Penelope Rance

My UX research & design ramblings

Season Ticket Refund

When I started my new job in London I was very lucky to have the option of receiving my train ticket via work so I did not have to shell out thousands of pounds in one go, instead it would be taken from my pay over the course of 12 months.

I received the paper ticket via the post very quickly, then found out that I could add it to my smart touch card meaning that I would be able to just tap in and out of the barriers rather than having to get my paper ticket out each time and running it through the machine.

To do this I had to apply, and once my application was accepted I had to hand in my paper ticket at my local station so no one else could use it.

For six months I used my smart touch card with no issues and everything worked well.

But then we got sent home from work due to Coronavirus and I realised I did not need a season ticket to commute from the bedroom to my desk in the living room.

When it was just going to be a few weeks I was not too worried, but then people started talking about three to four months, then even six months. I started looking into what I should do about my ticket.

There was no helpful advice on the website, not even contact details, so I decided to ask for a refund via a form on the work website.

It was not the best form ever - it would not let me back date my refund, I guess they assume you would be asking for one because you are leaving or have a plan so know when you want it to end.

And then it wanted me to print out the form - there was no warning about this, and I was on my laptop and not attached to a printer.

And then finally it said I needed to send my paper ticket in with the form for the refund to be accepted. Wow.

I have to assume that the process had been created before smart touch cards were a thing and had not been amended since.

So with no paper ticket to send them, I sent them a print out of the email from the train company thanking me for my application and stating I would need to hand my ticket in. And I sent them a photo that I took of my paper ticket and my smart touch card when I first received it.

I was not even sure if anyone would be picking up their post with so many people working from home right now.

Apparently this was not enough. I still need to send them a paper ticket.

So then I had to contact the train company to find out if I could get a paper ticket from them. Their website said I needed to go to the station that issued the ticket, but the ticket came from work and everything was closed due to Coronavirus!

So I made a request via their website, but due to the number of other people looking for refunds it took them over 6 weeks to get back to me.

I understand that Coronavirus is a brand new thing that people will not have designed for, but surely cancelling a season ticket half way though is not something new and neither are smart touch cards. I cannot believe this journey has not been thought about before now.

  1. Why can the work season ticket not be put directly on my smart touch card at the beginning?
  2. Why do I have to send a paper ticket back when I have evidence that I no longer have the ticket?
  3. Why are we still using paper tickets anyway? The paper ticket that the train company send me will only be sent straight back to them via my work and seems like a big waste of time and resources!

In the end the train company refused to send a new paper ticket but did send a screenshot to show the ticket had been cancelled, but this process seemed to involve several layers of management.

When designing processes we need to remember that people will not always be following the happy path. We should be thinking about the things that can go wrong or that can make our customer stumble, and how we can smooth this process out for them.

If people are not following the happy path they are probably stressed or angry and need way more support than someone following that golden path. Do not think of them as edge cases, think of them as your biggest supporters if you get their journey right.

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