Metro-North’s Disconnect Between Communication and Customer Service

susan-young-headshotBy Susan Young, CEO,  Get in Front Communications, Inc.

No one likes to be ignored. Especially customers who give their hard-earned money to businesses in exchange for a product or service.

It seems that most organizations aren’t making the connection between communication and customer service.

When business communication is forthright and delivered in a timely way, organizations are building loyalty and trust, which impacts revenue and reputation. 

Consider this scenario: You go into the local bagel store for coffee, only to learn they are out of decaf. You’ve already had two cups of coffee and had your heart set on decaf. You innocently suggest to the young man working at the counter that he could buy a can of decaf at the huge supermarket located just two doors down in the same strip mall.

The employee response: I’m not allowed to do that because the supermarket’s decaf doesn’t taste the same as the product provided by the regular vendor.

Is it better to tell customers you have no decaf?

On Track Communication

Michael Shaw, a conductor on the busy Metro-North rail line that serves southern Connecticut and New York City, is one person who recently decided to take control of his communication and customer service.  

Last Friday, Shaw told riders at four stops on his route to wait 30 minutes for an express train. But Shaw, a conductor with Metro-North for 30 years, didn’t know that the backup train had been canceled.

When he learned of the mix up, Shaw composed a handwritten apology to passengers. According to NBC affiliate News 4 New York, Shaw made 500 copies of the note and left them on the seats of the train Monday morning.   

The letter was addressed to “our friends and passengers,” and went on to say, “I am as sick of apologizing to you as you are of hearing it.” (Editor’s note: Shaw is the president of the conductor’s union). 

In light of ongoing operation and safety problems plaguing Metro-North for the past year, passengers praised Shaw for his honesty and explanation.  

Not everyone is loving Shaw’s note.

In an e-mail to the media, Marjorie Anders, a spokeswoman for Metro-North, said the rail service shares Shaw’s concerns, but does “not condone his methods of communicating them.”

Was Shaw’s letter to customers a communications catastrophe or a communications coup?

 About the Author: Susan Young is an award-winning news, social media, PR, and communications professional with 26 years of experience.  Her new book, “The Badass Book of Social Media and Business Communication” [Kindle Edition] was recently released.  She works with organizations that want to use digital platforms to increase their visibility, credibility, and revenues. Susan’s company, Get in Front Communications, provides consulting and coaching on all things communication. Her latest accomplishment: Being named one of the ’75 Badass Women on Twitter.’(@sueyoungmedia) 

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