By Nick James

After a great 2 days of inspiration at the Likeminds Festival in Exeter I left with a spring in my step and headed to the train station for my journey back to London with First Great Western.

I bought a reasonably priced ticket as I was travelling off-peak and looked forward to a relaxed journey home with my laptop in front of me ready to write up my thoughts and ideas.

The LikeMinds Festival was full of thought provoking people from the evergreen Chris Moss explaining how to implement a way that teams can re-arrange their working practices to get every other Friday off — to the Pirate that is Glenn Le Santo offering people the chance to ‘Hoover their Brains’ on his narrow boat.

Alan Moore, author of No Straight Lines said; “We are in transition. We’re moving from a linear, industrial world to a non-linear world.”

His talk was entitled; “A navigation guide to a better future” and I really wish that someone from First Great Western was in the audience — not just for this talk but for the whole festival - But more on that later!

People who took the stage at LikeMinds spoke passionately and they cared, they were also brave enough to admit their failings. The wonderfully youthful and smart Anton Chernikov founder of ‘Good People’ declared that ‘social enterprise is the future of businesses’ and the enigmatic John Richardson — enthralled us with the tale of his challenge to break par in a year.

Perhaps now is the time for a neat segue back to First Great Western — an organisation that are constantly below par and seem to have no social engagement - amazingly ignoring any mention of them on Twitter?

I can forgive the train being late but not the apology from the guard about the lack of air conditioning claiming that it’s been like this for weeks and no-one’s done anything?

My particular solution was to move to 1st Class — I sat there for an hour and waited for someone to ask me for my ticket — eventually I was approached and told that the upgrade was a whopping £130.

The alternative was standing in a sweltering corridor so I agreed to pay and presented the same credit card that I used to buy my original ticket only to be informed that they couldn’t take this card on the train.

I was rudely given 2 options — use another card (I didn’t have one) or accept a £170 fine. When I suggested that it wasn’t necessarily my fault to expect to be able to pay for the upgrade with the card used for the original journey I was asked if I wanted to be ordered off the train at the next stop.

Eventually we agreed to go our separate ways and I went back to the sauna that was standard class, standing room only and full of miserable FGW customers.

From there I Tweeted a couple of times hoping to ‘engage’ with someone who might care about their customers — not a dicky-bird.

So my plea to First Great Western is to send some people to the next LikeMinds Festival because you need to understand the world in which you operate, your people need to ‘care’ and despite your monopoly you need to put your customers at the centre of your operation.

I will be happy to pay for the cost of a delegate place or here’s an idea - why don’t you sponsor the next LikeMinds Festival? You might find out that the only word that could be considered correct in your company name is 'Western' - which conjures up images of cowboys.

Anyway back to the 2 days in Exeter and I’ll let the brilliant Alan Moore have the last words — particularly apt for First Great Western - “Stop using the word consumer and treat your customers as part of a community - it'll radically change the way you do business"