Alton Towers is facing a fightback

Rachel Clacher

May 01, 2013

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Rachel Clacher

Joining the Twitterati has not been a priority for me – my need to have correct grammar and punctuation in even the texts I send to my daughters means I have a desperate fear of quick mind dumps of only 140 characters. But a trip to Alton Towers has radically changed that.

A grey, dismally cold day in April, a friend and I arrived at Alton Towers with five excited youngsters. We had to walk well over a mile to the entrance, wait for 45 minutes at the ticket office, and hand in our tickets (as the machines weren’t working) before being told there was a power cut. “But it’s back on now”. Really? We walked around the park for three hours waiting for evidence of that. Freezing, with no information. Eventually at about 3pm, cold, wet and high on additives from the shocking food in the Mexican restaurant, we decided to go home. The bouncers on the doors of ‘Guest Services’ just about summed up the day.  We filled in a form, were told that there was no chance of us having our £335 back, and left…

How extraordinary that, in this day and age, an organisation of the magnitude and business such as Alton Towers has absolutely no plans of how to manage a power cut. Surely, someone somewhere has written a Business Continuity plan that considers such an unsurprising event? This wasn’t about an alien landing on Nemesis. All we wanted and needed was a bit of information and demonstration that our kids’ enjoyment was important. Instead of taking the imperative and keeping us engaged, informed and happy, the reality was that we were wet, cold, miserable, disappointed and out of pocket.

In my junk box this morning I found an email. It was from M Feedback []. The subject was: [#-173338-] (such a warm and cuddly feeling, being a number) and so my email filter had thought it was spam. It was not from an individual, but from The Alton Towers Resort Team and was an essay culminating in an offer of accepting our tickets any other day of the year. What no-one has thought about is that we don’t have our tickets as the ticket machine wasn’t working and a real person (one of theirs) took them instead. And they haven’t even considered that we might not want to go back…

An article in Saturday’s Telegraph: talks about how the internet is forcing firms to listen to its customer complaints, how the public broadcast of customer service messages is prompting swift responses from large organisations. Alton Towers’ moribund, pathetically uncoordinated actions that day make me believe that it is an organisation totally out of touch with its visitors, but very in touch with their money. The only small mercy is that I have recognised I now have two tools in the battle against bad customer service: Twitter and my feet. I will write (and try not to worry too much about punctuation) on one, and vote with the other. Alton Towers’ follow-up email is so disappointing that I don’t have to worry about having missed the Twitter boat on the 11th April. They have given me a whole new reason to scream in public today… We will find our thrills and spills with other companies who really understand what their business is about – their customers.

Author: Rachel Clacher is the co-founder of Moneypenny, the UK’s leading telephone answering service. In 2000, Rachel and her brother Ed Reeves pooled their convictions about customer service and teamwork – and Moneypenny began. More