Customer Service #Fail

Dear Rich,

Thank you for contacting us on 20/01/16 providing us with detailed feedback of your experiences using our services.  Please accept my apologies for the delay in our response.

Given the points you’ve raised, I do understand why you’d have a vested interested in knowing how this will be pursued. While this is entirely understandable, I regret that we cannot follow up such suggestions with individual customers.

Customer feedback is very important to us, as we know the future of the industry rests on our retaining an open and on-going discussion with the people who use our services on a day-to-day basis.

I can therefore assure you that your concerns and suggestions have appropriately been reported. While an individual customer very well may have raised an entirely valid concern or legitimate suggestion, we cannot promise that it’ll be actioned straight away.

Individual customer feedback has to be taken into consideration as part of our wider commitments. This includes other, sometimes conflicting, customer feedback as well as the demands of other industry agencies and our overall business strategies.

Such a detailed insight into your experience and completely legitimate suggestions for improvements are warmly welcomed and we really appreciate your feedback.

Kind Regards,


Customer Service Advisor




First name

Departure Station

here’s my feedback of my customer journey today.

1. Need to get a return ticket Hassocks to Paddington today at short notice. I need to arrive by 9:45. I want to leave Hassocks as late as possible in the morning.

2. I go on National Rail website. It tells me all tickets at this time cost the same. Around £52 a return. I note there are various timings options. I note the are some trains with less connections. I note some trains leave later.

3. The latest train I can get is the 07:59. The website tells me I have to change at Farringdon. I decide to buy my ticket at the station machine.

4. I arrive at the Hassocks station machine. London Paddington is not a train station listed where I can buy a return ticket to. It says “London Victoria, Kings Cross etc”. Well, what does etc mean? Which stations are included in that? Searching for Paddington or London Paddington doesn’t return a result. So I decide I should go to the counter and buy my ticket face to face.

5. At the counter I expect to ask for a return to London Paddington and that it will cost around £52 as that was the universal price at this time of day. The ticket is cheaper, at around £39. This is a pleasant surprise. I don’t ask any further questions.

6. However, The adviser at the counter asks whether I’m getting the 07:55 to Victoria. I say no (as I had wanted to get the latest train possible from Hassocks). However, as I’m in time for the 07:55 I ask if I can catch that one. I’m told no and that my ticket is Thameslink only. I’m not informed that I need to change at Farringdon at that point but i believe I’ve already got this info from my web search so i don’t ask further questions. There’s a queue behind me and I assume the train is direct to Farringdon.

7. After paying for my ticket, I wait on the platform and decide to double check my route on the National Rail app. This now says that if I get the 07:59 To Paddington, that I should change at Haywards Heath and go to Victoria, I assume because this is the fastest route. But I know that this can’t be right because I know this faster route is not a Thameslink only train, I think it’s southern. However, if I had bought my £39 ticket at the machine (somehow), I would not have known not to get the 07:55 southern train, Nor would i have known not to change at Haywards Heath and get the slightly faster train if I’d got the 07:59 as planned.

All of this feels over complicated to me.

As a customer i want to get a train from A to B and know the price.

I can handle more expensive at certain times but what annoys me is the misinformation or inaccessibility or inconsistency of information out there and the fact that alternative routes to the same places come with different prices and train provider restrictions. Especially when both train providers are owned by the same company.

I could have paid £13 more for a train that got me into Paddington no sooner than the cheaper one, or a negligible time difference.

Southern Rail and Thameslink are now both owned by Go Ahead group. So stop messing around with us as customers and consolidate the pricing structure and these ridiculous route restrictions.

From a customer perspective, London is London. Sort your information systems out so its easy to plan trips.

Make this work across all platforms, mobile devices and apps including third party apps like National Rail and The Trainline.

Ensure that stations appear listed on ticket machines.

Be more customer centric I’m a relatively tech savvy internet savvy person. i found this difficult. My mum would find it impossible.

That’s my feedback. Rich.

Require a response from us

Getting Started With #NoEmail (Part 3) – “Stop Sending Emails”


A sure-fire way to have less email in your life is to stop sending any in the first place. Obvious isn’t it?

I know, I know – even though it’s obvious, I’m going to pick this apart a little, just because the relationship between what comes in and what I send out has been obsessing me for some time. And perhaps you need convincing… perhaps I too, still need a little convincing!

You see, for me, sending less emails is such a simple answer… it’s just not necessarily easy.

I have been doing some quasi-scientific research on this since Feb 2015 looking at my own email habits and I can now say that from my own experience, sending less emails, does mean that less and less emails have come into my life. There is definitely a correlation.

Sound good?

It is good.

There is an exponential benefit that’s described really well in this lovely little vid:

I think everyone is pretty familiar with the Email Tree situation and how one email, which seems so innocent, has the ability to multiply and reproduce many times over. The more recipients you have in your original email the more chance it has of generating more email trees.

And we all know about the emails that come out to huge circulation lists for ‘cascading’ through an organisational structure… euch! How many of those just get deleted, filed or at worst just sit in someone’s inbox forever – unread or ignored, taking up space.

There is a trend in organisational culture of people sending emails needlessly to multiple recipients, using BCC and CC fields and copying in way too many people – basically choosing email as the tool for all communication, when often it is completely the wrong method.

I often feel like email is sent with no compassion for the recipient at all. No love or respect for what they are doing, or even whether they are interested. We send email without thinking and without heart. No wonder the receiver gets an icky feeling when they open their inbox!


I think we send emails because we feel we ‘have to’ and because we’re too lazy to think of a better way of communicating.

There, I said it. We’re lazy. That laziness breeds a culture of doing the same thing over and over and getting the same results. Even further, we get into a habit of thinking that the results we get with email are OK. Even good!

This recent article quoted some research that found the following:

More than 85 percent of employees with access to social networks still used email hourly, and 83 percent considered it effective. Even 90 percent of gen X and gen Y professionals said they preferred email, whereas only 42 percent considered texting or instant messaging to be effective for communicating with team members.

Get that? 83% thought e-mail was effective. The fact that email is most certainly not effective (or at least as effective as other means) is worthy of a whole other blog post. I think for now, I just want to assume that you’re with me on this. You’d like to have less of it in your life… right? OK, I’ll carry on.

So… back to the “sending less email = receiving less email” formula.


The above are my real results up to the end of August 2015 (I’m going to share my most recent data in another post). You can see here that the trend of received emails in purple is starting to track downwards and that there is a direct correlation between that downward trend and the amount of emails I am sending (in red).

In later statistics this correlation is even more marked – I have a ‘spike’ month in September where I send a lot of emails and my received track up significantly following suit. When I send less in October, the received statistics come back down again.

Could it be the other way around? That I am ‘responding’ to the external influence of incoming emails? I think this could have been a theory to be tested in a previous role – but my current job is pretty much the other way around – I generate my own communications… I tend to be the one reaching out to others via email (if I have to).

So the big question is how do I actually manage to send less email? Especially in a culture where email is the expected default method of communication around the organisation.

It has not been easy – it has taken quite a lot of hard work and I have had to train myself to think differently at every communication point in the day. As I have practiced, it has become easier and I have started making alternatives to email my default communication methods. I have to think less and less.

These are my little practices:

  • STOP: Every time I receive an email from someone else I don’t reply straight away. I stop. Every time. Even if it feels easy to reply and like it would be the fastest, most appropriate way to respond. I stop. And I think.
  • TIMING: I then think about timing. Is it the right time to react to this incoming communication? Usually, I can think of a better time than right now. Answering right now would be reacting. What I want to do, is respond.
  • OPPORTUNITY: I then think of all the opportunities I can around this communication. For example, do other people need to know? Is this a simple question or does it open up more questions that need to be answered? What could be the best possible outcome from communicating with this person?
  • RISK: I then think of the risks of communicating and of not communicating. I think about who is ‘in and out’ of the loop with what’s been presented. I ask myself – what’s the worst thing that could happen if I just deleted this email? What’s the worst thing that could happen if I responded tomorrow, or next week…
  • METHOD: Then I’m onto the method – how could I best meet the needs of this communication interaction. Is email it? Usually not. Phone call? yep – I’m making a lot more of those at the moment (and again that’s an assumption this will be inefficient but I can tell you it’s not). Instant Message? Text? Skype? Conference Call? Social Network? ESN?
  • START: Then… and only then, I deliver what I think is best, at the time I think is best. And with compassion.

Does all that sound time consuming and laborious? Well, I guess it might. It felt incredibly clunky when I started doing it. But after a short time I realised how much more time I was creating for myself in my working day. As I sent less emails, I received less – and the quality of my communications with colleagues seemed to get better and better (from my perspective).

And from others’ perspective? Well – I didn’t hear any complaints. No one said I became unresponsive. No one complained. Work seemed to happen just as it did before. I didn’t miss any deadlines.

So, I’ve stopped sending emails saying “Thanks”.

If someone invites me to a meeting using their calendar app, I’ve stopped sending an auto reply if I Accept or Decline the meeting, unless that individual really needs to know my response.

So, for example if I get invited to something along with 20 other people, I just figure they don’t really want 20 emails coming into their inbox saying Accepted / Declined and they’ll just go to the calendar event tracker itself to follow up. Again, no one complained.

If people send me stuff that’s of interest I don’t get into email banter about it – I just look at it as and when is the right time for me.

It’s all about finding different things to do than choose email as the default – and it’s really interesting what comes up. I’ve found it fascinating how my work relationships have changed and blossomed when I looked up from the screen. I’m talking to a lot more people and I feel I understand them better and that they understand me.

So, simple – but not easy. If you want less email in your life – STOP SENDING EMAILS!

Getting Started With #NoEmail (Part 2) – “Unsubscribe”


In this series I explore my Top Ten Tips to slay the email beast, unpacking some of the methods I’ve used to reduce my email use by over 50% in the last four months and create stacks of time to do more interesting and productive things.

This post focuses on what I call “Content Bombs” – emails that drop into your inbox unexpected at the most inopportune moments and completely destroy your focus and attention.

They are the stealth bombers of the email world. Feats of technical online marketing ingenuity. Their power is witnessed with awe as they explode in glorious technicolour (or Pantone) in your inbox.

They know when you’re at your most vulnerable, even if you don’t. They know what you like to buy and when you like to buy it and they know what interests you.

Well, of course they do – you told them.

You asked for them to come.

You subscribed.

All I really want to share with you in this post is that you have a choice. I worked out recently that I was dealing with loads of content bombs every day. I thought they were interesting, even useful. Often they took me down a lovely rabbit hole of information and sometimes, just sometimes, something useful would come up.

Frequently, I would procrastinate.

Over time, I realised that although these emails had some interest and relevance, they weren’t adding much value to my working day. I also realised that in 100% of cases, I could find the content on the internet just as easily as having it dumped in my inbox. I could find it when I wanted to rather than have it imposed on me and tempting me with diversionary delights.

Dark Playground people

So I took drastic measures. I ‘unsubscribed’ from every single content bomb I signed up to.

It actually took me months. It was amazing how many I had signed up to and the process I had to go through to get out of their grip…

  • Some of them were conscious sign ups like industry newsletters.
  • Some were more subversive sign ups, like when I’d entered my email address as a new sign in for some new service or other, and then started to receive all their other regular content.
  • Some were relatively easy to unsubscribe from within a couple of clicks.
  • Some stopped emailing me straight away.
  • Some persisted and I had to unsubscribe multiple times before the emails stopped.
  • Some were more complicated to unsubscribe from, requiring website sign-in and changing email notification preferences, or even deleting my account.
  • Some were plain evil and offered no way to unsubscribe. Any organisation falling into this category, I blocked and marked as SPAM… and swore at my screen for good measure.

Eventually after two or three months it started to have a real effect and now both my personal and work emails are pretty much content bomb free! Occasionally I get a little explosion in my inbox (no giggling on the back row), but I can easily handle it. I’m still unsubscribing straight away from any new sign ups that result in unwanted content.

Now, the critics among you might be saying “but surely you’re missing out”.

Listen, think about this – with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Yammer, RSS feeds and the whole of the WWW to search whenever I want, do you really think I’m missing out on valuable content? If I want to find out about the latest course, the latest news, the latest events, innovations and ideas, the latest productivity tips, dance craze or cat videos, I am only ever a few clicks away from a multiverse of relevant content.

Only now I’m in control, and I’m getting so much less email.

So much less!

wego… what?

Sometime in July 2000 I found myself not wearing any shoes for a few weeks; a mere 25 years of age and still in many ways behaving like someone ten years younger still.

I’d been drifting around south east Asia and was happily washed up on the Shores of Bottle Beach, Kho Phangan, Thailand.

I got stuck.

It was, after all, pretty nice.


Each morning I would wake up thinking, “I really must leave this beach, my visa is going to run out and I’m sure I should explore more”.

Each day at sunset, I would slunk down in my hammock and listen to the sounds of the waves crashing on the shore in perfect stereophonic sound…


Bottle Beach is only accessible by boat, meaning it had remained pretty isolated compared to other beaches. Every day, a long-tail boat would arrive carrying new arrivals and also picking up day trippers from the beach who needed to head to the local town of Chaloklum for supplies.

As I was barely getting myself together each day, the most energetic of these boat men would run up and down the beach front shouting “CHALOKLUM, CHALOKLUM, WE-GO-NOW…. YES YES WEGONOWWWWWWW!!!”

I liked him. He was a man of action. He had a deadline. He was going places and he was going places now and we’d better all be on the god damn boat now if we wanted to get anywhere today…

…except I was never on the boat. I was having breakfast.

But the imminence and power of his energy and his demand for collective action stayed with me. It became something I mused on for years after I (eventually) left the beach. I took on “wegonow” as the prefix to every personal email address I could from that day onwards and its resonance has never left me.

I was hooked on the idea of ‘wegonow’ – it became symbolic not only of a time I felt really relaxed, but also of a time when I felt anything could happen (and it frequently did!). The word became more than a reference to a sun kissed travelling memory. It became something along the lines of:

we = collective

go = movement / action / direction

now = imminent / happening

And that, my friends, is all there is to it.


N.B. …that’s all there is to it except that this particular escapade on Bottle Beach was where I first ran into this man; who, while I haven’t seen him for several years, remains someone I consider to have been something of an inspiration and key influencer on my journey into the world of management. Although don’t tell him I said so.

Empathy Mapping

Recently at work I’ve been progressing at a full on pace with a programme and multiple projects, some of which I’m involved in, some of which I just need to be involved enough in to keep up with what’s going on.

Success (if that can ever be truly measured…) depends on a whole crate of plates being spun; a whole flock of ducks being lined up; way too many flags being flown up a multitude of expectant flagpoles, and an enormous field full of tents being pitched… the mind boggles.

And to get through the boggling, I have been doing lots of stakeholder analysis. Quite frankly, it’s not a job I enjoy. So far I have a list of over 130 named stakeholders and ten or so email circulation lists which I need in order to communicate effectively [anyone who has been following my #noemail series of posts will recognise the sarcasm and deep irony I’m holding in that last sentence].

Every time something shifts in the cosmos with a stakeholder I have a pang of anxiety that I probably need to update my Stakeholder Analysis tool. It’s important for me not to treat it as a diversion or procrastination, so I make sure I’m not in there more than once every few weeks, otherwise it gets overwhelming. The intent is for a check in only, once in a while. There’s an element of self management going on there though!


I say I don’t enjoy it, but I have to admit how useful it has been. I’m not just putting people in boxes like the diagram above, but also rating how my relationship is with that individual or group at the current time. This points to what action I need to take and is useful in highlighting trends and issues with particular communities of people.

I notice I’m more resistant to talking to some people I know less well and feel less confident with and so the exercise is a good prompt for me to pick up the phone, drop by someone’s office for a face to face or arrange a meeting. So something that recently helped was when a colleague pointed me toward the idea of Empathy Mapping.

Empathy Mapping takes the process of Stakeholder Analysis even further and more helpfully gets me into the mindset of the people I’m trying to work with or ‘get on board’ [the bus, or the boat, or the flock of seagulls or whatever…].

I haven’t Empathy Mapped all 130 people I’m working with, but where I don’t know someone too well, the process has opened up new thinking for me and helped me prepare for phone calls, communications and meetings. In essence this is prompting me to think about what someone else is Thinking, Feeling, Seeing, Hearing and Saying in relation to the work I’m doing. It’s a more humanistic approach the stakeholder analysis… and I like it.


Predictive Text Poetry #1

iPhone 5s predictive text mode. I started with the word “never” and then just kept pressing the centre option. Weird. 

Never thought I’d say it was the best of the day before I get a follow back on my way home from work

to be the first half of the day before I get a follow back on my way home from work

to be the first half of the first half an inch and the other hand is the only thing that would have to go back

and I don’t think that I have a great way of life and the other hand is the only thing that would have to go back

and the first half of the first half an inch and the first half of the day I have a great way of life

and I don’t think that I can get it right away with the same thing

that would have to be a great day for the next few weeks of a new phone case 

you want me too

I don’t know how much you mean to be the best.