September 16, 2014 by Mark Burton
Did that actually happen? Right, status check: Am I still asleep? No. Am I drunk? No. Is the body odour emanating from the man whose armpit I’m now inhabiting causing me to hear things? It’s possible, but normally there are more dancing rabbits by this point.
No, my ears did not deceive – a mode of transport just thanked me for choosing it.
I’m not sure how many of you have experienced the joy of any tube line at morning rush hour, but choice is a concept that is far removed from such an environment. Unless you’re into being half-crushed by leaking strangers in a box that makes a clown car look roomy, it’s very unlikely that you’ve expressed a strong consumer preference to travel on the Central line.
That’s not to say there aren’t options. There are certainly options. I’ve even tried some, a personal highlight being the bus, which assured me it was a 40 minute journey and then proceeded to take two bloody hours. Cycling won’t get me killed but will make me unsuitably sweaty for a work environment which is distinctly lacking in showers. Walking is a stretch at 5 and a bit miles. So yes, in one way I am choosing to travel on the Central line, but in another, much more realistic sense, of course I’m fucking not. Allow me to paint a word picture:
Person: “I’ve chopped my arm off by accident.”
Doctor: “I can see that.”
Person: “Can you help?”
Doctor: “I can. But first I’d just like to thank you for choosing our hospital today. It really means a lot to us that you’ve chosen to have your gushing, terrifying wound treated here.”
Person: “But the next nearest hospital is 30 miles away.”
Doctor: “I know, but still, you’re a valued customer.”
Person: “I really am losing quite a lot of blood.”
That is the kind of thanks you’re getting on the Central line.
This sort of unnecessary, simpering, hollow adoration is becoming more and more commonplace – and it’s unbelievably annoying. Somebody, somewhere, has sat around a table and said “Tube users need to feel more valued. Why don’t we thank them every time they step into a carriage?”, and a group of other, supposedly rational and qualified people have agreed that this is not a wholly shit idea.
It is a wholly shit idea. It’s a massive, flashing, neon sign that says that you know your service is horrendous, and the only thing you’re going to do about it is record a short voiceover. The worse a company is, the more thanks they offer. TalkTalk are serial thankers who are unable to provide even a vague semblance of internet for vast swathes of the year, while Ryanair host a small party for their customers whenever a plane lands on the same day it was meant to.
Meanwhile, better organisations spend less time trying on the empty platitudes. (Sadly, this doesn’t mean they’re actively rude to customers – it would be a glorious day when John Lewis unveil the slogan “Shut up – you fucking love it”) What they do do is spend more time on actually doing things to improve how people experience their brand, which is easy to lose sight of when your company is juggling the really important stuff like getting more likes on Facebook. The best brands don’t tell customers how much they love them, they show them. Actions speak louder than words.
In summary, keep the thanks, buy more fucking trains.