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Saturday, 22 May 2010

Germany and Customers

Sorry - been a long time and indeed a busy week.

I wanted to make a customer service point and highlight the great work being done by our people in Germany. The two stories are linked.

Our German subsidiary FirstGroup Rhein-Neckar runs some 150 buses on school bus, local service and charter work and is growing strongly each year. This past year we started services in Zellhausen and we are now working on our new premises and fleet for Bad Vilbell.

These guys really know about service delivery - 99.9% of their mileage each month, hardly any collisions or lost time injuries and a great reputation in each of the locations where they operate, including Spyer, Heidelberg and Langen.

We bought a smaller, but well-run business. As we have expanded it we have been careful not to lose the excellent credentials which came before. The trick is to continue delivering such quality with each quiet expansion.

Now - about customer service. Now we've all been there before but I got it first hand on Thursday. On my way back from Frankfurt I was on a perfectly respectable Airbus A321 of Lufthansa. The only moan from the crew was they were booked to go to Nice but were going now to London. It was busy and I always book an aisle seat (so I can get in and out easily. I don't know why people like window seats - for 95% of the time there is nothing to see and for a 100% of the time you're hemmed in).

Lucky me, despite being very busy the seat next to me was free. Was this going to be ultra comfortable?

Oh no, the very last passenger: on he came. The size of a house. He needed his armrest, my armrest, my foot space, and when it came to food he put his tray table down but he was so large he had to eat his supper downhill.

Now I know that modern technology allows major corporate customers to glean customer insight from social media like this. So, in the hope the Star Alliance search engine finds this, please. You have attractive customers, intelligent customers, thin customers, delightful customers, inventors, politicians, and celebrities....

To paraphrase Fiddler on the Roof: Would it spoil some vast eternal plan of them was in the seat next to me?

Sorry - there has to be a customer sevice point: as popularity goes up sometimes customer satisfaction goes down. A rail passenger whom pays £200 for his ticket will be doubly delighted if he gets a table for four to himself. And he'll be a a bit peeved if he has to share it with three others (unless they are delightful!).

One Sunday evening I had to go up to Chester (the night we completed on the sale actually). I sat opposite Frank Carson on the Virgin train. I was in pain from laughing when I got off over two hours later - and he's in his 80s!)

Picture: a line-up of the Zellhausen fleet this week at their splendid new facility

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