Starting next month, the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) will start dispatching “mystery customers” to evaluate the performance of its on-board catering staff, as well as those at railway stations.
Dennis Ju (朱來順), director of the TRA’s catering service department, said the project was part of its plans to raise the overall standard and quality of catering.
Ju said the mystery customers would be TRA employees unknown to the media and most of their peers. They would either be recently employed by the TRA or senior officials who work mainly in the company’s offices, and would therefore not be recognized as TRA staff, he said.
“Each of them has been trained,” Ju said. “They have been given a selection of roles to play so they can simulate different scenarios.”
Aside from acting like difficult passengers, Ju said the mystery customers would also submit -normal requests, such as asking for hot water, to see how the catering staff react to the situation.
“We found that staff simply threw up their hands and acted like there was nothing they could do when handling simple requests like a customer requesting hot water,” he said. “Some of them did not know what to do when passengers wanted to buy bento lunch boxes when the train had sold out.”
Ju said the project was not -intended to punish catering staff, but rather to show that some might need to be re-trained.
In addition to selling bento lunch boxes, the catering service department is also in charge of selling a wide range of railway-related products, including model trains and souvenirs featuring different train designs.
Ju said the administration has also recycled some train parts and turned them into robots that have been placed in the lobbies of railway stations as works of installation art.
Meanwhile, unused railway tiles, steel railway tracks and railway studs are being refurbished so that they can also be sold as souvenirs, he said.
Ju told a meeting at the Ministry of Transportation and Communications that the catering service department was aiming to achieve earnings of NT$368 million (US$12.7 million) this year, about a 6 percent increase compared with last year.