How a simple look can ruin your customers’ day.

Isn’t it funny how just a look or someone’s tone of voice can affect your feelings towards them?

Have you ever considered how your staffs’ tone of voice or body language is affecting your customers’ feelings towards your business?

A few weeks ago I went to Oxford by train from High Wycombe which meant buying a ticket from Chiltern Railways who run the rail franchise and staff the High Wycombe station. I used a machine and as the train was just arriving at the platform I grabbed said ticket, went through the barrier and then straight onto the train. Feeling rather pleased with myself I sat down as the doors closed and looked at my ticket, only to see that it said 1 of 2 in the corner and I was only holding 1 ticket.

I had picked up my outbound ticket but not the one for my homeward journey. There wasn’t much I could do so I settled down for the short journey and thought someone at Oxford station would be able to tell me what to do.

It turns out that Great Western Railway (GWR) staff Oxford station. I didn’t think this would matter as the ticket was a return to Oxford from High Wycombe and it isn’t relevant to the customer who runs the station surely? Anyway I was confident that whoever was on the barrier would be able to help or advise me.

On arrival I waited for the crowd to go through the barrier and then explained to the member of staff on the ticket barrier what had happened He looked at me and honestly said “Well I can’t help you, we’re not Chiltern”. His tone of voice was “sulky” and his body language implied that he didn’t care.

After making it obvious that this was as helpful as he planned to be I asked if I could speak to someone else and he directed me to the information desk. Sadly on finding the desk there was a sign saying that if I wanted to talk to someone I needed to go to the ticket barrier!

I returned to the ticket barrier, to one of 3 other gentlemen who were standing around, and repeated my story asking if he could help me or suggest what I do. He suggested that I walk back to the platform where the Chiltern line comes in to see if I could find a member of Chiltern staff as it was Chiltern who had sold me my return.

When I said I didn’t see how that would help he raised his shoulders to shrug and said “well I can’t help then” and “you need to buy a single to get a train home.”

Not only was he (like the previous gentleman I spoke to) keen to explain that it wasn’t his fault and therefore not his problem but he was rude with it … implying from his behaviour and tone of voice that I was an irritation and rather stupid.

I finally went to the ticket office to ask them what I should do and this gentleman was really pleasant. Despite telling me much the same, in that I needed to buy a single ticket and speak to someone at the station where the machine I had bought the ticket from was, he appeared helpful. Why? He took time to explain my options and spoke to me as if losing your return ticket before leaving in the first place was a perfectly sensible thing to do!

The result was the same but I felt ENTIRELY different.

All the gentlemen at the barrier had to do was take the time to actually listen and accept that although it wasn’t their fault it was their problem to help me solve! A change of tone as they said there was nothing they could do would have made a huge difference.

On my way home I bought my single ticket and on returning to High Wycombe the station staff couldn’t have been more helpful … and I got my money back it transpired that the machine had been faulty earlier.

Both of the first two men I met showed me that I was a nuisance just by their tone of voice and body language and my impression of GWR has been marred by the behaviour. As a visitor to the city my trip was that little less impressive. And in a city where thousands of tourists visit every year, I for one would rather people didn’t leave the country thinking gentlemen like that were “typical of us Brits”!

So I come back to my original question … Have you ever considered how your staff’s tone of voice or body language is affecting your customer’s feelings towards your business? Are your staff representing you, your business or even our country well enough?

If you think your staff might not be responding to distressed customers well or presenting the image of your company that you want and would like to know more about our training or mystery tours then click here. And if you contact me, we can arrange a meeting; I’ll buy you a coffee and we can see if our approach would suit you.


One Response to How a simple look can ruin your customers’ day.

  1. Crispin Avon 29th November 2018 at 3:17 pm #

    The problem is that barrier line railway staff are border guards as much as customer service officials. They have to deal with abusive and sometimes violent people who believe that they don’t have to pay for a ticket to travel by train.
    I’ve often found that ticket office staff are the most helpful, as they are usually protected by glass and can not be spat on by the public, which seems to put them in a better frame of mind. The best situation would be for CR to have a sales office at Oxford station to promote their tickets and help their customers!

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