Questioned in the night

I was surprised to be stopped leaving an LU station very late one recent Friday night by somebody attempting to conduct market research, and I mean late. Alert to my surroundings on the transport system, especially at night, I observed a lone sould with hi-vi and clipboard before I even reached the gateline. There was little attempt to engage with the zombies shuffling out of the station into the night and anxious to get home, and the person’s timid presence was ignored, I was keen to learn what on earth was going on, made eye contact and was immediately pounced upon and asked if I would mind taking part in some research that would take no more than ten minutes. Intrigued, and having nothing better to do, I accepted this entirely non-random invitation.

Having less than an hour earlier hailed from the pub (where I imagine everyone else had also spent their evening) my recollection of many of the questions is a bit hazy, but I did note down some of them.

First, at no time was I asked whether I was staff or former staff. This was odd considering I was asked if I had an Oyster card (yes, a free one) and whether I thought my journey had been good value for money (yes it was great value for money). I wonder where that data is going to turn up? I discussed this with interviewer who had no mechanism to record anything more meaningful. I recall being asked about Ride quality (OK-ish), but not the much-trumpeted air conditioning, for I had just alighted from an S stock train. I was asked was asked if I had been ‘satisfied’ by the number of staff seen (I had seen absolutely nobody, but was satisfied), and of the number of train announcements (the shear number and volume of which I found hugely distracting to the point of annoyance); she didn’t have a box for the answer I actually gave her, but we settled on dissatisfied. Was I satisfied with information at point of origin? I told her I couldn’t see the train indicator which was in a rotten position and that I’d used a working timetable to work out what was going on. We had the debate about which box we thought might best cope with that (I was satisfied with the information but it hadn’t been provided by LU initiative). I wasn’t asked whether I had actually been able to sit down (this was after all an S stock train and a potentially important question). We went on like this till she’d methodically completed her electronic checklist, with various amazing questions about things I could not imagine being of help to anyone, let alone my honest answers! There was of course no opportunity to record what really bugged me (absence of train indicator and lack of good information going into town: she wasn’t interested in other journeys).

Having humoured the administrative process (and the station now being empty) I then had a chat about the company she worked for and was surprised to discover that she was a full time employee and not just there to make the numbers up for the TfL contract and she mentioned other work she had done. This was by no means the first time I had gone out of my way to secure an opportunity to provide feedback on behalf of LU customers when less-than-assertive interviewers have been totally ignored by the escaping hordes and it did make me wonder just how representative the data is of the ‘average’ passenger. I realize statistically that if you ask sufficient people then the data will be ‘good enough’, but all the same…  And why the missing questions I referred to? I wish, really wish, I’d had a hand in formulating questions that might have been a little more helpful.

I hope she got home OK and wasn’t stopped by anyone conducting market research.

I think I got more out of it than TfL did.


About machorne

I have always lived in London and taken a great interest in its history and ongoing development. This extended into the history of its transport services, about which I have written a number of books - I have spent most of my working life working in the industry and observing changes from within, mostly to the good, but not always so. I continue to write, and have a website with half finished stuff in it so that it is at least available, if not complete. Several new books are in hand. I have many 'works in progress' and some of these can be found on my website; the we address is
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