Jump to content
rtabern

Amtrak Riverside Call Center to Close - Jan 2019

Recommended Posts

I just phoned the Select Executive number and did not have to wait even a minute to speak to an agent.  After asking, I learned she was in Philadelphia.  In the past, at this time of the evening, I would have assumed I would be speaking to someone in Riverside.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Trogdor said:

 

And what is your source for that statistic?

I worked at the Call Center in Philly for a short time and that was what they quoted us. ;) Hope that's good enough. :) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
32 minutes ago, Acela150 said:

I worked at the Call Center in Philly for a short time and that was what they quoted us. ;) Hope that's good enough. :) 

 

Ok, but how up-to-date were those statistics at the time they quoted them to you?

Seems a bit disingenuous to discount one statistic while accepting another, when they both ultimately come from the same source.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/14/2018 at 9:29 PM, RebelRider said:

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

I should clarify this a bit. 

Amtrak contracted with a third-party call center to answer Amtrak calls. They already have a large operation at this particular facility which is just one of dozens across the US. Not sure how much training they're receiving, but I understand the people were hired for and are dedicated to Amtrak calls vs. answering for multiple companies. Definitely non-union and based on job postings and reviews paying $11-16/hr.

Very sad for everyone in Riverside who saw the writing on the wall when this third-party center opened.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/17/2018 at 10:11 PM, Trogdor said:

 

Ok, but how up-to-date were those statistics at the time they quoted them to you?

Seems a bit disingenuous to discount one statistic while accepting another, when they both ultimately come from the same source.

I'll put it this way. I'm way more inclined to believe people that work there, then people that are executives in DC that are doing everything they can to justify closing a call center of Unionized Employees. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'll put it this way. I'm way more inclined to believe people that work there, then people that are executives in DC that are doing everything they can to justify closing a call center of Unionized Employees. 

Actually both have their own fishes to fry, though different ones. It is not easy to know who to trust more or less. Best is if some audited figures are available. If not, one tends to pick the one that reconfirms ones bias 🤪, usually.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, jis said:


Actually both have their own fishes to fry, though different ones. It is not easy to know who to trust more or less. Best is if some audited figures are available. If not, one tends to pick the one that reconfirms ones bias , usually.

I don't have to trust anybody to find that 90% figure unbelievable. Way too many kinds of bookings require a phone call, with at least part of what you want to do not being doable online.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, tricia said:

I don't have to trust anybody to find that 90% figure unbelievable. Way too many kinds of bookings require a phone call, with at least part of what you want to do not being doable online.

Yes, a lot of “kinds” of bookings, but what percentage of overall bookings do those “kinds” represent.

In the last few years I’ve booked everything from short-distance corridor trips to long-distance sleeper trips (revenue and AGR), the Autumn Express twice, etc., and I can’t remember the last time I had a reason to call in to an agent for anything.

True, if someone wants a specific room, or needs to have some kind of special service notice, they need to call in. But I’d wager those are in the extreme minority.

Think of it a different way:  Amtrak carries 31 million passengers/year, or an average of 85,000 per day (more on weekdays, fewer on weekends, but I don’t have that data breakdown available).  Does it really make logical, intuitive sense that up to 30,000 of them, per day, are calling in to book their tickets?

Edited by Trogdor

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Most of my calls have been of two varieties:
(1) A relatively last-minute reservation (I've booked more than one ticket while en route to the station); or
(2) "Hi, could you send my ticket to this other email so I can show the conductor when boarding?  Thanks!"

There's a smattering of "The website is acting odd" calls as well (remember, the website does go down on occasion).

Edit: I suspect a number in the 10-20% range is about right.  Remember, some chunk of Amtrak's rides are multi-ride tickets (which limits the need to call in), and higher-frequency riders on major corridors (particularly on unreserved routes) probably need to call in somewhat less often unless either the website or the QuikTrak machines are down.

Edited by Anderson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The only time I ever called an agent in the last year or two was to get a ticket on a train that I had already jumped onto with the Conductor’s permission, on the NEC. Since I don’t really worry too much about which room I am in, I have no need to ask for a change. And last of all the fact that I am using Amtrak much less due to my geographical situation may be contributing to the lack of us of agents too.

I agree with Anderson that 10% or maybe a bit more is the ballpark that makes some sense. It should be a progressively reducing number as the website becomes more capable, which it has and continues in that direction. Also progressively passengers who are not web savvy are thinning out too with the inexorable passage of time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's still frustrating to have a number of not-terribly-edge-case situations where someone would need to call in. There's been a few times where I've had to call in because the website simply won't book an AGR redemption (it'll pull the cost fine, but then simply error out at the final checkout screen.) Also, any request for a specific room requires calling in; it really should be on the website and until that's done I'd expect a fair amount of calls to come in on it. Open sleeper tickets also require an agent; while that's more of an edge case it's still a ticket type that simply can't be booked online. As long as those limitations are in place, paired with the general lack of penalty for calling in, I'd expect Amtrak to have a higher-than-average call volume for a transportation company, and for those agents to need a higher-than-average training need and skill set for a call center employee.

While 30-35% of people booking through alternate means seems a bit high, I could see that if the call center-sourced figure (of 65-70% booking online) is only looking at Amtrak.com/Amtrak app bookings. If the Amtrak marketing figure is referring to reservations received without Amtrak agent assistance, that leaves about 20-25% that are booked through either a travel agency, Concur or similar business travel software, or some other third-party means. Most of those probably would appear to Amtrak as "online" transactions in terms of booking. (It's also possible the figure is coming from number of calls vs. number of tickets sold, ignoring that some people may make multiple calls or may call in for information without actually booking online.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, jis said:

I agree with Anderson that 10% or maybe a bit more is the ballpark that makes some sense. It should be a progressively reducing number as the website becomes more capable, which it has and continues in that direction. Also progressively passengers who are not web savvy are thinning out too with the inexorable passage of time.

Web savvy passengers are thinning out too – it's all about the app :D.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Anderson said:

(2) "Hi, could you send my ticket to this other email so I can show the conductor when boarding?  Thanks!"

You do know that you can do that through the site, right? Just go to Amtrak.com, click Modify Trip, put in your reservation number and email/phone, hit enter, click Send Itinerary, put in the email you want to send the ticket to, and you're done. Takes maybe 15 seconds.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, tricia said:

I don't have to trust anybody to find that 90% figure unbelievable. Way too many kinds of bookings require a phone call, with at least part of what you want to do not being doable online.

I book almost all of my trips by phone with an agent (and I travel a lot).  I want to choose my room on the Silvers and most of the time on other trains.  I book on line if I am traveling on an Acela, NEC or state supported that does not connect with a Silver or other LD train.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/14/2018 at 8:29 PM, Acela150 said:

They are covered by a Union Agreement. BUT to exercise seniority elsewhere they need to be qualified on something else e.g. ticket agent. Really their only choice is to move to Philly if they so desire.But I don't see people moving across the country for their job. 

This is particularly true if this article is true:

Amtrak call center relocation negotiations off to slow start, union says

Union leader says the railroad’s relocation allowance offer was half what’s needed to move to Philadelphia.

A few brief "fair use" quotes:

Quote

Also, union negotiators are trying to stretch the time frame so workers do not have to make a decision about moving to Amtrak’s other call center in Philadelphia on very short notice. The railroad announced three weeks ago the Riverside facility would close Jan. 18.

Quote

“The main thing is, we’re trying to give our people enough time,” Dinsdale said. “When they closed the Chicago office they gave those people six months.”

Quote

Last week, following a mass meeting of employees at a Riverside banquet hall, Dinsdale said an appropriate relocation allowance would be $12,000. Late Tuesday afternoon, he said Amtrak has proposed offering its workers half that amount. In 2003, when Amtrak closed a call center in Chicago, workers received a $7,500 allowance to move to Riverside.

 

Edited by Thirdrail7

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, Thirdrail7 said:
Quote

Last week, following a mass meeting of employees at a Riverside banquet hall, Dinsdale said an appropriate relocation allowance would be $12,000. Late Tuesday afternoon, he said Amtrak has proposed offering its workers half that amount. In 2003, when Amtrak closed a call center in Chicago, workers received a $7,500 allowance to move to Riverside.

Classy. Good for them. :angry:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, it looks like Congress has started sniffing around. Let the good times roll.

39 congressional reps join effort to help Amtrak call-center employees in Riverside

https://www.pe.com/2018/12/12/37-congressional-reps-join-effort-to-delay-amtrak-call-center-closure-in-riverside/

Quote

Ken Calvert, R-Corona, strongly criticized Amtrak in another letter that was read to protesters Wednesday. Calvert asked Amtrak to immediately delay the shutdown for at least six months. He said that would allow for Congress to weigh in and also give employees time to make decisions about relocating.

Calvert was critical about reports that Amtrak has retained a third-party contractor in Florida to man phone lines during peak periods. Union representatives have said the Florida workers are not Amtrak employees and earn less than the Riverside workers do.

 

“If this is true, I find this to be completely unacceptable,” Calvert wrote. “If call volumes are low and cuts are necessary, cutting ties with the third-party call center would be the obvious first step. Forcing over 500 employees to choose between losing their jobs or uprooting their families to move across the country should be your last resort.”

Calvert added that, as a government-subsidized company, “Amtrak must be held to a higher standard.”

Jack Dinsdale, national vice president of the union, said there is also support from U.S. Rep. David Price, D-North Carolina, currently the ranking Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies. Price will chair the committee when Democrats take control of the House of Representatives in January, giving him greater influence on Amtrak funding.

I shouldn't be surprised but somehow, it never cease to amaze me.  The same body that orders Amtrak to cut its losses and operate efficiently always interfere when cuts come.  That's right.....they want cuts to cut from the other services that doesn't impact their constituents.

If anyone still wonders how an airline executive got this job or wonders why no railroader really want it, let this be yet another example.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
37 minutes ago, Thirdrail7 said:

Well, it looks like Congress has started sniffing around. Let the good times roll.

39 congressional reps join effort to help Amtrak call-center employees in Riverside

https://www.pe.com/2018/12/12/37-congressional-reps-join-effort-to-delay-amtrak-call-center-closure-in-riverside/

I shouldn't be surprised but somehow, it never cease to amaze me.  The same body that orders Amtrak to cut its losses and operate efficiently always interfere when cuts come.  That's right.....they want cuts to cut from the other services that doesn't impact their constituents.

If anyone still wonders how an airline executive got this job or wonders why no railroader really want it, let this be yet another example.

California Senators Feinstein and Harris have joined this cause with the 39 Congressional representatives.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/19/2018 at 10:20 AM, jebr said:

It's still frustrating to have a number of not-terribly-edge-case situations where someone would need to call in. There's been a few times where I've had to call in because the website simply won't book an AGR redemption (it'll pull the cost fine, but then simply error out at the final checkout screen.) Also, any request for a specific room requires calling in; it really should be on the website and until that's done I'd expect a fair amount of calls to come in on it. Open sleeper tickets also require an agent; while that's more of an edge case it's still a ticket type that simply can't be booked online.

Yes, I've done all three of these, and they all require a phone call to a *competent* agent.  I'll also add that ticket modifications require a phone call, and that is *very much not an edge case*.  It happens every time Amtrak has a serious delay which ****s up connections.

 

Edited by neroden

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/14/2018 at 11:52 PM, Thirdrail7 said:

Well, it looks like Congress has started sniffing around. Let the good times roll.

39 congressional reps join effort to help Amtrak call-center employees in Riverside

https://www.pe.com/2018/12/12/37-congressional-reps-join-effort-to-delay-amtrak-call-center-closure-in-riverside/

Amtrak's mistake was contracting with a non-union company in Florida.  If Amtrak were really just consolidating to Philly, this campaign would peter out.  But using that non-union company in Florida smells like illegal union-busting, and on top of that, *there's no Congressional support for Amtrak employment in Florida*.  So this is an attempt to move jobs from a district where the Congresspeople want them, to a district where Congresspeople don't want them.  That's just politically tone-deaf.  I mean, hell, if the non-union call center had been in Chicago or NY  or even Atlanta or New Orleans they probably would have had Congresspeople standing up to support moving the jobs there, but not in Florida.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Reading this thread got me to thinking about Amtrak's first network of call centers...I believe they used to have a lot more of them around the country when internet booking didn't exist.

I recall one in Carle Place, Long Island, which is now occupied by a furniture store....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of the three California-funded services - the Capitol Corridor - does not use the Amtrak call center. The CCJPA (manager of the Capitol Corridor) opted out of using the Amtrak center due to cost. Capitol Corridor uses the BART call center for phone inquiries but encourages web, app and kiosk ticket purchases.  Calls to 1-800-USA-RAIL for Capitol Corridor are referred to the BART call center unless it also includes another Amtrak service.  CCJPA and Amtrak had a bit of a tussle over this a few years ago before the Surface Transportation Board with the CCJPA alleging that Amtrak was still charging for call center use despite the opt-out. It was settled.  

Kind of ironic that some California lawmakers are whining about the Riverside closure when the second busiest California Amtrak service walked away from using the Amtrak call center.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I bet the California lawmakers have no clue about what happened with CCJPA. More often than not they are all zero order Markov Processes. They act on the just the current state with no knowledge of even their own previous actions factored in. ^_^

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Within my circle of friends and acquaintances, upwards of 25% (guesstimate based upon conversation, observation) struggle to use 21st Century communications technology. Not all of them are old enough to receive Social Security BTW. Many just won't try, or try a second time if they've had a bad first experience. Kinda like some of us who've flown but you could only get us back in a jet at gunpoint. 

 

Given the perceived demographics of Amtrak's customer base, it would be downright foolish to piss these people off and put up additional roadblocks to talking to a human being to initiate and complete a transaction. Even easy, mundane transactions -- and we all know booking travel of any kind is often not easy and mundane.

 

So, thumbs up for Amtrak trying to be cutting edge, but thumbs down for Amtrak expecting everyone to do the same. Downsizing that many in-house call agent positions, or even replacing some with less competent subcontractors, won't end well for anyone.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like where this is heading. I've stressed the evil genius point before and I'm hoping this is the case:

On 3/31/2018 at 8:55 PM, Thirdrail7 said:

Maybe we're underestimating Mr. Anderson. Consider:

 

Let's see. He's overseeing the cuts in amenities, services and sooner or later, probably routes or stops. However, it is also going after things like specials, charters and pet projects of supporters. He wants to get back to the "core" business, but wants to make a profit.

 

As such, people are writing their representatives, high profile groups are starting to complain and that leads to lobbying.

 

All the while, he's clutching PRIIA and saying this is what you want!

 

At that point, they'll either say continue on and he'll be justified or they'll either have to fund what he cuts or write it into some kind of law, at which point he'll say "stop complaining."

 

This was similar to Gunn's way of doing things. Perhaps he is starting to push the right buttons.

 

Continue to write....and soon!

 

On 5/12/2018 at 1:28 PM, Thirdrail7 said:

Truthfully, I wouldnt go that far, Mystic. The reality of the situation is no sane railroader wants the job. He came in to run it like a business and he knows the airline business. Plus, he has made it perfectly clear that he is attempting to run it according to the PRIIA. Others have attempted to ignore certain points of it but he isnt. I

 

If PRIIA allowed him to lose a ton of money in F&B service, Im not sure hed go for it but at least there wouldnt be a timeline for eliminating the losses. This is why I suggested he may be an evil genius. Hell ram PRIIA right up their nostrils and say this is what you wrote and Congress will have to put their money where their mouths are or stand aside.

He has once again weaponized PRIIA:

https://www.pe.com/2018/12/14/sens-feinstein-harris-add-to-growing-support-for-riversides-amtrak-workers/

Quote

Olivia Irvin, a spokeswoman for Amtrak, said in an email the service appreciates the elected officials’ input and planned to respond to the letters. But Amtrack does not plan to change its plans to close the facility Jan. 18, she wrote.

“It is important to note that Congress has directed Amtrak in the law to use its best business judgment to minimize federal subsidies,” the email said. “By closing Riverside and consolidating our remaining center, we will be able to reinvest savings into other areas of the National Network, which includes train service in California, thereby benefitting our California customers and the delegation’s constituents.”

The position: Hey, I'm just doing what the law says 9although I'm cherry picking it). Either ante up, change the law or stand aside.

Congress: Well, we'll write letters.

 

HAHAHAHAHAHA. Your move, Congress!!!!

Edited by Thirdrail7

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×