Just the ticket for customer care

Debbie Ellis, general manager of
Stansted Express, explains why the key to changing service behaviour lies in
harnessing individual personality

The Stansted Express,
now part of the National Express group, aims to be the fastest and most
convenient way to travel to and from London and Stansted Airport. Trains run
every 15 minutes, and Stansted Express tries to offer the complete travel

On relaunching the brand a year ago,
while then still part of the West Anglian Great Norther group, new values were
adopted and the Stansted Express brand personality redefined. However, some of
the existing staff with many years of rail industry experience were cynical
towards the new brand and this attitude was apparent when dealing with

A potential conflict was exposed
between newly recruited cabin crew members and the old British Rail culture
that existed among some staff.

Stansted Express called in Power
Train to bring the external customer service into line with the new brand
values and smooth out potential internal conflicts.

Off the page

“The challenge was to lift the
Stansted Express brand values ‘off the page’ and to get staff to deliver them
in a way that comes naturally to them,” says Power Train’s client services
director Jill Dean.

“It’s all very well being able to
demonstrate new skills in the training room, but unless you can put them into
practice back at work in a way that feels natural to you, those changes in
behaviour are going to be very short-lived.”

Power Train designed a series of
two-day events focusing on the individual and how they could deliver the
Stansted Express brand.

Three main techniques were applied.
First, a total reality setting would help overcome the
“it’s-not-like-that-in-real-life” barrier. Professional staging, lighting and
sound equipment were used to simulate a realistic environment in the converted
Stansted Airport offices where the events were held.

Second, the principle of added value
would identify different personality styles and demonstrate that the key to
changing behaviour is not changing personality or character, but understanding

Finally, a combination of logic and
emotional impact would create the motivation to put the pre-determined skills
and knowledge into practice.

On the first day of the event, the
delegates arrived as instructed at the given location to be met by a Power
Train actor consultant masquerading as a Stansted Express employee ticking
names off a clipboard. They were then ushered on board a coach in a very
off-hand manner and transported to the training venue.

On arrival, a Power Train training
consultant, waiting impatiently for them, ran through health and safety and
domestic procedures in an efficient, but cold manner.  


“We wanted to give participants a
taste of an off-brand experience and to build up that frustration and emotion,”
says Dean. “We can all talk about the theory, but once people experience things
for themselves, they can relate to them so much more.”

By demonstrating the origins and
consequences of unsatisfactory service in an unexpected and surprising way, it
would become glaringly obvious and logical that the desired change was

The delegates, by now disgruntled
and clearly unenthusiastic about the event, were ushered into a darkened room.
Spotlights and music suddenly came on and the actor consultant reappeared,
launching everyone into a fast-paced, energetic game show focusing on the power
of brands and demonstrating how brand values look in real life.

Emotional impact

Delegates met a range of “staff” and
“customers” played by the Power Train actor consultant. The scenarios took
place in a simulation of the real circumstances in which the participants
worked, ensuring that they didn’t simply observe the action objectively, they
saw themselves at work. This revelation reinforced the strong emotional impact
and enabled participants to recognise their own particular personality style.

“Hot seats”, with the actor
consultant staying in character throughout, allowed participants to question
the characters’ actions and motivations. Through a series of masterclasses,
they were then given the opportunity to try skills and behaviours for
themselves. They were encouraged to base their responses on their own
personality, but to adapt them to recognise the type of person they were
dealing with.

Strength and support

The results were immediate and have
been long-lasting. Because, contrary to most other approaches to service
training, the central idea with Power Train is to strengthen and support the
individual’s personality and not to try to change it, people immediately find
new energy and new ways of using their own abilities to meet customers’ needs
on brand. In this way, changing attitude and behaviour doesn’t simply become an
insurmountable challenge – it becomes achievable. People make the change for

One delegate explained how, as a
result of the event, he now sees his crew members in a different light and it
has helped him see them as individuals.

Mark Powles, commercial director of
WAGN, says, “The ultimate success of any brand lies in the attitude and
behaviour of its people, and their ability to live the brand values in
everything they do. These events did not provide staff with all of the answers,
but they showed them where to look, what to ask for and how to solve the

I have now commissioned Power Train
for the next stage of the Stansted Express brand’s development.

The key to
changing service behaviour
authentic working environments
– Combine logic with an emotional impact
– Harness individual personality and strengths rather than suppress them
– Try out the skills in lifelike situations
– Ensure that management style reflects and reinforces service style


Innovative and energetic

The Power Train approach is
innovative and energetic and breathes new life into training practices.

In an industry starved of success
for many years, Power Train’s ability to gain credibility with all levels of
staff and deliver a highly participative, entertaining and dynamic programme
has proved to be a cornerstone of our success to date.

Express Delivery – a customer
service transformation event
Designed and delivered by: Power Train (UK), 58 Royal York Crescent, Clifton,
Bristol BS8 4JP, Tel: 0117-973 3736  Fax:
0117 973 5789, www.powertrain.co.uk   e-mail: jill.dean@powertrain.co.uk

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