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Virgin’s multichannel misery

Speaking of Virgin Trains, I was subjected to
an encounter with multichannel misery today which, although unrelated to banks,
is worth recounting as we can always learn from good and bad service stories.


Virgin offers a train ticket that is cheaper
if you book and prepay and print at home, than if you book and prepay and
pickup at the station. So I booked this for my journey today and tried to print
off the tickets last night.


Unfortunately, it was not possible as the
internet site came up with a message: “Sorry we are unable to show your ticket.
Please call the call center for further information."

I tried to print off the ticket again this morning and got the same message, so
I called the call center.

The department that deals with prepaid internet booking ticket details are
based in Mumbai and, sure enough, the call center was closed due to the
terrorist attacks there, with no backup.

Finally, I arrive at the station and tell them of my predicament.

“Sorry sir, but we cannot deal with this here. You have to preprint your ticket
or you cannot go on the train”, came the answer.

“But I can’t”, I say.

“Well find a hotspot and printer and try again”, came the response.

Admittedly, this was the British Rail ticket office talking, not the Virgin
Trains representatives.

Also, with only 10 minutes left until the
train was leaving, I thought “forget that” and walked to the Gate, where I was
met by a swathe of ticket inspectors, all wearing Virgin Trains coats and

I showed my printed receipt for the journey, and had two interesting responses.

The first chap says, “You can’t catch this train”.

The other one says, “Let me see what I can do”.

Both work for Virgin, according to their livery, and so I was perplexed why one
was being awkward and the other was not.

To make matters even more confusing, the first one says: “whatever, you can’t
go in First Class, as you pre-booked. You’re now in Standard Class.”

The other one says, “Follow me”, and calls the first guy a jerk.

The second one sticks me in my seat, H8, and says, “Don’t worry, this is
happening all the time. Ever since they started issuing these prepaid, preprint
tickets we’ve had problems and you should have seen what happened when they
introduced mobile text tickets. What a mess.”


I’m warming to this guy.


“Anyway, I’ve cleared it with the guard and
you’re all set to go. Enjoy your journey sir, and have a nice day.”


I was thrilled.


The fact is that I had pre-paid around $300
for a First Class return ticket and had my identification, the card used to
make the booking, as well as a receipt to prove it.


The fact that Virgin Train’s internet service
was not working and their call centre was down, along with the station owners
and ticket inspectors being mainly British Rail rather than Virgin staff,
compounded an issue to create a multichannel nightmare.


Then the distinct and extremely different
policies of two individuals on the gate, just go to show how one empowered
staff member who takes the initiative can create a far warmer customer
experience than any amount of procedures and protocols could ever create.


So simple and yet so often forgotten.


The fact that he put me on the wrong train,
and I ended up in Birmingham instead of Manchester, just added to my



About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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