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After forming a complaint letter, and managing to send it through the labyrinth of a web page SNCF keeps, this is what I got as a response. One thing is that SNCF is so hopelessly stuck in the past that they do not even accept e-mail inquiries on the service level. Another thing is that they would rather have you send snail mail into the black hole they call their service department than forward your complaint to the right person. Somehow I sense that even if I should be able to get hold of the right department (eventually), my complaint would never be read, because it is not in the right language (which would be French, of course).
This response just about sums about my whole original complaint to them (below): the French railroad enterprise SNCF’s attitude is simply not aligned with giving foreign tourists a sense of service. The whole organization is saturated in the all to typical French attitude of «we are doing you a favor», instead of doing their best at giving each customer the best experience possible.
My tips to SNCF
- Do create a tourist friendly homepage
- All inquiries should be possible to send by email
- There should be no need for snail mail anywhere
- There should be company guidelines for keeping up a service level
- Try to use a «Mystery Shopper» to check the service level at regular intervals at ALL public service stations
My original complaint to the SNCF, July 2012
«I have a complaint regarding the service (or rather lack of one) given from the information office at Nice Ville train station at noon today. I have never experienced ruder service in my life, and the person in the booth should never have been placed in a public service position.
The dialogue was more or less the following:
- Me: Good day! Do you speak English?
- Her: BONJOUR! Me: Would you …
- Her: BONJOUR!!
- Me: … Ehh… (thinking the reply was negative and trying my best to speak something resembling French): c’est possible de chercher ..
- Her (cutting me off again): BONJOUR!!
- Me (finally getting it!): Bonjour, Madame!
(Now, I hoped, I could finally try to ask her something). Unfortunately she kept on being arrogant and quite unwilling to help us with our inquiry on whether we could buy tickets on the train or if we had to do it at the station. We had no choice but leaving without any information at all, wasting ten minutes waiting to get shouted at. The next tourists in line seemed even more frightened than us, at least.
This experience was very new to us, having traveled in various countries on four continents, without any similar experience. If there had just been a language barrier, that would have been OK, and we could probably worked something out using my extremely poor French and some sign language. But she did understand (some) English, and was simply refusing to serve unless we followed her rules of dialogue.
I think this shows the need for some cultural guidelines or training to be given to the service staff. The world is not French. But a smile and helpful service is always welcome in all cultures. Public rail in France already has a lousy reputation when it comes to service (google «bad service sncf») and this just further strengthens the impression of a sector where job security is so good that you can do your worst and still keep your job.
I do not want or need a refund. But there should be someone that informs the staff at Nice train station about how to give service to tourists in dire need of some information.»