The friendly face of FCC at St Albans station
PUBLISHED: 06:49 21 February 2014
Come rain or shine you will find this man striding along the platform dressed in a fluorescent jacket and train driver's hat as he spreads some cheer to the district's commuters.
You know who I am talking about right? It is James Allen the jovial platform assistant who works at St Albans train station.
I have been trying to persuade the 52-year-old to speak to the Herts Advertiser for several months but being the humble soul he is, he has shrugged off my requests claiming he did not want to be singled out among his colleagues.
But I am pleased to report I finally managed to sit down with James – the most polite person I have ever had the pleasure of meeting – to find out how in just 10 months working for First Capital Connect (FCC) he has made such a name for himself.
On paper James is just like any other platform assistant who is required to communicate with customers and dispatch trains safely as they pass through the station.
However, he has taken it upon himself to go above and beyond by dishing out chocolates (some of which he pays for out of his own pocket) when trains are delayed and handing out umbrellas in the pouring rain.
So, you ask, what motivates this kind-hearted train enthusiast? “When trains are upset or delayed I see people’s spirits fall and that is so sad,” he explained. “If I can do something to make them feel better then I think that is a very worthwhile thing to do and it makes me feel good about being me.”
It will come as no surprise to learn that James, who lives in Marshalswick, worked as a butler at a private members’ club in Scotland for 14 years and this is why he believes good customer service is paramount.
He said: “It is [working as a platform assistant] exactly the same. It is looking after people and having a lot of fun doing so. Except sadly the tips were larger as a butler.”
“It is the way I’ve always done things so I’ve just carried on,” he continued. “I don’t regard it as anything special. It is the sort of service you’d expect from a first class shop. We are no different, we are selling a service.”
James is a very well-spoken sort of chap and one of his typical announcements will involve telling people it is nice to see them and to take care when boarding the train.
When trains are delayed he will also come on the tannoy and apologise profusely: “I’m saying sorry and trying to be meaningful but I think to myself surely this sounds shallow.
“Sometimes when trains are running late I wish I could have a bacon butty waiting for every customer.”
FCC has been inundated with letters from customers showering their employee with praise, and on Twitter residents have called him a “legend” and said he should have his own radio show.
When asked what he thought about the positive feedback, James replied: “I regard myself as very bland and ordinary and thoroughly flawed.
“I’m just being pleasant, what’s the fuss? “
As I wrapped up the interview and watched him bound off as happy as Larry to get on with his shift, I felt positively upbeat. His refreshing zest for life is infectious and is sure to put a smile on the face of even the most disgruntled commuter.