When Save East Coast Rewards started we were quite hostile towards Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC), we thought scrapping East Coast Rewards was just the first in a long line of cuts but unlike other rail operators they decided to directly engage with their critics rather than pretending they don't exist.
Although I (^DH - Dave) have been here from the start, Save East Coast Rewards also had another ^DH (Dan) at the beginning but he was going to be working overseas from April 2015 so had only intended to be there for the part of the campaign before VTEC took over. He was invited to meet with VTEC's marketing director after they took over but I wasn't aware of this so I started the hashtag #MakeVirginListen in the hope that someone at Virgin would listen, they contacted me at this time to find out why Dan hadn't took up their invite and that was the start of the quarterly meetings with VTEC.
We're quite lucky on the East Coast, the main InterCity East Coast franchise has always been one of the best in the country and there's also open access competition on the line from Grand Central and Hull Trains who were both rated highly in the Which? survey. It must seem odd to those who have to travel on worse routes that we care so much about a loyalty scheme but we've had a great loyalty scheme so it was a shame to lose it.
VTEC have kept us informed with their new developements and even invited me to the launch of their Virgin Azuma (Class 800) train. They are looking at ways of improving customer recognition so I consider our efforts are worthwhile even though they never brought back East Coast Rewards. Personally I've met a lot of great people who work behind the scenes at VTEC (including their MD David Horne) which have given me confidence that the franchise is in safe hands. They're not perfect but I think they do a better job than most.
On the other hand, other rail franchises have not dealt very well with their critics. Abellio Greater Anglia had a Twitter account called @Delayed_Again, even though it was very clear it was not an official account (the description clearly stated this) they ended up getting their account suspended as well as the subsequent acount that they created afterwards. The Southeastern parody site @Se_Raleway met the same fate, although some people did confuse the parody for the real thing a quick word from Twitter on labelling the account as a parody should have been enough.
Silencing your critics is a bad approach in this social media connected world. Listen to your critics, don't just ignore them, it's not going to help your reputation if you can't engage with your critics.
Please note posts in the blog section represent the views of the author only and may not represent the official views of Save East Coast Rewards or other contributors to this campaign