If you haven't got the time to read the post that follows, I'll encapsulate it in one paragraph: Do not offer your customers a product or service if you cannot fulfil their expectations. It's really that simple. If you can offer something that is impressive, then offer it. If you can't, then don't. Your brand will suffer because of it.
Now, on with the fun eh?
As I have previously allowed thetrainline.com permission to email me, this email popped into my inbox last week:
So that's £5 off a journey. I'm planning to pop up to the North East and see family in April so I thought that'd be good. I'll book cheap tickets and get a further fiver off. That'll leave me with a reasonably priced train ticket. Last time I travelled up North I booked direct through National Express and the journey was great. However, if a 3rd party can offer me a discount and a quicker booking system then I'll book through them.
So I popped in my preferred trains. As there are radio buttons I can press I stupidly presumed this meant I could get a seat on those trains for that price. Erm... nope:
(Thanks for the helpful note, thetrainline.com. I'm glad you've cleared up the problem using language us humans understand. It's one of those pesky E00328 problems. I was just chatting about them to a friend at the weekend.)
So I've been given the option to book a seat, then been told that seat isn't available any more. Why offer me the seat in the first place? I know technologically live booking is possible, so why don't you use it? After going back several times and trying different trains at the same price, the same screen kept on returning to the error page so I thought I'd give them a call and speak to a human, explain my problem and hopefully get the offer I had been promised in the email. I rang the number on the screen above, and what did I get? A recorded message saying the number wasn't being used any more. I quickly scribbled down the new number and then thought I'd go on to the Contact Us section to make sure the number I'd been given was the same one I'd just been given:
The same number as before. Oh, and it's an 0870 number. They charge me for that. So they're charging me to hear that they have changed their number and then I have to dial another number which is 0870 411 11 11. So they'll charge me for that too. Thanks!
When I get through to speak to someone, I explain that I have a £5 voucher, but the seats that are showing as available aren't available. So can you please tell me which trains are £30 each way with similar times, and can I book them through you using the voucher please? No. I can only get the £5 offer if booked online. Thanks very much for the non-help on the call I've just paid for.
So, as I've now wasted a decent amount of my time, I go back onto the site, look up the next price band and try to book that. I get to the payment page (the email with the offer says "The £5 discount will be applied on the payment screen") and there's no box for the offer code. I can only use the offer if I click through on the email. (How hard is it to have a code box on the payment screen? Not difficult - I've seen it elsewhere as I'm sure you have.)
So I go back again to the email, click the offer and go through the process again (probably the 4th or 5th time) and select my trains with the more expensive seats. It all goes swimmingly until I get to the payment page:
At this point I closed down my browser and deleted the £5 off email. The process and the offer simply do not give me enough benefits in order to keep on persevering.
So they promised me this:
- £5 off my rail tickets.
- Trains for £30 each way.
- "Did you know we've made a few changes to our site and developed some handy money saving tools to help you find cheap tickets even faster?"
Whereas this is what really happened:
- £5 off your rail tickets. But by the way, we charge £2.50 to use your credit card and £1 to use our website.
- Trains for £30 each way. That I can't book. They must just like teasing people.
- "Did you know you're actually going to spend the next half hour before realising that actually it's going to take much longer than just ringing up National Express direct, we'll charge you for calling us even though we're no help at all and the £5 off in reality is only £1.50 when you've taken our charges off."
You see, thetrainline.com, it's just taken me much much longer to write this post than it has to arrange alternative transport for my trip. That's because I'm a human being. I don't like being let down. I wouldn't like it if a friend of mine dropped me an email, offered me something which I realised later (after wasting my time and my money) didn't exist. It's lying. Intentional or not, it means I'm not going to trust that friend again for a long time. I gave you the opportunity to engage with me when I ticked a little box allowing you to send me information. You've let me down after promising me something you couldn't deliver. For that reason I'm letting others know that you waste the time of people that want to give you money, and that there is no benefit whatsoever in booking tickets through you opposed to directly through National Express.
You've offered me convenience, but not delivered. You've not offered me any extra benefits compared to National Express. So, thetrainline.com, what's the point of using you? If there's no point in using you, what's the point in you being here?