I should offer warm thanks to Stagecoach Oxfordshire for providing me with a perfect example of the behaviour I’ve blogged about: responding slowly to direct complaints but paying rapt attention to social media.
I’ve written about how Stagecoach not only refuses to respond to messages sent through Fix My Transport, but also refuses to acknowledge those messages, leaving the complainer in limbo until they chase the issue up. (For the record, it’s clear that they do receive these messages, whether or not they choose to acknowledge them.)
Anyway, on the 20th of December I complained to Stagecoach Oxfordshire about their failure to adequately respond to two previous complaints. (Yes, I am aware that this approach risks getting us into an infinite loop of complaint-and-response.) The first paragraph of my email read:
Dear Mr Bayliss,
Your response to my messages in no way resolves the two issues I contacted you about, first through Fix My Transport and then (when your company petulantly refused to respond through that site) directly by email.
Today I got a reply from Mr Bayliss assuring me (though not in so many words) that he has no intention of doing very much at all about either of the issues I raised. But one paragraph in particular made me laugh:
Although you have not referred in this corresponded [sic] to our decision not to deal with complaints through ’fixmytransport.com’ I am aware via Twitter and your blog that you are unhappy with our choice.
Stagecoach took nearly a month to reply to my email, but they still couldn’t manage to read the first paragraph properly. And yet during that period they somehow found the time and energy to pay attention to my blog and Twitter feed. What kind of complaints management strategy says it’s better to read someone’s social media blatherings than to read the messages they send directly to you? Of course, the irony is that if they were better at responding to direct correspondence, there would be a lot less hostile blathering going on in the public sphere.
I should also add that the email quoted above was the second time I’ve called Stagecoach out on their refusal to engage with Fix My Transport; in a previous message, sent 14th December, I ended by saying:
I have already written to you about [the issue under discussion] through the Fix My Transport website, but you chose to ignore my message until I chased you a month later, whereupon you suddenly decided that you "don't deal with complaints or queries through third-party websites". I am prepared to overlook this ignorant, obstructive behaviour if I get a quick and constructive answer to this message.
(I should note that the answer to that earlier message was very quick and reasonably constructive-sounding, without of course actually addressing the subject of my complaint, but did not mention Fix My Transport at all.)
There used to be a little aphorism in the Reader's Digest era that went something like: “The only time a woman listens to her husband is when he’s talking in his sleep.” Apparently, the only time Stagecoach read what I write is when it’s not addressed to them.