We talk a lot here about how you should treat your customers. On my way home from work Monday night, Halloween, I was reminded both how important that is, and how some companies get it wrong. There is one really, really bad customer experience I go through regularly, and it’s my commute home on SEPTA Regional Rail.
SEPTA is the public transportation company that covers the greater Philadelphia area. For the past 9 years, I’ve spent about 2 hours a day riding it’s Philadelphia-to-Trenton line to and from work.
So on Halloween night, Monday, I was standing on the train platform trying to catch a slightly early train home. The train comes — already a bit late — and we all get on. I put on some headphones, start listening to music, try to get enough connectivity to check my email … Train doesn’t move. A few minutes later a voice comes over the speakers and tells us there’s a crew change, we all have to get off the train.
Once we’re on the platform, a different voice comes over the platform speakers. And with all the sympathy of a prison warden canceling the inmates’ movie night, it says “the 5:59 Trenton train is canceled.” We get no other information.
The tone of the voice makes it clear they know we’re going to be upset, and the speaker doesn’t want to hear it. (After all, it’s been a hard night for our monolithic transportation agency, we really shouldn’t burden them with our pitiful riders’ concerns, should we?)
There’s another train coming, but I’m not getting home early.
They announce this several more times. Finally the wording changes: “Due to a personnel shortage, the train is canceled.” The next train is at 6:24 PM, it’s running 10 minutes late itself, and they’re making it a local.
The Customer Experience Is Personal
This all means I’m going from trying to get home before 7, when some trick or treating might still be going on, to getting home after 8 when Halloween is essentially over.