Question: When is a customer-led organisation not a Customer led organisation?
Answer: When that customer-led organisation is London Underground Ltd!
Just over a month has elapsed since the new Shorter Working Week rosters were imposed on / accepted by (depending on your point of view) the majority of the 44 groups of stations on London Underground.
One of the consequences resulting from the implementation of these new rosters has been greatly reduced Ticket Office window opening times especially at stations outside zones 1&2.
These times were apparently based on and dictated by “Business Needs” whatever LUL deems that to be. In short, LUL are sticking two fingers up at both customers and staff.
A prime example of these new Ticket office opening times are on stations located in the leafy suburbs of the North end of the Metropolitan Line.
The outcome of the new rosters has been a reduction in full time rostered and reserve SAMF staff, more part time rostered and reserve SAMF staff (positions which are difficult to fill) and ludicrous ticket office opening times which are not customer- or even sometimes staff friendly!
Ticket Offices opening times for some of these stations means that on a Monday to Friday they are shut after 10.30 am for the rest of the day (small insufficient concession of opening for a couple of hours in the afternoon has been given to some stations but this is a pointless exercise). Some Ticket Offices close during the day then reopen for a few hours and then are closed again after 7pm and at weekends some Ticket Offices are only open for a minimum of two hours and some don’t even open at all!
Staff have been told that these opening times are set in stone by the powers that be from the Dark Tower of 55 Broadway and must be strictly adhered to.
Customers are expected to do the following: use the ticket machines, adjust their purchasing patterns by travelling when Ticket Offices are open, use alternative outlets ie. newsagents, the internet etc or perhaps they could just stay at home (the last was made up and could be put down to flippancy!).
Now the North end of the Metropolitan Line is unique for many reasons and one of these reasons is the fact that Ticket Offices from stations Rickmansworth to Amersham sell a lot of concessionary tickets for Railcard holders which cannot be purchased from ticket machines or are compatiable with the wondrous Oyster card system!!
So London Underground has managed to alienate part of its customer base already and obviously this hasn’t gone down too well with them. Fortunately the customer-orientated staff have kindly been giving out Customer Services number and encouraging customers to complain. Bravo!
To add to this farce, stations have Ticket Office qualified staff sitting in Ticket Offices when they are closed (for personal safety reasons) having to tell customers that they have to purchase their tickets from the Passenger Operated machines because they are forbidden to sell tickets outside the designated opening times! You couldn’t script this better if you tried.
Obviously, irate customers need somebody to get irate with. Mmmmm, we wonder who that might be? Yes the good old frontline station staff as usual.
Logic dictates that if you can’t always buy your ticket at the start of your journey then you’ll expect to be able to buy it at the end of your journey with no problems? Wrong! Central London Ticket Offices especially Fare paid windows are being inundated with customers who can’t get their tickets from where they have travelled from so this means queues at busy stations.
However because SAMF jobs have been reduced even in Central London because of the rosters, overtime is being given out to cope with the queues!!!
So this must surely mean that stations don’t have sufficient staff on the rosters to cope and that SAMFs are still needed?
Well perhaps it can be concluded that these rosters, and these Ticket Office opening times, are neither customer- or staff friendly and anybody who believes that they are should try working them or seek help.
Things must change for the better but the only way to do that is by standing up to management and being prepared to fight for it.