It is nice to be important – but it is more important to be nice!

I have spent quite a bit of time in the last few days and experienced some different methods of staff dealing with situations, which has highlighted to me the importance of humour and politeness when dealing with difficult situations with people.

One train manager who was brilliant gave an announcement along the lines of:-

“Welcome to this train going from xxxx to xxxx. I would like to make a few apologies, firstly the train is very, very busy, with lots of people standing. I would also like to point out that due to a technical failure there is only one working toilet which is at the very front of the train, (to which a few people started sniggering) I would then like to point out that we don’t appear to have anyone on the train staffing the shop, so there isn’t a shop on the train until we reach Birmingham, (in which most people in the carriage started to chuckle), however everyone on the train is being very patient, to which I offer my thanks, but then I have only managed to walk down half the train, and meet half the passengers” – which dragged everyone in the carriage into the laughter fit. I don’t think he was trying to be funny, and me transcribing it has probably lost some of the humour, but it was very effective.

And then a few minutes later a message came over – “I have some good news for you, someone has volunteered to manage the shop, so there will be a shop service running, however we will only be able to take cash, and only if you have the exact change…..”. Watching him go about his business as he battled his way up and down the train weaving in and out of the numerous standing passengers, he had a smile, was joking and making pleasant conversation with people, which in doing so reduced tensions and saved any passengers from getting shirty which to be fair one would have expected.

Compared to an incident the day before at Leeds station, where for some reason a train had been left in the wrong place, at a platform causing chaos, and the person on the platform who was trying to sort things out, was being bombarded with questions from customers asking what was going on. Unfortunately she was getting flustered, and couldn’t handle the questions – and kept just saying (in an increasingly irate manner “give me a few minutes” – this however incensed some of the passengers making them ask more questions, and the whole situation quickly descended into chaos. A simple announcement to all in ear-shot, explaining what was going on, and most importantly re-assuring people that they were on the right platform would have solved the problem.

And to finish off, why is that when lots of people are joining an already busy train, do the train managers or platform staff, think that blowing their whistles in quick shirt sharp bursts, will help people get onto the train quicker?

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