Q and A with Martina Beckford
Ever wondered what it’s like to work at one of our busiest railway stations, helping some of the millions of passengers passing through?
Meet Martina Beckford, a customer service assistant at London Victoria. Find out what a typical day for her looks like and why it’s the most rewarding role she’s ever had.
How did you come to be in this role?
I’ve been at Network Rail for two and a half years and I love it. I worked as a teaching assistant before but I’m now a customer service assistant. My job involves mobility hosting and driving the station buggy to help passengers.
Why did you become a customer service assistant?
It felt like such a natural fit because I am such a people’s person. I really enjoy meeting new people and making a positive difference to their day.
Can you tell me a little bit about your role day to day?
My role consists of lots of different duties throughout the day, like working in customer service and acting as a mobility assistant.
Within the mobility department, I carry out tasks like booking assistance, meeting and greeting passengers, driving the buggy and assisting passenger to and from the trains.
I also call ahead to other stations to arrange assistance for passengers arriving there – things like organising ramps, wheelchairs, buggies, and even arranging a helping hand off the train.
It’s important that we cater to all our passengers, including those with mobility assistance needs.
What’s your daily routine like in your job?
I start by seeing how many passengers I have on my laptop. I then get ready for the first passenger to arrive, letting one of my buggy drivers know their arrival time and which platform they’ll be on. Sometimes I’ll be covering a buggy driver during their breaks.
When I’m not driving a buggy, I’ll be hosting at the passenger assistance desk. There, I’ll liaise with train operating companies about arrivals and departures times for my passengers, make new bookings and even call passengers who haven’t turned up when expected.
By 13:00, my team may have assisted up to 30 passengers already.
What are the shift patterns like?
I work different shifts on different weeks, and every week the shift will change. I usually work on weekdays and then sometimes at the weekend.
The shifts start and finish at different times depending on their type. My average shift is eight hours long but on weekends the shift is slightly longer, lasting 12 hours.
What’s been your proudest moment working as a customer service assistant?
My proudest moment was just after the third coronavirus lockdown when I helped a passenger who was extremely anxious about travelling again. This was the first time the passenger was travelling in a few years, to visit family she hadn’t seen during that time.
I spent a long time with the passenger at the passenger assistance desk. I listened to her worries and fears while reassuring her that I would do my utmost to get her safely to her destination. To lessen the passenger’s worry about missing her final stop, I told her all the stops in between the journey and the time she would reach her destination by. I also organised for a member of staff to meet her at the final stop and called the passenger’s family to let them know her arrival time.
A few weeks later, that same passenger used our service again to travel. She said she no longer felt alone now that she could use our service to see her family.
What sort of person do you need to be to be a customer service assistant?
You need good communication skills – particularly listening skills. You also need to be a problem-solver, have a lot of patience, empathy and a smile.
What would you say is a career highlight for you?
A highlight for me would be when I won a station star award this May. I received it in recognition of the great support and customer service I give to our passengers and colleagues.
I was also selected to interview Network Rail’s managing director for the Southern region, Ellie Burrows, as part of International Women’s Day celebrations. I don’t usually like public speaking but I forced myself out of my comfort zone to interview her. During the chat, we discussed how important it is to have and encourage more women to join the rail industry.
What piece of advice would you give to anyone interested in a role like yours?
I would ask anyone interested to just apply! It is one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever had, and the shifts help me work around my family life. If you’re a chatterbox like me, it’s the perfect job.