Sunday, May 01, 2005
"May I make a reservation for you?"
Beginning today, when you call 1-800-USA-RAIL, you won't be greeted with a demand for a reservation. Back in the mid-nineties, when Amtrak had money to blow, and a mandate to "run the corporation like a business," it squandered incredible amounts on outside consultants and received virtually nothing in return. A company called CMC Marketing was brought in to conduct training of reservation and ticket agents: it's my understanding that Amtrak paid some $800,000 for the training program and consultation. After CMC was through, reservationists were required to use a standard greeting: "Amtrak (your name), may I make a reservation for you?" It put customers on the defensive from the first, and created an adversary relationship between agents and customers. I, along with others, had urged Amtrak to change the greeting . On April 28, agents received a memo that as of May 1, "May I make a reservation for you?" is finally out, replaced by the friendly, "How may I help you?" Agents are also no longer required to give first and last names--a first name will suffice. I'm happy that management is beginning to think rationally. It may be too late, as Amtrak's board of directors is stacked with Bush appointees who want to privatize, (i.e., kill) rail passenger service.