East Midland Trains – A Thousand Apologies Too Many!

A question that often gets asked is ‘how many apologies can you give before it destroys its sincerity?’

It’s a little bit like over using someone’s name in a service conversation. Use it too infrequently and it can send signals of disinterest, too often sounds contrived and worthless.

The worst offenders for the over apology seem to be the train companies and the all time record so far goes to East Midlands; a sad experience between London and Derby.

I received 15 apologies in all, for

  • the delay we were told was coming up (including of course for any inconveniences caused – isn’t that such a throwaway line these days?)
  • the delay when it first happened
  • a number of further delays when they continued and escalated
  • for the confusion that was created when no one knew what was going on
  • when the train driver didn’t turn up (we were going to be diverted through a different route and we waited at Kettering for a driver until someone realised he had already gone off to drive another train)
  • and the final apology nail – for having to stick with the old driver who had no choice but to take us closer into the engineering problems that were causing the delays!

My sense is there were more than fifteen apologies in all but I began to dissociate as they continued to be announced – like a child that’s been told off too often, you block them out as they stop being meaningful.

It’s an impossible situation for the train manager and crew as they are at the mercy of outside factors but I am not convinced there’s any kind of customer experience strategy in place as to how to verbalise this tricky situation.

And so like the aliens in the War of the Worlds – they just kept coming! Sucking our happy blood dry!

Looking at the UK’s service experience there are many providers that don’t want to offer apologies; a reluctance that probably starts from their non-empathic leaders and at the other end, the over apologisers who unknowingly render them worthless.

I wonder how eager they will be to sincerely make amends when I ask for compensation. Or will they offer me another worthless apology for all the inconvenience caused?

Glenn Bracey

Glenn Bracey

Glenn is the co-founder and inspirational learning and performance director of Future Vision. He is a trainer, coach, conference speaker and passionate advocate of developing learning that makes a tangible difference to your business, its people and customers.

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