founder of naked leader

“How so calm?”

“How so calm?”

Time to Read:   If it’s delayed you can do a lot worse than go to @SW_Trains 


“How so calm?”

Was the question I asked Allison Dunn, Information & Customer Experience Manager at South West Trains.

No background needed – trains get delayed, signals fail and very sadly people go onto tracks.

When things go wrong, customers want communication. They want to know, above all else, how they are going to get to their destination, and if that destination is home after a hard day’s work, it takes on a new importance.

And customers – passengers – human beings – want answers, and get angry when they don’t.

You can see real interchanges next time something goes wrong, however the interchange between irate customer and @SW_Trains usually comes to this:

@Name: (Expletive) Thank you @SW_Trains!!! Stuck at Waterloo and (expletive) – you deserve to be renationalised.

@SW_Trains I am sorry @Name, a lightning strike has hit signals at Vauxhall. Please let me know where you need to get to and I will help you find an alternative route.

@Name: @SW_Trains I know it’s not your fault, but communication is – I am still (expletive) off. However any help getting to Woking would be appreciated.

@SW_Trains Thank you @Name, trains to Woking are starting from Clapham and you can catch the 572 from Waterloo to Clapham – your ticket is valid for travel on that bus.

@Name: @SW_Trains Oh, ok. Thanks for your help

@SW_Trains A pleasure – @Name hope you get home safely


So, my question to Allison, in full:

“With delays not of your making, irate customers and not knowing all the up to date information yourselves, how do you stay so calm, polite and helpful?”

“How so calm?”

I map her passionate, caring, and full of personality answer onto The Formula for Guaranteed Success:

  1. Know where we want to Go – Get our customers safely to their destination as fast as possible.
  2. Know where we are NOW – Know exactly what is going on, and when things will change (for this we must have very strong internal SW Trains relationships, especially within our team).
  3. Know what we have to DO, to get to where we want to GO – Be helpful, polite and focused on achieving our Outcome (also the most assured way to get people to choose to calm down).
  4. Do It! My team are free to be themselves and express their own personalities.

My biggest takeaway from Allison is that no matter how upset people, or another person, may be, I can always choose how I react. And that reaction will either make them more upset, or less.

As Allison puts it:

“If you can help people, then help them”

Thank you Allison

Share your positive customer service stories in the comments below.

With my love and best wishes


12 Responses to “How so calm?”

  1. Received by email…
    I have seen your blog post aka work of art! Wow.. Thank you for everything, honestly you have truly let some light shine on our team who strive to what their best for our customers all day / every day.

    P.s the book is fantastic, loads of insight.. Will email you if I have any feedback on it.

    Kind Regards, Allison Dunn.
    Information & Customer Experience Manager.

  2. Customers always have a go at people in the front line and those staff deserve so much credit for taking the flak.
    It’s why it is so important to have staff you can trust out front, be it sales, bank front office, telesales. Quality staff to keep quality customers in the hard times.

  3. ..customer message is good i saw another message here ….About 8 years ago I had a phobia i wanted to change …i needed to “get over” the phobia was of very large marble and stone objects that represented people … Statues !! I knew i wanted to be free of this and I have to face this fear, fearlessly so bit by bit I have desensitized myself to the fear, i wont bore you with the plan and on the day you posted this and I read this I was off to see the Statue of Liberty up close and personal. So using the four point methodology know where you are know where you want to be and move towards it ….. over the last 8 years….. by following it you can do anything … believe me I never thought i would or could !

  4. Surely that is what customer service is all about, helping people.
    And well done to Alison for believing in that and doing her best to make a difficult job work.

  5. Front line staff are under pressure to deliver….they should be allowed to get on with what they do without being hassled by customers.
    IMO they are excellent in dealing with difficult matters, particularly airline staff.

Leave a reply