It’s really hot here in the New York area. Like mid-July, sweating-through-your-shirt-walking-a-block hot. <This would be where we cue the Johnny Carson “how hot is it?” stream…>
I took the train into NYC the other day for a meeting in the early afternoon. As I got on, there were no lights or A/C in the first 3 cars. From the heat (and smell) in those cars, I’d say the train had left the yard that way. Walking back to find someplace cooler, the conductor informed everyone they were aware that there was no power to those cars and that they’d try to fix them when we got to Stamford, 20 minutes away. Meanwhile, your choices were to sit, sweat, and smell or to walk back to stand.
In Stamford, they got the lights on for enough time to say they’d fixed them. Of course, they bugged out again as we left the station. More conductor announcements – “they might come on again when we leave the overhead wires and go to the third rail for power.” Not so much, as it turned out.
Upon our arrival at Grand Central, the conductor thanked everyone for riding Metro North and commanded us to have a good day.
In no particular order, here are the issues:
No competition = no incentive to take immediate action to patch, then permanently fix, problems. At $4 a gallon, and given NY’s roads, there is no real competition to the railroad. The problem here is that in almost any business, alternatives will surface over time and you won’t have the mindset to combat them. In other businesses you’d never let an inferior product leave the shop to go out yet this train was not working and went out. It happens all the time.
No honesty = I’ve been on MANY trains with the lights issue. I don’t recall ever having them fixed en route. Why not tell the ridership that those cars are goners and to find another solution.
No sympathy = yeah, this sucks but gives us your money. How about letting people in those cars ride for free by just not going through them to collect fares?
There are a lot of other lessons one can learn from this but the big one is that customers need to know you care and that you’re always working hard to find and fix what THEY think is wrong (hopefully they never see the stuff YOU know is wrong and fix preemptively).