Eurostar: How Not to Treat Customers

Last Updated Jun 23, 2010 8:45 AM EDT

Ever have a situation when you felt like your concerns and complaints go in, but nothing comes out? I call that the customer service black hole.

A personal experience with Eurostar reminded me of its recent public failures. Four trains broke down just before Christmas. Then, less than three weeks later, another train got stuck in the tunnel. As for me, my experience will never make the front page of London's dailies.

The Background -- While planning a family holiday to Europe we wanted to do something out of the ordinary for our children. Rail service in Western Europe is both fast and glamorous compared to that in the States. So rather than traveling by plane, we spent extra on rail tickets to create a memorable experience.

The Problem - Because of an unexpected hospitalisation, my family had to cancel the entire trip. Which leads us to...

The Black hole - My inquiry to Eurostar asking about receiving credits for the money already spent was met with... silence. Not exactly silence. I did receive an automated response instructing me that there was no need to reply (not monitored) or re-submit the request since it had been received.

Clearly Eurostar ought to make changes to their customer service.
What immediate changes should Eurostar make to demonstrate commitment to customers?

  1. Be responsive -- If Eurostar is going to invite customers to address service concerns via email, they must have a process to respond. And no, the automated response telling customers that their email has been received is not good enough. A customer service representative must follow-up with the customer, even if their response isn't what the customer wants to hear.
  2. Set expectations -- Processing customer requests takes time. When the Eurostar Traveller (sic) Care team claims to be "aware" and "doing everything... to answer... as quickly as possible" customers should have certain expectations. A fortnight of silence didn't meet mine.
  3. Be flexible -- Eurostar would do well to take a lesson from airlines. Airlines (whic, admittedly have problems) make provisions for customers who have medical conditions that prevent scheduled travel. They credit travelers with the majority of the monies spent (less a nominal handling fee). In fairness to Eurostar, it may have a similar policy. But in fairness to me, they haven't done me the courtesy of responding, so who knows?
The fundamentals above aren't terribly complicated. Most people see the inherent common sense involved. Customers deserve (at the least) a response.

Don't we? We didn't get in stuck in a tunnel and I hope we never do, but I can vouch that Eurostar's customer service black hole is just as dark. Here's hoping we get out soon.