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Tweeters make 50,000 complaints to Greater Anglia - meet the man dealing with the barrage

PUBLISHED: 12:54 19 February 2015 | UPDATED: 15:25 19 February 2015

Some of the complaints that Abellio have received.

Some of the complaints that Abellio have received.

Archant

What’s it like responding to a barrage of train complaints every day? ROSA MCMAHON spoke to the man whose day job is doing just that.

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Train delays – it’s a topic which frustrates travellers the world over.

Last year alone commuters bombarded companies with more than 280,000 tweets about journey disruption.

But what fans the flames when waiting for a late train is being ignored.

Confessions of a serial complainer

I’ve always followed my grandmother’s advice – if you don’t complain then nothing will change.

Yes, I may have suffered years of being red-faced in restaurants, supermarkets and shops when the ‘and I don’t expect to see that on my bill’ line emerges.

But as an adult I now see the merits of using manners to let companies know you are not getting what you paid for.

I would never criticise the food I am served in the home of a friend, or moan if a lift was late.

Yet when you are reaching in to your own pocket for travel, food, bills and more, you expect value and good service.

Using Twitter to get your point across on that issue is a new phenomenon. It’s a public name and shame game which often pushes companies to do the right thing.

But really, it shouldn’t come to that.

Only last year I was paid £150 in compensation from an unnamed company after I took my weeks of telephone calls to Twitter – and it worked.

I like to think of myself as the queen of complaints, but with a charm that should never be forgotten when speaking to the someone at the other end.

Treat them with respect – the problem is rarely their fault. But they are the ones who can usually get something done about it.

Follow me @rosamcmahon

Abellio Greater Anglia, Norfolk’s main train provider, seem to have found a solution to that quandary by employing a social media team to respond to complaints – and sometimes compliments – 14 hours a day.

James Ager, 23, has been dealing with these instant questions and quarrels from travellers for the past three years.

As the company’s former social media supervisor and now customer relations manager, Mr Ager, from Ipswich, admits, his work is not always plain sailing.

“I wouldn’t say it’s an easy job” he said. “But when we can help it’s a really good feeling, knowing you are making a difference to someone’s day.”

The team of four, soon to expand to six, man the company’s twitter feed with 50,000 followers between 6.30am and 8.30pm, seven days a week.

Their aim is to is to respond to tweets as quickly as possible and help people get to their destination.

Recently, a point of contention for travellers is the cancellation of weekend train services from Norwich to London for two months, with a replacement bus service, because of a £15m rail upgrade.

And a campaign to cut the journey time from Norwich to London to 90 minutes was spearheaded in the region in 2010.

Last year alone Abellio Greater Anglia received 50,000 tweets about delays and cancellations, ranking as one of the worst performers amongst the 14 train companies which run services into London.

And it is Mr Ager and his colleagues who are at the receiving-end of those complaints.

“We do understand people’s frustrations and I do feel sympathy with people who are facing delays,” Mr Ager said.

“We try and help people, but it’s not always possible. “In 140 characters it’s hard to show your true emotions and help someone at the same time.

“People assume it’s all about real-time updates but it’s not just that. The main challenge is getting through to people who need information from you.”

According to a study by the data team at Commute London, 280,960 tweets used delay language including words such as “delay”, “late” and “stuck”.

And 62,352 tweets were about overcrowding, using words such as “crowd”, “sardine” and “no seat”.

An Abellio Greater Anglia spokesperson said: “We genuinely appreciate the feedback that we receive via social media which helps in our efforts to improve the services that we provide.”

Nationally, of the 280,000 tweets, more than 70,000 were concerning cancellations and more than 62,000 about overcrowding, according to a study by data team Commute London.

Based on tweets in 2014 from passengers of the 14 train companies which run services into London, the research showed that First Great Western (FGW), at 45,100, had the most tweets about delays, followed by Greater Anglia (41,120) and Southern (34,645).

Southern had the most tweets about cancellations (12,481), followed by FGW (9,573) and Greater Anglia (9,314).

Have you had a good or bad experience on the trains? Tell us about it by writing to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.

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