May 9th, 2013 by matthias

A couple of months ago I wanted to go to Germany for my father’s birthday. Everything was booked well in advance – including travel to the airport with EasyBus. It was pouring with rain, and and tourists huddled into the sparse shelter available. The bus departure time came and went – no EasyBus. To cut a long story short: the bus never came (although we saw plenty of their orange buses pass), and people were getting anxious. Many of them spoke only little English and had used EasyBus as the cheapest ride out of town. We were using our phones to try to get through to the customer service hotline (which probably is ringing away in some dilapidated warehouse near Ipswich), checked for travel updates on our smartphones. All to no avail. As the local boy, I decided to coordinate the alternative travel arrangements: tell others where to get cash for the other providers on the route, check their timetables, and finally negotiate with their drivers over the few non-booked seats on their services. I gave up a free space to a Spanish tourist who was getting desperate. It went so far that people thought that I was sent from EasyBus to coordinate some kind of relief effort – which I swiftly put right (mostly for fear of getting lynched), and clarifying that there was no support from EasyBus. In the end, I made it to the airport via train (making this the most expensive ride to the airport ever). Of course I lodged a complaint via their portal (no response), I tried to call (the empty warehouse again), posted on their Facebook page (filled with complaints that get deleted – so at least someone’s doing some work at EasyBus central) and tweeted them. As you expect – nothing, zilch, nada. I stuck with social media for a while, and besides getting an apology from an heroic driver (who did more for the company than anyone else – but mostly because he doesn’t want to be abused by the constantly angry and stressed passengers he has to pick up due to cancelled previous services). I intend to hang along for a while (just to see if there’s ever any reaction) – and yes, I’m looking into trade standards – but I’m aware that the company policy seems to be one of ignoring the customer. Many would say ‘you get what you pay’ – and that’s an entirely unfair point to raise: if a service is promised for a price, then you deliver the service. If the price is not enough to deliver the service, don’t offer it. I’ve used the service before, and it never sucked – until it did. Now where’s my lesson in this – except for ‘Don’t use EasyBus’?l The lesson is that some service providers ignore their customers. They may feel strong enough to do so (treating tourists badly seems like a good prospect given that they’re often not hanging around to annoy you later with their complaints). But in a world more and more driven by social media, the smallest infraction does get noted, and will in the long-term bite you in the backside. A point of note: EasyJet doesn’t partner with their other orange family member anymore and have partnered up with National Express – too many complaints maybe? There are not many people who hold a persistent grudge as long as I did – and then tell about 2000 people about it (as I just did), and then tell their marketing lecturer friends about it, who then use it in their lectures about customer relationship management… I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point of ever getting to Dave Caroll with his excellent complaint song ‘United breaks guitars’ (see below) – but I can always try. And yes – that’s also why I take client complaints and requests seriously – and justify unpopular decisions to them in person. So one things become clear to me – while EasyBus sucks, I’m committed to make my service work better. Can we always deliver? Probably not, but we can try, and we can make sure we tell people about it, so no one ends up standing in the rain.

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