LONDON — It’s interesting to be a participant in a news story that is making front page headlines in European metropolitan dailies.
Safely back in London thanks to an Air France pilot pushing the throttles to the firewall to get us from London to Paris in about 40 minutes before the wings and engine froze up was an interesting finale to my small part in experiencing the Eurostar debacle.
Reading the news stories, I realise how fortunate I am — employed, well paid, with credit card limits that one wouldn’t dare get anywhere near to. So we could go back to our warm hotel, get hot chocolate, log in and watch Eurostar say nothing terribly helpful, then have a late dinner and a hot bath before bed. Some people slept at stations and on platforms.
Nonetheless, reading the news stories, I also realise how badly Eurostar got this wrong. I was a participant, so perhaphs my initial blog post was emotional. But it wasn’t. That first instinct was right: this travel company had thousands of people in its care (both employees and their customers) and they were completely unprepared to deal with a relatively simple situation.
From a communication standpoint, look at the basic rules they broke and think about the parallels with your organisation, its people and leaders and behaviours…
1) Don’t say anything until you are 100% sure about the situation
2) Keep staff in the dark, and for heaven’s sake don’t give them information or tell them what to do while you work things out
3) Tell everyone to just look at the website
4) Announce detailed, thought-through financial reimbursement stuff about the problems while customers are still freezing their arses off waiting for (a) a train or (b) some information about where the trains are
5) Tell people different stories from different ends of the same train and let them work it out for themselves
6) Hide your staff in one of the compartments in case people try to speak with them
7) Do your lipstick in the reflection of a window while scores of passengers are looking for someone to ask for information
8.) Tell people you’ll pay for their hotels. After you have once told them you would provide hotels, then changed your mind and said they were on their own to make arrangements.
8.1) Then, the next day, say what you meant was you’d pay for a certain level of hotel. Two days after they’ve booked in somewhere.
9) TO BE DETERMINED – really make the claims procedure hard on people
– Home at last. With a big credit card bill on its way.