Amtrak Customer Service = Hugs

Remember that magical conversation I referred to in my last post? Well, turns out that stars have aligned and something in the universe has been preparing me to go to Detroit. 

Am I excited? I'm trying to keep my cool... but I think it's going to be pretty rad. !!

The thing about this is that I don't know what to expect... but I do know this - I believe in my heart that the people there are great and that we believe in the power of Human Centered Design. So, let's do this. 

However, sometimes when the universe aligns perfectly for someone else, things are breaking apart for others. It's strange how life works like that but this has happened to me before. Actually, when I know things are about to be great and everything just seems to be going right for me, there's a part of me that begins to reserve space in my heart and mind for sadness. It's almost like metaphysics. You can't control it.

This time around, a really good friend of mine was the one to break some awful news to me about something in her life. I get so upset when bad things happen to good people. I just... I just can't. 


  Amtrak's 1971 logo.

Amtrak's 1971 logo.

This is all to say that because of recent events such as those mentioned above, I found myself having to purchase an Amtrak ticket for my trip to Detroit. The website was confusing (UX Alert!) and their guest reward thing is separate?? Actually, it was so bad that I decided to call. Yes. I opted for calling someone on the phone to talk to a human. I didn't see any 'chat now' buttons and my password wasn't being sent to me after I reset it so I figured I had to. 

I had the best customer service that I have received over the phone in probably my entire life.

Even better than Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. 

She was kind, efficient, offered to do things for me when she didn't have to, and even asked about things I hadn't thought of regarding my trip. She also knew the order in which my mind was processing all of this information and it seemed like she had it down to a science. It was great UX. 

I think old systems like train/railroads have a great customer service embedded into their phone culture because that was the UX of their time. The hottest new thing was the telephone and businesses competed with each other by trying to offer the best services via operator. It's fascinating how often history repeats itself in different ways. The answers to things are usually already there - you just have to readjust the solution and reapply it to the context at hand in a mindful manner.

What I loved about the entire experience though was how much she made me feel at ease with the confusion of what I was seeing on screen. She explained why changes weren't showing up and assured me that my information was being updated as she typed. The secret to her miracle UX work was being able to mix both phone services and web delivery all at the same time - she made a believer out of me. 

So, I guess the phone isn't dead. I'll definitely remember this experience and take a chance on calling if everything else fails. I won't start to expect great phone service though - I think companies still need to desperately straighten that out. 

If there are any UXers who would like to tackle the Amtrak system - it would be a good idea to hang out with these phone service operators. They just might be able to write the whole architecture out for you.  
 

UX Notes: When Macy's made the decision to have their operators help direct customers to other stores to find what they needed, this was a UX decision that worked in their favor. They did this all by phone. What if our department store online checkouts also searched and crawled other stores' websites and directed their customers with a link to purchase their goods there if they were in the same situation? I guarantee loyalty.