What McCain and Obama hostility means for Amtrak


Tim Siedell, the design guru behind the Bad Banana Blog, shared this “vote with your gum” poster that strikes a chord as Americans come to grips with who won and who lost. What we like about it is the pure form of collecting anger — pick what’s wrong, please. Very few organizations have a simple complaint-discovery system in place.

If you think about it, almost all marketing systems are designed to track responses — but not avoidances. How do you uncover the people who hate you and may pass that message on to others?

A few years ago we got a phone survey from Amtrak, after taking the Acela express train from New Haven to Washington D.C. on a regular basis. The research firm asked questions on food, comfort, prices, then ended the call. We gave Amtrak high marks in every category. What the survey forgot to ask was about the conductors, whom we found the rudest of almost any customer-facing personnel in the universe. You see, Amtrak has a simple business process problem — it expects passengers to close the overhead bins after putting luggage in them, but passengers are trained by airplanes to have flight attendants walk the aisles and close the bins for them. So instead of understanding this confusion, Amtrak conductors loudly chastise the train full of adults to snap to attention and close the bins — rudely.

As the train lurches forward, you can see business professionals and parents looking at each other in surprise — wow, those conductors sound hostile.

Amtrak, like many organizations, could use a simple tool to figure out who hates what, and perhaps it’s something simple it could fix. A little complaint discovery goes a long way.

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