Communication (Let me Down…)

I bet Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet didn’t expect his song title to end up as the basis for a blog post on erratic bus services. So true…

The tittle-tattle in Stourbridge bus station is about how they’ve been stood waiting for the 9 for “over 20 minutes”  (frequency: every 7/8 mins). It’s a devil of a route. An hour’s ride into Brum, and anything & everything can delay it. The intending ladies are perusing the electronic display board, which is seemingly counting down 2 vehicles almost together. “They’ll probably turn up together”, huffs one. “More than likely”, replies the other. And then, right on cue, both appear. One after the other. Then a third appears. 

The first one disgorges it’s passengers, then there’s a driver changeover. Then it disappears. No words or explanation. The one directly behind looks more promising – until that one’s pilot presses a button, “Not in Service” appears, and an audible sigh is created in unison from the growing masses. The third of the trio has parked up around the rear of the bus station. 

Finally, one of the previous vehicles (with new driver) appears, and we’re off. 

This isn’t a typically uninformed rant about buses “running together in threes”. I understand entirely the challenges this route faces. I also appreciate running boards, driver hours, etc. But what I DO find frustrating is the age-old lack of communication with waiting passengers. 

NXWM had an Inspector lurking. He was sorting things out with the buses & drivers. No problem with that. There was also a Network West Midlands tabbarded Bus Station Manager, complete with clipboard in view. Again, I know his job isn’t to get involved in the minutiae of NX bus operation – but it’s what people see. Two officials, three buses, twenty minute gap in high-frequency service…and not a peep out of anybody. 

It underlines long-held negative views on bus travel. “They always come in twos & threes”…”they’re always late”…”no one tells you what’s going on”…

These feelings linger. Long time. For all the good things operators do, the side is often let down by lack of attention to detail on the very simplest of things. I know the general public can be trying at times, but all it would have taken in this instance would have been a ten-second “we’ll have a bus with you in the next couple of minutes – they’re being delayed by <whatever the issue is>. All the research shows that passengers feel much better about delays if they’re kept abreast of what’s going on. That’s rarely possible easily out on the route (unless you’ve got a smartphone and an effective Twitter team) but we can surely do better in bus stations, where there are human officials in possession of the facts. 

It’s not always the buses – it’s the communication that let’s us down. 

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One comment

  1. Ross · February 20

    Part of the problem is that as customers we expect standards that in general we simply don’t apply to ourselves, which is a tad hypocritical. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve seen moaning about poor customer service who I’ve then seen at work themselves offering poor customer service.

    That’s not to disagree with your point: communication in the transport industry is pretty atrocious at the best of times. It’s just that the rest of the retail/service world don’t seem to offer much in the way of examples to demonstrate what could and should be done. 😦

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