Creating a Wow from an Ow!

Things will go wrong, so here's an example of how one company managed to create a great experience from a bad one.

Customers don't expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.

Donald Porter

I was traveling by train from London to Cardiff with my usual accompaniment of a small suitcase and computer rucksack. I jumped on board, found my reserved seat and settled myself in a table seat to enjoy my late lunch and check my phone for emails All good so far, but then it happened...I was suddenly unpleasantly surprised by a shower from above. I got up rather quickly as water continued to drop from the ceiling vent onto me, and the seat I'd been occupying. My first thought can be summed up in 3 letters...WTF (which we all know stands for, well that's fantastic!). OK, maybe I've cleaned it up a little, but you get the point.

I was in the quiet carriage which wasn't very busy. The woman sitting behind me, managed not to laugh, I suspect she realised she'd had a close call. As we both turned to look up the carriage, we saw a train manager aka guard. I beckoned him over to report the problem, whilst trying to dry out soggy tickets, a damp phone and wet trouser legs.

He came immediately and after getting a brief explanation of my predicament, he said, without hesitation, I'm so sorry, I'll find you another seat. Let me help you relocate your luggage. He directed me to the other end of the train, telling me he’d meet me the other side of the buffet car.

I wondered through all the carriages, still a little annoyed. It was only when I got to the appointed place that I realised I'd been sent to 1st class. I told the member of staff what had happened, and she showed me to a seat, offered me a coffee and asked if I was OK. A little later, the manager in first class came to check my ticket, and as he’d already been briefed by his colleague, he also apologised and checked if I needed anything.

Now, I’m not easily impressed, but this was an exception. The train crew had managed to turn a bad situation into a pleasant experience. Here's what they did that turned the OW to a WOW.

1. The manager listened with empathy and acted quickly to remove me from the problem with as little fuss as possible.

2. There was never a hint that the train staff thought I was being a nuisance, overreacting, or at fault. Which of course I wasn't, but it's astonishing how many times I've seen this attitude.

3. All 3 members of staff apologised and seemed genuinely to care.

4. There were no excuses, just positive action.

5. Both train managers followed up to make sure I was OK.

In fact, the whole situation was handled so well, the only thing I could say was thank you.

Well done GWR. A great example of how you can not only salvage an initially bad experience but create one that is memorable for the right reasons.

Learn more about how to create customer WOWs in my book Delivering Authentic Customer Experiences. Click here to check it out on Amazon