My Three Cents

It is not every day that commuters get a letter of apology from a train conductor. And what seemed like a great customer relations move actually brought a reprimand from management.

Now let’s back up. 

The train is Metro-North, primarily focusing on one of the busiest corridors on the east coast, New York and Connecticut.  Commuters are disgruntled because of track problems which started a year ago, causing excessive lateness on arrivals and departures.  The lateness is the talk of “commuterland” — disrupting breakfast appointments, work arrivals, etc.,  etc., etc.   Worse yet, one of its trains recently jumped a track and four commuters were killed.

So the latest gaffe?  Conductor Michael Shaw advised commuters waiting for quite a while on platforms at various local stops that the next train would be arriving in a few minutes and would go express to Grand Central Station.  But the train never came and more lateness and complaints ensued. 

So Shaw decided he was going to prepare a letter of apology and distribute it with a hard copy on every passenger’s seat, as Metro-North distributes its newsletter and other brief notes.

But he did not realize that he would be walking from the frying pan into the fire.  Management was furious, and said that “while we share his concerns, we do not condone his methods of communicating them.” It did acknowledge that he cared deeply about his customers.

It is true that Shaw should have gotten permission from his management. And management should make sure that, in the future, that it has internal communications policies to deal with situations like this.  That said,  management should be grateful that it has an employee who was so customer-centric and concerned about service that he took this action.  

Michael Shaw should be hailed by Metro-North management, not criticized. In a day and age when every corporation wants its employees to build relationships with customers, this is an example of someone who did.

thought leadership


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