Virgin Trains’ Train Manager Paddy Fitzsimons has won the 2011 National RailStaff Award for Outstanding Customer Service after he got a customer home for Christmas last year. Paddy also picked up the V Good service award in the annual Virgin Trains’ Feel Good Awards earlier in the year. Paddy is seen on the left in the photograph collecting his award (photo courtesy of RailStaff).
Customer Dr Brownell was travelling from Dubai to Ireland in December 2010, when transport across Britain, especially airports, was severely disrupted following heavy snow. Dr Brownell said: “I would like to congratulate Paddy and recognise him as being one in million. On this particular journey I had arrived into London from the Middle East before making my way by train to Holyhead. I came into contact with hundreds of people from airlines, airports, the police, hotels and so on, but for 36 hours no one did or said anything to help me or make me feel secure. That changed when I stepped on to Paddy’s train and from the moment that I heard Paddy’s voice on the PA system, I knew that this was the man who was going to get us home.
“I have shared my ‘Paddy’ story with delegates at customer management conferences and seminars across Europe, the USA, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The end of the story is always the same, the audience erupt in applause. In fact on one occasion Paddy got a standing ovation! One delegate commented afterwards, ‘That story gave me goose-bumps. Where can we get more Paddys?’”
Dr Brownell, who is a customer experience management consultant who trains people in customer service, added: “I don’t teach customer service people the art of going the extra mile any more. I tell them about Paddy and I leave them with the question, ‘Are you going to be Paddy?’
“There is no denying that Paddy did a great job in extreme circumstances. Indeed, he did it on a day when he could probably have found a reasonable excuse not to go to work. Thanks to Paddy’s herculean performance I got home for Christmas. I also congratulate Virgin Trains because Paddy was clearly supported by an organisation and a management team that empower him to make decisions and take action based on the best interests of his passengers.“
Paddy Fitzsimons said: “I am very proud and humbled winning these awards, especially with all the fabulous staff we have at Virgin Trains. I am so glad I was able to help Dr Brownell in a small way.”
Paddy is based at London Euston and lives in Milton Keynes.
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Notes to Editors
Extracts from Dr Brownell’s nomination for Paddy Fitzsimons
• On Sunday 19 December 2010 Virgin Trains’ customer Dr Brownell arrived at London Euston station, having experienced a long and difficult journey from Dubai after he was caught up in severe airline disruption due to bad weather. Like many thousands of travellers he turned to the railways when airports were closed following heavy snow falls. Dr Brownell was travelling by train from London Euston to Holyhead to catch a ferry to Ireland.
• Dr Brownell, a customer experience management consultant, who trains people in customer service, arrived at London Euston station. He wrote to Virgin Trains to nominate Paddy Fitzsimons for a Virgin Trains’ Feel Good Award:
In the following extracts from his letter Dr Brownell explains his experience after boarding a Virgin train at London Euston station:
• “Paddy announced himself on the PA system. He acknowledged that the train was packed and apologised to passengers who had reserved seats or who had First Class tickets. He explained all of the problems with the weather and how many of us were desperate to get home for Christmas. He then made the announcement that I will remember word for word... "The train is very busy today ladies and gentlemen, but I will do everything in my power to get all of you where you need to go. I don't know if I have a crew today so I don't know if I will be able to open The Shop. I will get back to you about that in a few minutes. For now, get yourself as comfortable as possible, sit anywhere you can on the train ... except my office and I'll talk to you again later."
• “Remember how packed the train was. Paddy pushed his way down the train and stopped to have a chat with passengers. When he got back to his office, he came back on the PA and announced that there were a lot of passengers trying to make the evening ferry from Holyhead. “
• “He was unsure if we would make the ferry. He also pointed out that there were far more people seeking to go to Holyhead than they could fit on the smaller train from Crewe. Next, he announced that he would open The Shop. He told us he didn't know the prices and asked that people group their orders to avoid too many people moving up and down the packed train.“
• “The guy who took on the job of going to The Shop for us came back and told us that Paddy was on the phone trying to organise buses to take us to Holyhead. Sure enough, a short time later the PA sprung to life and Paddy told us that he had organised two buses to take the overflow. He said he would give us more details before we got to Crewe.”
• “As we approached Crewe Paddy told us where the coaches would be and how to get there. He said we had a chance to make the ferry if the roads were ok. I managed to get on the first bus. The lady beside me on the bus was carrying her wedding dress. It was now Sunday evening and she was getting married on Monday afternoon. We all agreed to do whatever it took to get her on the ferry. The rest of us would wait for the 03:00 sailing in Sunday morning. We got to the ferry port 15 minutes before the ferry departed. Boarding had closed.”
• “When the ferry staff agreed to let our bride on we were delighted (it was a small victory for all of us) but then one woman objected to the bride getting special treatment and the ferry staff said they couldn't risk a riot with so many people in the terminal so no-one got on the ferry. Eventually, the terminal filled with the rest of the passengers from our train and one more train that arrived into Holyhead. No more trains made it to Holyhead that night. We got the ferry and I was home at 06:00 on Monday morning. I felt great.
• If Paddy hadn't taken the time to talk to everyone and understand their situations to plot solutions... there are so many if's.... I really believe that I wouldn't have been home for Christmas if it wasn't for Paddy. For what it is worth, I called the national radio station when I got home, they put me on air. I wished our Bride the best of luck for her wedding and I thanked Paddy.”
The website of ‘Brownell, the Contact Centre Doctor’: www.brownell.ie
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• Virgin Trains is the brand name of Virgin Rail Group (VRG), which is owned 51 percent by Virgin Group and 49 percent by Stagecoach. We have operated the West Coast passenger train franchise since 1997.
• The current franchise was due to run until 31 March 2012, but the Department for Transport announced on 27 October 2011 that it would be extended until 8 December 2012. We have been short-listed for the new franchise that will start on 9 December 2012 and run until 31 March 2026, with an option to be extended by up to 20 months.
• Virgin Trains has been recognised in numerous industry awards. In 2011 the company was named Best Rail Operator in the Group Leisure Awards (which we also won in 2009 and 2010). In 2011 Virgin Trains won the British Quality Foundation's Achievement Award for Customer Satisfaction. In 2010 we were named Best Rail Operator of the Year at the Travel Globe Awards (voted for by readers of the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Evening Standard. In 2009 we were voted Best UK Domestic Train Service by Business Traveller magazine for the second year running.
• Virgin Trains first achieved Investors In People accreditation in 2007 and this was renewed in 2010; the IIP Gold award was achieved in 2011. In May 2011 Virgin Trains was awarded accreditation against the criteria of the European Foundation for Quality Management's (EFQM) Excellence Model. The company’s Learning and Development team won a National Training Awards 2011 West Midlands award for its Coaching Culture programme.
Virgin Trains’ Feel Good Awards
• Virgin Trains’ Feel Good Awards are held annually to recognise the fantastic work of staff. Awards are made in the following categories:
• V Good service: For making our service that little bit more special.
• V Good support: For being that inspirational helping hand to friends, colleagues or to the business during times of disruption.
• V Good in a crisis: For being cool, calm and collected in the face of adversity.
• V Good in the community: For people who use their skills, time and energy to bring that special community spirit to the workplace.
• V Good idea: For that bright spark which brings real benefit to customers in terms of value and service or inside the business by getting things done better and smarter.
• V Good leadership: For inspiring others to deliver great results.
• V Good team: For coming together and getting the job done like no-one else can.
• V Good station: For being the best of the best on the Virgin Trains network.
• V Good person: For being that one person who makes a big difference to us and our customers.
• Most categories are based on feedback and nominations from customers and staff. Customer can nominate by email to: Feelgood@virgintrains.co.uk
• Media contact: Andy Milne, firstname.lastname@example.org
• Website: www. railstaffawards.com
• The fifth RailStaff Awards ceremony, held at the Birmingham International Convention Centre on 29 October 2011, has been hailed as a great success. In what has now become a popular annual event the RailStaff Awards recognises the ingenuity, effort and professionalism of the men and women who deliver the railway round the clock 365 days a year.
• Six hundred railway staff crowded into the International Convention Centre to greet winners of the awards which range from Train Driver of the Year to Lifetime Achievement Award. Colin Flack, Chief Executive of the Rail Alliance, hosted the evening and paid tribute to the heroism and resourcefulness that all staff nominated for a RailStaff Award display.
• Winners receive a special commemorative glass plinth and star prizes that include foreign holidays. As well as the awards themselves there was live music and entertainment and railway staff were able to let their hair down and party the night away.
• Tom O’Connor, managing director of the Rail Media Group which stages the RailStaff Awards, said: “We were delighted to welcome all railway staff to the RailStaff Awards. Few among the general public realise the tremendous effort it takes to run a railway – the early starts and constant pressure to deliver on time and safely. I’d like to congratulate all the winners. The judges have a very difficult job. Can I reiterate what several of them said to me: Everyone there is a winner and this industry, like no other, is definitely on a winning streak’.
• Despite the recession passenger rail volumes continue to grow as does demand for rail freight services. With the Crossrail project picking up pace and plans for High Speed Two becoming clearer there has never been a better time to be involved in the railway industry.
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