On Transport for London not leading by example in customer service excellence

Following with the repertoire of customer services from hell, I would like to share with you the best Transport for London (TFL) could come up with to answer to my complaint of deficient service from one of their operators.

If you’ve ever been to London, you must have noticed those red bullets racing up and down bus lanes like petrol maniacs (or solid line of double-decker buses in any high street). Especially scary if you are on the bus, but particularly annoying if you are trying to hail one down at a stop in the middle of a straight road.

In this particular case, the 36 driver flew by the stop and after doubting, he stopped 30 metres away. When I run up to it, he sped off and left me there, I could just glimpse part of the bus’s licence number. So far, nothing out of this world. Anybody who has spent long enough in London knows how stressful it can be, and bus drivers are not exactly a customer friendly crowd (save exceptions).

To put things into perspective, bus lines are subcontracted to operators who must keep a minimum standard, and what else? Oh yeah, make sure they take customers from A to B.

So here I am, 10pm and the guy driving the 36 doesn’t stop, stops, and goes without letting me in.

As anybody who has been in such a situation knows too well, anger runs through your veins, and you might end up throwing in rage your mobile to the bus… as a friend of mine once cleverly did.

I pulled my BlakBerry and started writing a complaint email with little hope of getting any practical answer other than not getting mad with no reason at the driver of the next bus. I detailed exact bus stop, time, bus, direction and as much of the number plate as I could see LX54 LAD as he was driving away (obviously not correct).

But today I received the following answer TFL’s Customer Services Department:

“Dear Calvin,

Thank you for your email to London Buses, regarding a reported incident with a route 36 bus driver, on 30 May 2008.

Unfortunately, with the information received, we are unable to trace the member of staff involved in your complaint. You state that the registration number was LX54 LAD but we do not have a bus with the aforementioned plate number.

In order for us to positively identify the bus and driver, it is imperative that you provide the running number of the bus and a description of the driver. This running number is found on a yellow plate on the side of the vehicle.

If you can provide us with the requested information, we would be happy to further investigate this case for you.

Kind regards,

Call me stupid, but to me it shouldn’t be that difficult to find out who was driving that bus regardless of knowing or not the “running number”. The fact that “it is imperative that [I] provide the running number of the bus and a description of the driver” when a bus is speeding away from me, sounds a bit ridiculous.

Is this just a lazy assistant? Or even worse, is just that the whole TFL Customer Service department is built on absurdity and uselessness? Perhaps a Pinochet-style allocation of lines (to friends, family and next of kin, as in bus packed Santiago de Chile) that needs a useless and inefficient TFL?

You know, you pay peanuts, you get monkeys… hang on a second! ₤2 for a single doesn’t sound like peanuts to me!

As they prompt on their site, I am unsatisfied with their reply, so I am going to contact the London TravelWatch “an independent watchdog body set up by Parliament to represent users interests”. Scary.



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