists are using it as a source of rooting out what's going on, especially with many of the London based TOCs who are basically under a permanent watch glass from the media. Often they'll pick up something a member of public has mentioned even before the TOC have a chance to formally investigate it. So often the journalist is in back touch with the user asking them "OK to DM you for your phone number so we can speak to you for more info?" That's just one area highlighting how powerful Twitter is.

Yes, the TOCs could effectively use Twitter as a one way street for broadcasting out info only. I feel that won't work so they have to bear the brunt of what comes in via mentions and replies too.

Outside the railway industry, there are plenty of commercial organisations, Government departments etc that have a strong presence on Twitter but take no responsibility or even care with those that interact with them. Sorry, but part of the deal of having a presence on Twitter means you have a responsibility to handle at least some interaction with the public.

Phil
 
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theironroad

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I think there is a use for it, but when it might be most useful, ie during major disruption is when I don't see how it can be run practically and keep everyone happy.

When Swt rush hour goes wrong there are tens of thousands of people on trains in the suburban area and further out and providing meaningful 121 conversation isn't possible and then people think they are being ignored.

Sure send out headline messages with info and regular updates but 121 stuff isn't really going to work without many many extra staff just Manning Twitter.

Also, I've seen tweets when people demand to know why their train has styopped, even though it is on time. I think some people just don't seem to grasp how railways work and that stopping at a red signal is part of the day to day business of railways. Sure it'd be great if every signal was green all the time, but ain't going to happen.

Finally, there is the issue of how staff Manning Twitter in a control room react to what is happening on the ground while not undermining staff and also taking the side of passenger claims without getting both sides of the story. There are issues without Twitter control staff taking a passenger's side and offering apologies etc without investigating the actual facts on the ground. Staff are not always right, but neither are passengers but the real time environment that Twitter exists in, means that there are too many rushes to judgement which subsequently turn out to be incorrect and often defamatory to staff.
 

Bletchleyite

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Twitter, if done well, provides a means of getting things fixed *now* rather than just complaining and being fobbed off afterwards. It would be unnecessary if TOCs (like so many other businesses) didn't see a customer service department as just a means of doling out apologies, refunds and vouchers, and more as a means of engaging with their customers on a more real-time basis to deal with actual issues and promote genuine satisfaction.

You used to be able to do that sort of thing by telephone until the advent of the scourge of the 1990s, the call-centre.
 

TheManBehind

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Finally, there is the issue of how staff Manning Twitter in a control room react to what is happening on the ground while not undermining staff and also taking the side of passenger claims without getting both sides of the story. There are issues without Twitter control staff taking a passenger's side and offering apologies etc without investigating the actual facts on the ground. Staff are not always right, but neither are passengers but the real time environment that Twitter exists in, means that there are too many rushes to judgement which subsequently turn out to be incorrect and often defamatory to staff.

I think there are fewer examples of that than you realise, and many of them could be resolved by better handling on the ground (spoken as first line staff for a number of years in different industries) - if a customer is complaining it's normally because they feel aggrieved, whether rightly or wrongly - and a "sorry for your experience" is appropriate. It's not an assumption of wrongdoing on the part of anyone, but recognising how they feel. That said, if you work for a TOC and can't handle being seen as the bad guy...

Any allegation of a safety-related issue has to be investigated no matter how it's reported - this is how we keep everyone safe.

As far as social media goes, TOCs do well, but could do a hell of a lot more in terms of resolving customer issues - including starting the contact and complaints management process on social media rather than formally through email etc. Use email as a follow-up to get information, but give them a reference on twitter - people always feel better coming away with something tangible.
 
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Bletchleyite

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Having said what I said above, the mobile phone thing is now solving the issue in some other circles - for instance, courier cards through my door for missed delivery now often include the courier's mobile number.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
It also requires some understanding from the unions. I recognise that a complaint against an individual's conduct requires proper investigation - but I agree that if reported via Twitter a reference should be given, the Tweets added to the ticket, and the ticket left in "pending customer" state awaiting further contact.

But on fGW as soon as the word "staff" is used they shut up shop, even if what I'm requesting is action rather a complaint.

"The customer service staff on the platform are not coping with the number of passengers with issues, I suggest you get a manager down from MacMillan House" is seen as a staff complaint. It isn't, it's a complaint about the *lack of* staff, solved by getting some managers out of their offices and onto the front line to help solve problems now before they become bigger problems.

The railway seems to prefer to apologise and compensate than actually solve.
 
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phil1960

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Having said what I said above, the mobile phone thing is now solving the issue in some other circles - for instance, courier cards through my door for missed delivery now often include the courier's mobile number.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
It also requires some understanding from the unions. I recognise that a complaint against an individual's conduct requires proper investigation - but I agree that if reported via Twitter a reference should be given, the Tweets added to the ticket, and the ticket left in "pending customer" state awaiting further contact.

But on fGW as soon as the word "staff" is used they shut up shop, even if what I'm requesting is action rather a complaint.

"The customer service staff on the platform are not coping with the number of passengers with issues, I suggest you get a manager down from MacMillan House" is seen as a staff complaint. It isn't, it's a complaint about the *lack of* staff, solved by getting some managers out of their offices and onto the front line to help solve problems now before they become bigger problems.

The railway seems to prefer to apologise and compensate than actually solve.

Can't comment on how GW's Twitter policies regarding the word "staff". Twitter should never be used as a formal route for complaints IMO as TOCs and other businesses will have systems that are purpose designed for that task.

Also SM software (like Hootsuite) used by Twitter teams won't necessarily be accessible by all relevant departments in contact with their customers. By all means divert anything sensitive over to DM, but for that to work effectively it often means screen shotting and pasting into emails to pass on should the customer have a serious issue or following up an existing case.

Phil
 

TheManBehind

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Twitter should never be used as a formal route for complaints IMO as TOCs and other businesses will have systems that are purpose designed for that task.

Also SM software (like Hootsuite) used by Twitter teams won't necessarily be accessible by all relevant departments in contact with their customers. By all means divert anything sensitive over to DM, but for that to work effectively it often means screen shotting and pasting into emails to pass on should the customer have a serious issue or following up an existing case.

Phil

But there are systems like ZenDesk, which can tie in to existing CMS systems. Lots of businesses do take formal queries by twitter now, and deliver amazing customer service doing so - the railway could shape itself up to be a real leader if it wanted to!
 

Bletchleyite

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Can't comment on how GW's Twitter policies regarding the word "staff". Twitter should never be used as a formal route for complaints IMO as TOCs and other businesses will have systems that are purpose designed for that task.

Yes, but the "use a different method" thing is like a fob-off to a customer. Whereas responding with a ticket number, stating that the customer should make alternative contact using that reference, is a proactive start.

Also SM software (like Hootsuite) used by Twitter teams won't necessarily be accessible by all relevant departments in contact with their customers. By all means divert anything sensitive over to DM, but for that to work effectively it often means screen shotting and pasting into emails to pass on should the customer have a serious issue or following up an existing case.

If TOCs are still handling customer services by way of e-mails rather than a proper ticketing system (be that a free one like Zendesk or something more corporate-aimed like ServiceNow), they need to look at that again.
 

hulabaloo

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Southeastern have been excellent on Twitter for me - they will answer individual enquiries usually within five minutes with straightforward honest answers - and it means I don't have to bother very harassed station staff if the trains are up the wall!
 

rdwarr

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There was a guy on Great Northern this morning asking why he couldn't sit in First Class rather than just stand in there when Standard was fullish. I advised that you can't stand in First and that the train five minutes later has plenty of seats (I commute from the next one down the line) but to no avail.
Although the company reps do occasionally Tweet incorrect information it's hardly their fault when trains become full because the number of commuters from St Neots and Biggleswade has increased 50%.
 

PHILIPE

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Can't comment on how GW's Twitter policies regarding the word "staff". Twitter should never be used as a formal route for complaints IMO as TOCs and other businesses will have systems that are purpose designed for that task.

Also SM software (like Hootsuite) used by Twitter teams won't necessarily be accessible by all relevant departments in contact with their customers. By all means divert anything sensitive over to DM, but for that to work effectively it often means screen shotting and pasting into emails to pass on should the customer have a serious issue or following up an existing case.

Phil

In the event of a staff complaint GWR Twitter request you post to a Feedback
@GWR
 

bramling

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There was a woman on out twitter over half term complaining that all the commuters took the parking spaces and so she couldn't take her kids on the train. It ruined their day and she demanded to know why the company couldn't save some spaces so people could park later on. They tried to help a best they could but she was having none of it lol. I don't know what she honestly expected the company to do.

Wonderful attitude. Doesn't use trains regularly, but expects everything to be laid on and everyone to make way for her the one day she does travel. About right for some of the types seen over half term and school holidays.
 
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People are annoyed

 

Southwest

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Although the company reps do occasionally Tweet incorrect information it's hardly their fault when trains become full because the number of commuters from St Neots and Biggleswade has increased 50%.

50%, think yourself lucky.

By the time they finsih building new housing developments in the Biggleswade/Sandy/Potton areas, you'll be remembering the good ole 50% days with great affection!
 

physics34

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its the people that moan to spacifically get a member of staff in trouble that really get me!

These sad tell-tale-tits shouldnt have a voice like this.

Its been noted that people have moaned about drivers eating a sandwich, singing to themselves etc etc
 

185

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Have to cover the tweet seat in my current job, and I'm of the view twitter is an unmitigated disaster for many businesses.

Much useful info does come in, in fairness stuff about lifts out, vandalism etc, but seems greatly outweighed with pointless or baseless complaints, abuse or threats.
 

Antman

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its the people that moan to spacifically get a member of staff in trouble that really get me!

These sad tell-tale-tits shouldnt have a voice like this.

Its been noted that people have moaned about drivers eating a sandwich, singing to themselves etc etc

Really? Well if a member of staff is doing something they shouldn't isn't a passenger perfectly entitled to report it? I wouldn't include drivers eating a sandwich or singing, well as long as the latter wasn't over the PA:D

Some passengers have also used twitter to praise members of staff, one springs to mind about the recent incident at Catford Bridge for example. You can't have it both ways!
 
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