A brand’s toilet experience really can say a lot.

A look at the new Virgin trains toilet experience.

This has been said many times about restaurants.

But it is even more true about trains.
Virgin are in the throes rebrand all of East Coast mainline trains.
Millions will be spent on the new logos, colours and no doubt new suits for the Virgin Team, but will they look at the loos?

Over the past 15 years I have spent 5,000 hours on these trains.
So I have had to make a visit from time to time.
And it’s not good.

We have a measurement process for the quality of Brand Experiences ranging from Dysfunctional at 0 to  Magical at 10.   This is one of those “Dysfunctional – 0”.

I took a team of budding Customer Experience trainees to visit the trains in Kings Cross station last week and asked them to list the opportunities for improvement. As always we ranked the opportunities based on impact for the customer versus cost for the company.

Many of the issues are really basic…

  • Torn strips of paper on the floor. Problem identified as too many sheets being packed in and the raw edge of the dispenser opener (you know: the bit where you pull the tissue out).  Total benefit… Smarter, cleaner.  Total Cost approx less than £500 for the entire East Coast fleet.
  • Complicated locking process involving more lights and buttons than the average Fun Fair. Total Benefit… Massive reduction is fear of being caught with your pants down. Total Cost… Expensive:  who designed it like this in the first place!  Surely this has been addressed in the new stock being planned for 2017. Tell me it has!
  • General sense of abandonment. A little like Public Town Toilets in that regard. No sense of ownership, pride or responsibility. And yet, there are good people cleaning and fixing them at each journey end. Company should find a way of communicating that they do care. Total Benefit:  warm, comforting feeling towards kindly train company. Total Cost: £1,000 for whole fleet.

Come on Virgin. Be Virgin. And sort it out.

Who does care for their toilets? What retailer brands or cafes do a good job in the Little Room? Do share!


Ric Simcock