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When technology doesn’t work (NB: I love technology)

Thursday last week was supposed to be a lovely day - spending it with my sister in Edinburgh and I set off from home (ridiculously) early in the morning with a skip in my step (despite the rain!). 

Technology fail 1: Arriving at Kings Cross my relaxed demeanour was quickly quashed. I’d booked my tickets using thetrainline.com’s iPhone app. Technology Win. East Coast’s website wasn’t working well on my phone that day so this was a good solution at the time. Unfortunately three months had passed since the booking and I had a new bank card, which the card machine couldn’t recognise. Technology fail. And I therefore couldn’t pick up my tickets and was told point blank by the (not very nice) lady at East Coast’s ticket office that the only thing I could do was buy a replacement ticket (my original ticket was £18.55, the replacement £151!).  I begged, I pleaded but in the end, what else could I do. I bought a replacement ticket and boarded the train.

The good customer service experience was thetrainline.com (who I had previously heard awful things about), who when their offices opened and I contacted them via Twitter, said they would refund me my money as a gesture of goodwill. So I got £18.55 back. Not great, but not bad. And this was ALL done through Twitter. It was impressive and quick. And for that I was very appreciative. The money is already in my bank. 

The bad customer service was East Coast, who couldn’t tell me whether they could give me any kind of refund on the £151, and that the only way to start a refund request was to speak to someone on the phone or email and wait 14 days for a response. Interestingly their Twitter is run by their comms team, not customer service, which in this circumstance I find rather odd - but that requires another post entirely. And to add to that the ticket office staff were awful. The guard was very lovely but sadly couldn’t help. 

The learning from this experience: don’t rely on technology, next time I will be having my tickets sent to me by good old-fashioned post or picking them up the day I book them. The other option of course is to have an incredible memory where you would know to carry around an expired bank card so that you could pick up your tickets… Would you? 

Technology fail 2: I have an iPad, which rather than using a laptop, I use when away from my desk to use email, internet, social networks and write some documents (via pages). Technology win. I love it. And it is light.  Technology win. It is equipped with wifi and 3G but the wifi on East Coast being pretty expensive I decided to opt for a 24 hour 3G top-up, which I knew I could then use when I got to Edinburgh. But my old bank card was registered on the page you access to top-up. So I needed to add a new card. To add a new card, you have to register an account and the password is sent to a PC connection manager (WTF??). I tweeted @threeuk and was told I just needed to download the app could then access everything. I replied, explaining I didn’t have an internet connection, so this wasn’t possible. And the conversation ended there. No reply. The next morning, I rang up and managed to get the top up added just fine - but again, by phone. Should we really have to? I ended up paying for East Coast’s expensive wifi, which as you can imagine made me very cross given my experience that day. 

The learning here: next time I will plan my internet access in advance, ensuring that when I step on that train I am connected and don’t have to rely on patchy phone lines or on the move top-ups. I had hoped we were past that. But we are not. So go prepared!

So, if you have read this far, you are probably thinking, what is my point. It is this: I LOVE technology and I love love love it when it works but I also expect a lot from it and when simple things like picking up tickets or doing a mobile top-up go wrong, it upsets me and makes me wonder how it can still be possible? Technology evolves at such a rate but yet the little things still go wrong and really they shouldn’t. I of course, take some blame. A good read of my ticket booking T&C’s, would have clearly told me I had to use the original card and I should have taken that literally to mean the actual, physical card. And with the Three fail, if I had thought about it advance I should also have changed my card details. But it jolts and ruins what should be easy experiences of using the amazing technology we have available. 

In my ideal world thetrainline.com’s app, would have included electronic tickets, that I would have just had to show. And with Three, I should just be able to add a new card simply and easily. The lack of an old, physical bank card shouldn’t really have made both these experience so difficult. Until the companies and people behind the services, which technology drives, think about every step of the customer journey we’ll still be doing giant leaps forward and then baby steps back.

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NB: I am planning a follow-up post on Twitter feeds and who should run them - a huge bone of contention I know. However having had several interesting experiences recently, I now know what my recommendation to enquiring clients would be. 

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