A “Train” of Customer Thought

subwaydtrain_g_121104_420_1As a new resident of New York City, I’ve traded my car wheels for my own two legs and the subway. With brand new experiences comes brand new problems. One I had recently resulted in extreme frustration.

I leave work on a busy Friday, during rush hour, to wait in line to swipe my Metro card. I go to swipe, not looking, and begin to walk forward…into a bar that is not moving. I look at the screen and it tells me “See Agent”. So, I swipe again. The people in line behind me look absolutely annoyed. Of course, I say sorry about 20 times and continue to swipe over and over. “See Agent” appears on the screen each time.

I sigh and back out of line then wander around the crowded station for an agent. There is no agent booth so I’m merely hoping for an MTA employee to be walking by. I walk the entire station for almost 10 minutes, including using the sketchy “Agent Phone” on the wall. I press the big red button, hear the ringing…but no answer. After two attempts, I give up, buy a new card and hop on my train.

When I arrive to my stop, I exit the train and actually find an MTA employee. They swipe my card and say that I don’t have any funds on it, which is why it’s not working. I inform the agent that it’s an unlimited monthly pass. She says, “hmmm” then nods, saying “Yes, that’s right.” So, I ask her, “Why did the card give me this error and what can I do to prevent it in the future?” Still looking at the computer, she says, with an annoyed tone, “The magnetic strip was probably messed up for whatever reason. It happens.  I’m sure it won’t happen again. If it does, come back here and I’ll give you an envelope to mail in your card for a replacement.”

I then ask, “Can I have an envelope now so I can avoid coming back just in case it does happen?”

Again, without even looking up at me, she says, “No. You can just return here if you need it.”

Maybe this is just the New York way but you can imagine how frustrated and confused I was.

From this experience, I want to share the three “trains of thoughts” that I would have liked to have seen happen:

1. Be Available: It would have been awesome if I didn’t have to wander around a dirty train station trying to find someone to help me. It would have been even more awesome if someone would have answered the agent phone. Being available for your customers is so important

2. Eye Contact: While this may not apply on the phone, with in-person customer service, eye contact shows you’re actively listening and acknowledging the customer.

3. Preventative Care: It would have been amazing if the agent provided me with the envelope as a “just in case” factor to save me a trip back to them.

On that note, it hasn’t happened again…but now I’m actively dreading the moment it does…though I do have an extra card handy as my own “just in case”.


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