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Amtrak Riverside Call Center to Close - Jan 2019

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16 hours ago, RebelRider said:

A new, non-union, call center was recently opened in Florida.

Are AGR agents at the new Florida call center?  I have had decent luck getting fairly knowledgeable AGR agents.  

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I'm opposed to farming out the jobs to a non Union call center because that means they are devaluing the craft that remains, and it's being used as a union busting technique. Yes I understand Amtrak is a "business" and has to do things for money.

But Amtrak really is in a rather strange place being both public service and a business. On one hand it provides essential rural service to underserved American towns but it's also expected to make money.

But that isn't related to the actual issue. It seams to me the current administration in Amtrak is a believer in cut to profitability which is why I think they are a horrible lot of people.

First they farm out the call center, next they will farm out LSA's and food service, and eventually they will target the operating department.

Why pay an engineer the high union wages Amtrak currently pays when you can farm it out to some shortline like the Lancaster and Chester who isn't Union to do the job for less. In a sense turning Amtrak into a mainline airline with an agreement with regional airlines.

So you would just buy your ticket from Amtrak but in reality it would be a train operated by (insert non Union company here). And sure some of you think I'm crazy for this thought thinking it can never happen. But I don't see any barriers to why it can't happen in a piecemeal form.

Plenty of shortlines have access to Class One tracks as it stands as part of trackage rights agreements some have more access than others. But if they were operating under Amtrak's umbrella as contractors for Amtrak it's technically doable.

Sure the union would put up a fight but at the same time as many states are "Right to Work" it could be doable to replace Union shops.

So by closing the Riverside Call Center to replace good paying Union jobs with a bunch of scabs from a third party company is a slippery slope. And not one I want to start going down.

Before to long it'll be bye bye OBS, and operations. Let's just be glad Anderson and Gardner haven't seen how the Piedmont runs with vending machines yet. We don't need to become the Southern Pacific.

#saveamtrakfireanderson
#sendthegardnerbacktothegarden
#saveourcraftsfireanderson
I don't think the unions would even allow non Union operating crew onto the Unionized class 1s. Such a move would probably cause a mass walkout on any class 1 RR that let a non Union Amtrak on. Just remember Amtrak is under a mandate to "run like a business," the only government agency required to do so. So Amtrak is making cuts most businesses would do.

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16 hours ago, Triley said:

It has....and supposedly they screw up everything they touch, don't know policies, etc...

 

It's contracted out.

Thank you sir. :) Why am I not surprised. 

15 hours ago, neroden said:

Seriously?  They put it somewhere not accessible by passenger rail?  :sigh: 

Believe it or not 30th Street is about 30-45 minutes away. Trenton about 30 minutes away as well. There is a van at the call center that will take people to 30th Street if the need arises. 

6 hours ago, cpotisch said:

But I feel like that's always been the norm for Amtrak phone agents...

Maybe for you. But for me I've never had any issues. 

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Perhaps, but since I almost always have to wait MANY minutes to get to an agent whenever I call USA-RAIL, I think that they really need more, not less.


What time do you usually call?

Call centers don’t hire more people to cover heavy periods, because then you end up with 25-50 people twiddling their thumbs once it slows down.

You can’t utilize temps during large storms, either, because it takes too long to train them.

It’s a Catch-22. You either have long waits during the busy periods and storms, or you end up paying wages and benefits to people you don’t need 50% of the time.

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14 minutes ago, SarahZ said:

What time do you usually call?

Call centers don’t hire more people to cover heavy periods, because then you end up with 25-50 people twiddling their thumbs once it slows down.

You can’t utilize temps during large storms, either, because it takes too long to train them.

It’s a Catch-22. You either have long waits during the busy periods and storms, or you end up paying wages and benefits to people you don’t need 50% of the time.

 

I've called at various times on various days and I don't remember the last time an agent picked up right off the bat.

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Most companies aim for a 2-5 minute hold queue, depending on the company.

Picking up immediately is great, but it’s also nearly impossible to achieve unless you hire a billion people and destroy your labor budget.

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21 hours ago, west point said:

Its great Amtrak is consolidating all its reservation system into one location.   They can save what $10M / year. Now what happens when the first major winter storm shuts down all traffic to / from the system reservation system ?  Then  it will cost Amtrak $10M per storm day in lost revenue !

 

Well, seeing as how Amtrak doesn't even pull in an average of $10 million/a day as it is ($3.2 billion in FY17, or $8.7 million/day, and that's *total* revenue, not just passenger tickets), I don't see how that would work.  Further, since most folks probably book online/on the app, the actual lost revenue is probably going to be pretty low.

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29 minutes ago, Acela150 said:
7 hours ago, cpotisch said:

But I feel like that's always been the norm for Amtrak phone agents...

Maybe for you. But for me I've never had any issues.

Then you're lucky, because I've lost count of how many times I (and I think many other members) Amtrak agents have either attempted to charge me nonsense fee or given us nonsense info which would have completely screwed us over if we didn't know better. Just a couple examples:

"You can put your bags in the lower level luggage area of your Viewliner sleeper on the Silver Meteor"

"It's a $100 fee to modify your reservation"

"If you want a different room number, you'll have to pay the new fare"

etc.

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Part of the problem with outsourcing (or trying to find an overflow call answering service) is that Amtrak forces people to call in for many complex transactions or semi-complex transactions (think reserving a specific room on the train, or even a number of AGR redemptions that involve connections.) At some point, if Amtrak can get it to the point where calling isn't required for the vast majority of transactions, then perhaps an outsourced firm to handle overflow makes sense (since most calls could be handled without extensive training as long as reference material was available.) But in the era where many calls are for more complex needs, overflow doesn't work well (since many people would simply have to be patched through to permanent/full-time staff vs. overflow staff.)

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The problem I have with all of this is the sporadic nature of the notifications. Sure, a lot of people make their reservations online. However,  at any given moment, there is a some sort of disruption, chaos or general mayhem on part of the system. If you had a reliable, real time twitter feed, a continuously updated disruption page on the website or some other way to reach the masses, I could understand.

We haven't gotten there yet. When things hit the fan, there are plenty of people to call and they often have questions about their options. Making them wait for long periods of time (while some of their options disappear while they wait) is not service friendly.

 

But, it is cost effective. <_<

 

 

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3 hours ago, Trogdor said:

Further, since most folks probably book online/on the app, the actual lost revenue is probably going to be pretty low.

90% of them book online, according to Amtrak's chief marketing officer.

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7 hours ago, cpotisch said:

Then you're lucky, because I've lost count of how many times I (and I think many other members) Amtrak agents have either attempted to charge me nonsense fee or given us nonsense info which would have completely screwed us over if we didn't know better. Just a couple examples:

"You can put your bags in the lower level luggage area of your Viewliner sleeper on the Silver Meteor"

"It's a $100 fee to modify your reservation"

"If you want a different room number, you'll have to pay the new fare"

etc.

The fee to modify your reservation is true. You pay what the current bucket is when you modify. That's just how things are. Same for a different room. They're not yanking your chain for extra cash. 

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41 minutes ago, Acela150 said:

The fee to modify your reservation is true. You pay what the current bucket is when you modify. That's just how things are. Same for a different room. They're not yanking your chain for extra cash. 

This is only somewhat true. I’ve actually had very good luck changing rooms for my upcoming trip. Now I’ll admit i made the changes very early (the trip is next Sept), and had to call a couple times sometimes, but they can and did get it done. I also have to admit, it’s really an enjoyable experience if you get a nice and motivated agent on the line, they really will do everything they can for you. 

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I wouldn’t be surprised if the Florida center is an outsourced cell center service provider - not Amtrak employees. The Philly center probably will handle the base load of calls - the calls then probably overflow to the Florida company during high volume and they probably only have to pay the company based on how many calls get routed to them. (Likely the Florida company serves other companies too.)

 

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9 minutes ago, lordsigma said:

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Florida center is an outsourced cell center service provider - not Amtrak employees. The Philly center probably will handle the base load of calls - the calls then probably overflow to the Florida company during high volume and they probably only have to pay the company based on how many calls get routed to them. (Likely the Florida company serves other companies too.)

 

Alternatively they may use tiers with the outsourced provider doing level 1 calls only and the internal center handling elevated and other specialty calls.

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14 hours ago, Acela150 said:

The fee to modify your reservation is true. You pay what the current bucket is when you modify. That's just how things are. Same for a different room. They're not yanking your chain for extra cash. 

Well in this case, they were saying that the act of modifying a reservation in and of itself yields a $100 fee. Which is not true.

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Hopefully Amtrak will accompany this with some other changes to prevent ridiculous wait times (though I'm not holding my breath). An easy one would be to train station agents to do the things that currently only phone agents can a big one being AGR point redemption/modification. Station agents still cannot touch a reservation or do anything for you if you booked with points. This would reduce some of the occasions where people have no choice but to call. I have had a couple instances where I've been on an eastern LD train and missed my original NEC connection at WAS to SPG but arrived in enough time (and I retrieved my checked bag quickly enough) to make an earlier train than the one I was automatically reassigned to by the reservation system. On both occasions they were regular paid tickets so I was just able to go to the station agent and they were able to do it quickly and I made the train. I doubt I would have been able to do it had it been a points transaction that required me to call as I had 15 minutes to change it and board after getting my checked bag and I wouldnt have attempt calling before having my bag in hand because you never know.

Edited by lordsigma

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Good luck getting a local station agent to pick up the phone. Every time I've tried to call my local station the number has been forwarded to 1-800-USA-RAIL.

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Based on my call a few minutes ago to the AGR Select & Select Plus phone number, and then being being put on hold after pressing '0', I had at least a 5 minute wait until Patricia answered.   It seems like that might be the longest I've had to hold since making Select status 4-5 years ago and getting the 'secret' select/select plus phone number.  Maybe they've already started laying people off at Riverside.  Or, perhaps, they're taking their vacation time before being laid off?

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