- Go to SNCB Marketing School
I’m in a bit of a pickle, folks. Because Sam’s on call over Christmas, I decided to bring the festive celebrations forward a few weeks. I booked a weekend in Brugge.
It’s been in the bag for months.
Hotel’s booked (non-refundable in case of cancellation), trains to London booked (being a skinflint I bought the inflexible Advance tickets – non-refundable unless you lose all four limbs simultaneously).
In other words, you really don’t want to be in a situation where you can’t go. You’d sacrifice a few hundred quid. And being a skinflint, that would make me cry like an abandoned puppy on Boxing Day.
Today this puppy has every reason to be mournful.
When he’s not posing for pictures looking indescribably cute, this canine is a customer service critic.
And he’s got good reason to frown.
What are Belgians good at?
I’ve supped a fair few Tripels in my time. Flemish monks, perhaps out of character, nailed it long ago when it came to brewing world-class ales.
Belgian chocolate is equally renowned. Waffles slide down like a helter skelter rider with olive oil on her bum.
And the frites! Oh. I’ve just soiled myself.
That’s the good news.
They suck at customer service
Sweeping generalisation over, let’s survey the evidence.
A couple of days ago I got an email from Eurostar saying Belgium was having a fit about the way its government was handling austerity (apparently manufacturing more beer was not the most efficient way of climbing out of a big economic hole; serves them right for overlooking me as Their First Guy; I’m, like, the perfect Ghent for the job!).
Consequently because I was holidaying there, they were holding a regional strike WHERE BRUGGE IS on THE WEEKEND WE’RE THERE.
Stuff like this makes me mad. Why didn’t they just ask for my support, instead of effectively ruining Christmas?
The TripAdvisor forums were awash with speculation. Because Belgians haven’t done regional strikes before, possibly because they were all too full and drunk, there was no precedent on whether all transport was off, or not.
Like a good citizen of the internet I went to the Belgian rail website, known as SNCB.
17 paragraphs in, not including headlines or lists, we finally get to the crux.
On the SNCB website – for English people (important point, this) – all the trains on December 1 (Monday, strike day) were shown as unaffected. I could literally book one.
But nowhere on the website was there any information about this strike.
Was it a work of fiction? Had I dreamed it, just before the scene where someone slagged the crap out of a big presentation I’m doing in the real world tomorrow?
Negative. All the news of the strike was still there. Not there, but elsewhere.
So I dropped the good folk at SNCB a Tweet. Because that’s how you do customer enquiries these days, if you’re me.
To be fair to the folks, it only took them about 16 hours to reply, and that included snoozytime.
But it was the substance of the response that triggered this enthralling article.
@davethackeray Hi. Informations about on regional strikes are only available on the french and dutch websites atm. Sorry about that. ^pc
— SNCB (@SNCB) November 26, 2014
I don’t mind people making mistakes. You just did, clicking on that juicy link to read this chaff. And I still love you. What does set my teeth on edge is when you ignore your customers’ needs. This is borderline racist, for goodness sake!
If I’m passing through your country you’re more than happy to sell me stuff (evidently being on the verge of bankruptcy, one ponders, would be a good reason to do so) in my mother tongue. But you’re not ready to inform me that I can buy stuff and you won’t give it to me.
Maybe that’s it. Cunning. It’s like Del Boy, Arfur Daley and Steptoe rolled into one. A Ponzi scheme! I may have gone overboard with the last one. But you feel my angst, right?
@davethackeray Sorry about that. ^pc
— SNCB (@SNCB) November 26, 2014
“Sorry about that”. Righty-ho. So what now? Is it on? And those tickets I can buy – what were you planning to do about them? Just let it ride – unlike people on your trains?
There’s a lesson in here. Go figure it out.