18 October 2012

Facebook Friend or foe?

Social Media services like Facebook and Twitter can be very useful tools for companies to get in contact with their customers and for their customers to let them know how they feel about the company. Used properly it can work very well for a company but like many things on the internet it can also go wrong! There have been many examples of companies using Facebook and Twitter wrongly and getting caught out. Its very similar to celebrities getting caught out when they make a comment on Twitter and it coming back to bite them in a big way.

It was an interesting post on Facebook by Plymouth Citybus which highlighted some of the pitfalls of using Facebook in particular which caught my eye…

PLEASE READ! – Our facebook page was set up a couple of years ago with the aim to improve the way in which we get information out to customers and suggestions from you, the passengers. Recently the page has turned into a channel for abuse at Citybus, our employees and other users by the minority. This will be and has not been tolerated, with people being banned from the page. We have a series of channels set up for customers to complain, which is via our website, e-mail, phone or visiting our travel centre, which get officially logged into our system. Any complaints made via facebook will not get put into our system. This page has been invaluable over the last couple of years getting information out, especially during the winter distributions. We are currently putting in procedures in-house to make monitoring of legitimate questions better. Thank you for taking the time to read this long post. Citybus

It does seem that one of the biggest issues people were complaining about ( often in a quite nasty way) was the lack of response to questions from Citybus, and I think that the Citybus post does show that they are aware that they need to find a way to monitor the forum and perhaps respond a bit quicker to legitimate questions. I am sure neither company can afford to have a full time member of staff just sitting there on Facebook so it has to be managed alongside other work commitments which is not always easy.

Citybus have now started to post when they are online and offline and have posted that this “is part of our new social media plan to help stop people get frustrated when citybus are not there as the page is not monitored 24/7. It is done across other bus companies within Go-Ahead Group, so we are trying it out!” It does show that they are seeing how other Go Ahead operators are doing things to see if they can be applied down here.

First are also very active on Facebook and also get their share of angry passengers and the occasional abusive comments which is sadly all to often a feature of social media. One thing I have picked up on though is a very different tone to their replies. First seem a lot friendlier in how they respond…

The number 1a coming from town is often late but last night was 15 minutes late, in turn making myself late home and my husband late for work.

Hi Joanne, I'm really sorry to hear that. We do try and things don't always run smoothly but 15 minutes is unacceptable. If you would like me to investigate a particular incident please let me know the time it was due and where you were standing (in addition to the service number and direction) and I can arrange for it to be done for you.

8:34 1 service also failed to turn up or is going to be late, causing me to be extremely late. thanks first! you have really excelled yourself today.
Oh dear, sounds like quite a few things have gone wrong here. Please fill out the details here including the service number, direction, time and boarding point so that a full investigation can be carried out

There has also been a fair bit of discussion about overcrowding on some routes…

What is wrong with your company? Why send a single decker bus to south Devon college if you know it's just going to get packed and people are going to be refused to get on the bus because it's so full!!!??
Hi Dennis, sorry you've been having issues. We don't like buses being overcrowded any more than you do, so we don't send out undersized buses unless we really have to. We continually monitor all of our routes and do the best we can to ensure that our vehicles are suitable, but the problem here is that there are only so many double deckers to go around.
Then a short while later

Ssh, don't tell them, but we're trying to poach a couple of double deckers from another college for you.
first well done, you managed to pinch 2 double Deckers for us xD thank you! Hope you can keep it up!

Later we get another take on the same issues

just out of interest why do you always use the 100 year old double decker that breaks down every 2 miles on the South Devon College run instead of the normal not so old ones? Yet the kids at Totnes school who are more likely to vandalise the bus, frequently get a nice new one that can actually accelerate up a hill and is reasonably comfy?

It's probably down to where the buses have come from and where they are going next.
Yeah but someone obviously sits down at some point and says right this bus is going to go on the X80 at 8 this ones going at 9 ect, and that old bus is always used for the service that runs through the college and I find it quite annoying and rude to be very honest, why should we all be stereotyped as vandalising students and given an old bus that you think if someone was to put chewing gum on the seat.. It wouldn't matter so much?

Sorry you feel that way but it's not quite like that - we don't send old buses to people we think will break them because we don't think people should be breaking them in the first place! I'm not sure exactly why the buses are sent round like that but knowing the depots they will be thinking much more about the types of roads and capacities, not just on the school/college trips but on the other routes those buses will be doing before and after the afternoon run. I'll see if I can speak to them for you.

Hi , it's not a secret that we have a shortage of double deckers across our depots. Fixing it is not an instant thing, but it's something we are working on with a view to fixing it over the next couple of weeks. We have a list of routes we would like to increase the capacity of and the 48 is on that list.

This friendly response to comments on Facebook has attracted at least one admirer:

I bet u got the best job because u get to chat on facebook. Im on my way to work on one of your buses at the moment.

I don't just sit on Facebook - honest!

because I have got no proof, I am going to have to take your word for it. he he . U up to anything nice tonight?
I'll be driving buses and monitoring Facebook! You?

Finally there is one really short but sweet exchange I really liked…

Oh dear First wonder why no one riding on 88
We've got enough thank you Sue!

Well done to First who do seem to have things about right on Facebook. For the record I feel that Citybus are often quicker to use Twitter to update current issues with services in Plymouth, often being the quickest to let passengers know of severe disruption due to accidents etc. They are also more likely to tweet when buses are delayed due to breakdowns etc. Both bus operators are clearly working hard to make the best use of Facebook and Twitter. I am  sure it must be a demoralising job at times when you see some of the comments that get left by people!


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  1. I hate some of the posts that people make, as if they could do better at running a bus company!

    Chap complaining that the 43A is always late out of Saltash. Total crap, I've been catching almost every day since it started, not once has it been late or not showed up!

    Totallyagree about the first comment, I work in the evening, catch the 43 to the square and walk to Saltash. If I ever catch the 1A its always 20 minutes lwte of town, normally between 10 & 15.

  2. Probably because the 1/1a has normally got more passengers!!!

  3. While I can see their point about it being unacceptable to have abusive comments posted towards Citybus employees, I've only ever found them to be more than happy to reply to complaints when they're in the right. The one and only time this year when I've had a good reason to complain about one particular School Bus driver who I 'encounter' on the 1718 28B as it comes off the 127 to Tavistock school bus, who quite frankly is one of the rudest people I've met and has deliberately tried taking me back to the Depot several times (coming down Coburg St instead of turning into Mayflower St he carried on through North Cross and I got off at the train station or else I'd have gone back to Milehouse, that's just one example), another is he arrived at the Hospital 10 minutes late and arrived in town 15 minutes early..., really he should be sacked, I took the time to write a proper complaint and it wasn't even acknowledged! I don't like complaining and I'm not someone who thinks that if my bus is 2 minutes late its' the end of the world though really Citybus could do with responding to complaints better in general.

  4. Tom, I know exactly which driver youre referring too and I totally agree with you.

  5. I hope Brian George is reading this and takes note.

  6. I just feel sorry for all the poor schoolkids who have to put up with him! Looking at the timetable for the 127 and 102 which I mainly see him on, he's the absolute last person I'd want to be 'greeted' by at 0740ish.

    It really does seem like the face of the company has changed; in recent years it's just been nothing but cutbacks though what with all their consultations and the Chatterbus Citybus are obviously keen to listen to their customers, come across with a good image, and especially with their network changes which they're obviously keen to attract lots more passengers. Imagine if someone who had never used Citybus before encountered that driver. I doubt they'd use Citybus again.

  7. Sorry, but I have removed the comment where you gave the links to photos of the driver concerned as I don't think this is the right forum to air specific complaints against individual staff like this, especially where his identity is so clearly made public. If you have a complaint against a driver then you should only make it direct to the company.
    I am not doing this at the request of Citybus, and I am not against criticism of Citybus being left here, but not where individual staff are identified in this way please. All the other comments are being left as they are. Thanks Guys!

  8. Point taken. I did think it was pushing it a bit.


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