20/03/17: Datford, An Oxymoronic Reply

It has become almost commonplace on Southeastern trains for there to be delays, cancellations and stress involved with any simple journey. Every now and again, the great train gods decide that this just isn’t enough suffering, exploding pandemonium unto us. This was the case on 28th February, when not only were the trains outrageously fudged, but I experienced some of the WORST customer service of my life. I decided that enough was enough, and a complaint email (very long, very sarcastic and very detailed) was sent to Southeastern. I assumed my rant would go unanswered, until today. 

My full complaint can be found below:


For such a detailed reply, I am surprised at just how little Southeastern actually managed to say. If I’m honest, I can’t say I’m surprised at the astronomic levels of BS contained (see my comments in red): 

Dear Train Traveller,

Thank you for your webform dated 28 February regarding your recent disrupted journey.

I’m very sorry your train from London Charing Cross to Datford was disrupted recently. I understand how frustrating it is when your journey doesn’t go to plan for reasons outside of your control, and I’m sorry for the inconvenience this must have caused you.

I’m not surprised my train from Charing Cross to DATFORD was disrupted, considering DATFORD doesn’t exist. Spelling clearly isn’t your strong point. Please also notice the excessive use of the word sorry, without any attempt to offer something to make me feel better. 

I’m really sorry you felt our colleagues at London Charing Cross station were rude and unhelpful during this time, and that you feel they acted in an unprofessional manner. I can appreciate why you’ve taken the time to contact us.  We expect all of our employees to be polite and helpful at all times. As such, we realise passengers will feel let down when expectations of good customer service haven’t been met and we’ll always try to correct this where possible.

So you’re telling me that you expect good performances from your staff. Well, is that not obvious? Ok, so you have acknowledged your mistake and have suggested you’ll correct it. This is good, let’s see what they say…

It seems from your comments that on this occasion we failed to give you the level of service that we would expect.  Therefore, I’ve made sure the station manager, Edward Winter, is aware of your experience. They’ll address the issues you’ve kindly taken the time to highlight as it’s really important these issues are sorted as soon as possible. We regularly run employee development courses, as we want our employees to be able to carry out their jobs to the best of their abilities, so in turn, our passengers can receive the best possible service. So again, I’m disappointed your experience didn’t reflect this.

Well clearly your ’employee development courses’ aren’t very good if the general attitude of your staff is that of arrogance, un-helpfulness and disdain. Great, so Edward Winter is aware is he? What does that mean? Does that mean you’ll mention it in passing? 

Wait, THEY will address the issues? Is Edward Winter more than one person? Is Edward Winter in fact a Gollum-esque character?  Is there an army of Winters acting under the banner of Edward Winter? Is Southeastern in fact just the cover name for the collective Edward Winter? Winter is coming… 

I appreciate that you want to know what action will be taken. However, we must respect employee confidentiality and the Data Protection Act. So I won’t be able to disclose any information, but please be assured there will be a full investigation.

Well it’s nice to know you at least understand my need for an explanation. And yet now you have basically told me you aren’t going to tell me anything. Will I get to see the results of this investigation? Or will I be left out in the cold, much like I am when I am waiting for your POXY delayed trains to arrive? 

I’m also disappointed there was a lack of information given to you during these disruption’s, and I can appreciate how frustrating this must have been.

I GET IT. The levels of appreciation you have in my frustration is evident. It’s a shame that appreciation doesn’t bring results. That’s all we need to bring governmental change, just for them to APPRECIATE our cause. Forget actually making the effort to change anything. As long as they FRIGGIN APPRECIATE our woes, then everyone is happy. Well, based on your backward logic anyway. 

We recognise how important it is to provide you with up-to-date information, especially when there’s disruption or other changes to the timetable. As part of our new franchise, we’re providing our frontline teams – including our drivers – with the latest in tablet technology to help them give accurate and timely information and advice.

‘The latest in tablet technology’? It is nothing more than an iPad with the train times on. You realise that all of us can access that, and we don’t have to be dressed up in a fancy blue coat to read it. What we actually need is information about what your company, that supposedly cares about our well-being is going to do to help us out. 

As well as this, we’ve brought our Twitter feed (@SE_Railway) into our control centre 24 hours a day and have launched our own mobile app – onTrack. We’re also introducing more information screens at stations to make sure information is where our passengers need it. We’ve also improved the information available before you reach the station, to make sure we can give as much warning as possible when there’s disruption. You can sign up for email alerts at http://www.southeasternrailway.co.uk/your-journey/email-alerts/, or get direct messages via SMS and Twitter from http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/alerts.

You mean your Twitter that provides bland, unhelpful answers, or none at all? The app that is extremely hard to use if you are travelling outside your normal route? And the fact that all your alerts never really do tell us the full story. 

We know there’s always room for improvement when it comes to giving out information, so I can assure you that your feedback has been taken seriously. I’ve made sure your comments have been passed to our Passenger Information Manager / Station/Driver Manager. They’ll take action to help improve the flow of information to our passengers.

Take action? What action. Don’t build me up then leave me hanging! 

We’re committed to improving this aspect of our service over the coming months and I hope you’ll notice this.  Thank you for bringing these matters to our attention. I hope you’ll experience better customer service from our employees in the future.  Thank you for taking the time to contact us.

Yours sincerely

Customer Service Team

Edward Winter is coming…


“Thank you for bringing these matters to our attention. Thank you for taking the time to contact us”

That really does just sum it all up really doesn’t it. All this clearly has achieved is to give the staff at Southeastern something to laugh at in their management offices. They go on to say that they hope I will experience better customer service. Can you blame me if I say that this is rather hard to believe? All you have done is acknowledged that I am not happy. 

In the many, many paragraphs no solution or worthwhile explanation has been offered. In fact, I do wonder which orifice they pulled this explanation from. Did they find their massive dictionary of bland, vacuous, complaint response phrases to assist in writing this? They thank me for taking the time to contact them, while having not taken the time to give me a genuine response where they outline exactly how to prevent the issues I faced from happening again.

It’s almost impressive just how many words they managed to write without actually saying anything at all.

Southeastern really are the ultimate oxymoron. Dense yet vacuous.

I wonder if anything will change, like the letter seemed to imply. But don’t worry guys, they have UNDERSTOOD and APPRECIATED how annoyed I am. Now I can rest easy in my bed knowing that someone sat in the Southeastern complaints office understands that delays are frustrating.

In the mean time, I’m going to get on my train to EFFIN DATFORD.



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