My family had a dreadful experience at the weekend at the hands of abusive National Express East Anglia staff at Liverpool Street, and an unhelpful colleague of theirs at Walthamstow Central. My reason for blogging about it isn't just to tell the story of their atrocious behaviour, but to also thank a member of London Underground staff who helped us out, and point out a great bit of user experience on the TFL website.
Because of a glitch in the Oystercard system, National Express East Anglia inspectors wouldn't let my wife through the ticket barriers at Liverpool Street after we travelled from Walthamstow Central. Rather than try to help her, they bullied and intimidated her into tears, leaving her stranded on the opposite side of the barrier to me and our 7 month old daughter. My wife ended up having to hand food over the ticket barrier so that I could feed Emma, whilst two aggressive guys crowded round her and insisted she travel back to Walthamstow to sort the problem out with staff there, otherwise they would call the police. Needless to say, when we were reunited and returned to Walthamstow, the National Express member of staff there said the problem was nothing to do with him, leaving our family day out ruined and my wife unable to travel.
Enter Claude from London Underground.
When we went to the Tube bit of Walthamstow Central, he couldn't have behaved more differently from the thuggery of the men at Liverpool Street.
Seeing that my wife was obviously still distressed, he left the ticket barrier to come to an Oyster machine to check the status of her card with her. He then opened up the closed ticket office so he could fix the issue with the card. He was so helpful, kind and sympathetic, and outraged that the National Rail bit of London's transport had behaved so badly.
On Monday I asked Twitter for suggestions of how I could get a thank you message to Claude. Obviously writing this blog post is one thing, and other people suggested sending letters to the Standard and the local paper, or to the station.
But TFL have made it easier than that.
The contact us section of their website has an option allowing you to 'Say thank you'
I think it is a lovely service design and user experience touch. It takes no effort to add it into the form, yet it has fulfilled a real user need for me. So thank you Claude, and thank you TFL for letting me send a message through.
As for National Express...obviously I've sent in a complaint about the way my wife was treated, but I don't see how we can get any kind of satisfactory result. As I put it at the end of my letter:
"I'm not interested in an apology. Our family day out was ruined and there is nothing you can do or say to put that right.
But I want to ask a question.
How can your corporate culture have gone so wrong that when faced with a glitch in the Oystercard system, three of your staff would rather bully and intimidate a young mother travelling with a 7 month old baby into tears, instead of trying to help her?"