I continue writing about some recent examples of how not to communicate with your customers. These examples are from the for profit world but same principles apply to any communications. Today let’s talk about a letter I received from NS, one of the transport companies in Holland.
There are 2 main transport companies in the Netherlands – NS and GVB. NS is like National Rail in the UK, and GVB is like TFL (tube, buses, etc.). However this is where similarity ends. In the UK, the contactless transport card, Oyster, is accepted by National Rail using the TFL tap in/out stands, which makes sense – you don’t want to confuse the customers. In the Netherlands, however, this is not the case. In fact, both NS and GVB have their own stands which are located next to each other and look like this:
They look very similar, bar the logo, don’t they? Imagine you are a rushing commuter. Perhaps an expat or a tourist. Would you easily confuse one with another? So did I. I think it was at Amstel station. Now this is where it gets interesting. If you tap in/ out on the wrong stand, you get charged €20. I am not kidding. So much for punishing the customer for your wrongly designed process!
And I was wondering where my top ups were going. When I did this for the third time, I asked the transport clerk at the information desk and he advised me on the difference. I was asked to write a letter (!) (email not possible) to NS requesting a refund. Which I did. This is what I got back.
There are 2 problems with this letter which give away the fact that NS could not care less about me as a customer. No 1 – when did you last see a signature printed in this amateur way? They did not bother tidying up the background, using a more advanced graphic design software, or doing anything else to make it look slightly more authentic. Here, we will just slap a bad copy of this signature here, so you see that our top management in fact could not care less about you, dear customer.
No 2 – there were clearly more than 1 charge of €20 in that month on my statement, all at the same station. If NS were a customer centric organisation, like say Amazon, they would have spotted that and either refunded me for those times too or at least suggested the refund to me. Nope, NS just refunded me for one wrong charge.
I did not bother to write back to them, but I thought I’d blog about it, to show how to not do it.
Lesson 1. Do invest into proper signature copy, so it looks as authentic as possible and there is no background. Lesson 2. Do bother to check customer’s history to see if you can solve more than 1 problem that customer may or may not have spotted themselves. Lesson 3. Go several steps back. If you get a lot of refund letters (and I am sure NS do), what is wrong with the process? What is the root cause? In this case, the tap in/out stand is too close and similar to the one by another company causing confusion.