|Passengers or Customers?
Traditional railmen describe train users as "passengers" and I've seen them be very unhapy indeed with talks / documents that describe them as customers. Surely it's just a word isn't is? Does it matter which word is used?
There is a - slight - technical difference between the terms. A customer is someone with whom there is a contract, so that a passenger who's travelling without a ticket and has no intention of paying is not a customer, and someone who buys a plaform ticket is, convesley, a customer but not a passenger. But this is fine tuning of the definitions.
Yes, it can matter. It can show a psyche - an attitude and a state of mind.
When I was on the local railway last (on Wednesday), I was both a customer and a passenger.
Three out of the four people I spoke with who were on railway business during the course of my 2-train journey spoke to me as a customer. They were polite, helpful, in one case chatty, and they made me glad that I chose the train. I regret that the fourth person made it very clear to me that he didn't want to be helpful. I was very obviously a nuisance to him, and he would have much preferred it if there had been an emtpy seat when I sat. IMHO, the cost of the smart new uniform he was wearing (he was the best presented of tht four) would have been better invested in giving him a short lesson in customer relations.
I like being a customer, and treated as such. But there's a minority - a sizable minority at times - of staff who treat the railway travellers in their care as, first and foremost, passengers. See this forum link.
If not my place to tell First what to do, but sometimes I feel I can offer constructive advise. They do have problems in certain areas with a high proportion of travellers without tickets, or so they say (has anyone seen an estimate of what proportion of journeys are made without the due payment?). And my constructive advise to them here is to identify their staff who don't understand how they should look after their customers, and train them better along those lines - reminding staff that the vast majority are paying, law adibing, people who pay their wages and want a pleasant experience. If they can't identify the staff in questions, then make sure EVERYONE knows.
Then, perhaps, we'll have a gentler approach to to problems caused by operational difficulties such as that reported at Reading, and no need to post up such stories on these boards for all to see.
Written 2007-02-24 07:08:17
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