Before I start, and because some people don’t read my twitter description, or a website’s about page:
These are my own personal views, and do not necessarily reflect the views of any organisation or company that I am involved in, including but not limited to: Dartford Rail Travellers’ Association, and the Southeastern Railway Action Group
As could be seen from my rant on Twitter a few nights ago about Southeastern’s Public Affairs Manager.
And I think that rant is justified.
And I’ll do my best to justify it in this post.
Thinking about it over the last few days, the thing that is wrong is that the culture of ‘somebody elses fault’ seems to pervading all corners of Southeastern.
In the past, the twitter team have put the blame on Network Rail for problems, whilst forgetting that we have our contract with Southeastern. This is something that went on for ages before many of us (including me) called them out on it.
And more recently the National Rail Enquiries debacle (where I was told to delete my alerts since they won’t work) has shown the lack of care from Southeastern to provide decent communication
From their ‘Customer and Stakeholder Engagement’ doc:
The customer experience is getting worse: by outsourcing the important pieces of customer communication the quality has deteriorated throughout 2015
Where do I start?
I considered writing about all the fob-offs, and lack of responses that we’ve not had via Dartford Rail Travellers’ Association.
But I won’t.
I’ll cover that the issues that have bugged me for most of January: the PPM posters - and the subsequent heating issue
A friendly email
I like the PPM figures. I record them in a spreadsheet. I use them for rail users to see how bad their services have been. Or good, there’s been times where Southeastern have performed above their target. I’ve put them all here on the new group
So, when I saw the Period 9 poster at Charing Cross at the start of the year, I took a photo so that I can update my spreadsheet over lunch.
The posters don’t contain targets, just results, however I figured it’d be useful to see the change form the last 4 weeks.
Then I realised that they were exactly the same…and reported via twitter.
I duly reported it to ^MG - though since Southeastern replied at 1433 I had to find a moment to quickly let MG know.
After all, I saw it as being helpful to them to point out the error so it could be quickly addressed
So I sent this:
Quick one that I spotted a few hours ago - the Period 9 poster I saw in Charing Cross seems to have the line results from Period 8 - or…performance was exactly the same for both periods.
Are you aware of this, and will the posters be corrected? Also looking forward to them appearing on the site.
I have a lot of other things to follow up on too which I’ll try and get on with soon!
And in response:
And a happy new year.
I’ve asked the marketing team to check and amend as necessary.
Thanks for the heads up.
“And a happy new year.”
Yeah I didn’t wish him a happy new year, I rarely did at the start of this year, less than ever (but not something I’m going to cover on here).
And the email was written hastily so I could help Southastern fix the problem.
There was no need for that comment. That’s a surefire way to get get on the wrong side of me.
First article on this
So I wrote this: PPM Posters - what can you trust? to draw attention to the issue.
To make sure it got a wider audience.
And I then continued to tweet about this over the coming days.
There’s absolutely no way that it could be right? As I proved in future posts using maths…
A response - 8 days later
We finally got an email entitled:
Dear Phil and Mike
Regarding your recent tweets,performance figures are independently audited and we are satisfied they are accurate.
As always the performance and twitter teams would be happy to meet you to discuss your concerns in detail.
Please contact me via email or on REDACTED to arrange a mutually convenient date and time.
8 days to say that they are satisifed that their posters were accurate.
A pretty ballsy claim, but hey, their Public Affairs guy is saying it, it must be true, mustn’t it?
Sadly I begged to differ, and wrote this post, with a challenge that if I was proven wrong I’d donate a sum of money to charity:
And yes, I was angry when I wrote it.
It was a typical fob off, with the usual request for a meeting to discuss concerns in detail.
I thought they were pretty clear.
So it bugged me.
It bugged me a lot.
There’s no way these figures can be correct…but they’ve been independently audited?
In response to that post, the next day I received this:
Thanks for your email.
The best way forward would be for you to meet with us to discuss this in more detail. Please contact ^JT with details of your availability and we’ll make the necessary arrangements.
Again, why a meeting? Southeatern know both myself and Mike Pellatt are in full time jobs, and that it’s hard to find time for a meeting.
And the problem is pretty clear: the Period 9 posters had the Period 8 stats, and there’s no way they could be correct.
So Mike (Pellatt) asked for the stats so we could scrutinise them.
It was still bugging me.
Those close to me will know how much it was bugging me.
And how annoyed I was getting at the fob offs about this.
Late on Saturday I remembered the ‘on board’ newsletter. If that had the split by metro/mainline/HS1 then through simultaneous equations it should be easy to figure out the rought distribution and calculate if the poster could be accurate.
It was late, I went to bed.
On Sunday, even before my morning coffee, I threw the numbers into Excel and figured out the best-fit split…there’s no way the posters could be correct.
So one last ditch effort…I mailed this to those on the email distribution chain
I agree with what Mike Pellatt has written - is it possible to provide the raw stats as to how this has been calculated?
I have been unable to, with all the stats available in the public domain, managed to find any way that the ‘Period 9’ poster can add up. Well, I have, but that’s to count HS1 as -20% of the total average, but…as we all know, that is very unrealistic.
I don’t think that deferring to a meeting is appropriate in this instance, as right now this won’t likely happen until sometime in February for me.
So as I agree with MikeP in his suggestion, the official DRTA line is: please provide us the stats to show how this has been calculated, or the results of the audit that you stand by?
I also did something I didn’t want to have to do, since this was originally such a trivial matter and a simple mistake, and emailed MD David Statham to make him aware of the issue, and to let my feelings known to him that I felt we were being fobbed off.
And lo and behold, an hour later, an apology.
Whether or not this was through David’s intervention, I guess I’ll never know
The heat is on: #stoptheroasting
And it was.
People complained about it a lot.
And I was asked where the readings were taken, so these were clearly communicated via twitter.
As well as a little science experiment I made with a home heater (with similar heat levels and characteristics to the readings I got from the Southeastern train) and demonstrated the effects of that kind of heat on a bottle of water.
And an issue that has been raised by many people over the last few years.
I tweeted a lot about the heating problem…it is a problem. So many people have complained…
And then this:
I am disappointed by the personal tone of your tweets. They reflect negatively on you, and by association the Dartford Rail Travellers Association. If you have an issue with me, or indeed any of my colleagues do join me for a drink or a coffee after work to let me know what your problem is.
Southeastern welcomes a constructive dialogue with stakeholders, but finds this constant sniping a little sad.
Remember that disclaimer above?
If tweets come from my personal account they do not necessarily reflect the views of any other organisation.
And he needs to realise why there is ‘constant sniping’.
It’s because of the constant fob offs
They are frustrating.
They don’t get anywhere.
They delay the process.
They get people angry.
THAT is why I’m angry.
And it is a little sad that Southeastern as a company finds frustrated customers and stakeholders ‘a little sad’. And not really the best tone of voice to communicate and engage with your customers and stakeholders.
Could it have been handled better?
Of course it could.
Engage with customers.
Engage with stakeholders.
I fall into both categories.
When a problem has been raised, investigate it, don’t fob off the person who reported it.
Don’t have that snarky attitude on emails. That only annoys people.
Work with those who contact you, who want to help improve the services that long suffering rail users have to deal with daily.
Stop asking for meetings for simple issues that can be addressed on emails.
Answer the questions that are outstanding, and don’t fob that off to a meeting - it’s very easy in any email client to see the small amount of emails I’ve sent to Southeastern and which haven’t been answered.
Engage. Don’t belittle. Don’t fob off.