Amtrak's Online Presence

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by Judy Tee, Nov 18, 2019.

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  1. Nov 18, 2019 #1

    Judy Tee

    J

    Judy Tee

    Train Attendant

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    Feel free to move this topic to a more appropriate forum as needed.
    That being said, I can't help but add my two cents on this topic. From reading other forum discussion, I am coming to understand the the viability of Amtrak's future have been widely discussed and am heartened that it appears to be doing better.
    However, I am very unimpressed by my experience online using Amtrak's website as well as the apps I download onto my phone and iPad. I've tried using various browsers, too. Almost always after I've tried to do an update to my account or change a setting, I inevitably get a message saying the site is undergoing some repairs or out of service. I don't know if other experience these issues with the website, but each time they occur I can't help but wonder what the impact is on their bottom line for new and repeat customers. I've learned that repeaters tend to be fairly supportive of Amtrak no matter what, which is nice, but it's a real turn off to new customers. I often wonder about who their IT staff are. In this day and age, Amtrak should have a much more intuitive and responsive website. One can only hope.....
     
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  2. Nov 18, 2019 #2

    wwchi

    w

    wwchi

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    Their IT is terrible....app and website never match your planned trips, more problems every time they update the apps, etc. So many ways it could work better and is not hard to do. They just don't seem to be able to actually make it happen. That said, as a regular rider I do use the app a lot and it's functional enough...
     
  3. Nov 18, 2019 #3

    RSG

    R

    RSG

    OBS Chief

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    When I first started riding Amtrak I found their WWW site confusing (I also found the timetables confusing, as they weren't like airline timetables). But the more I used both the easier it became to navigate and use.

    About two years ago, they redesigned their main site (and subsequently, the mobile apps) to come into line with the visual appeal design trend. In my opinion, this sacrificed functionality for aesthetics. But hey, when you land on the home page, it sure looks like a 21st Century operation.

    However, I think they may have gotten ahead of the ability to provide useful and necessary information within the confines of the current layout. I, too, have had issues; in particular when attempting to load the itinerary for an already-booked trip. When booking recent travel, I've noticed the "Station Alert" icon in the itinerary option listings but every time I've clicked on it, a pop-up window opens with a 404 Error and Amtrak's standard "Oops...the page you are looking for can't be found" message. Seriously?! No one who put the icon on the itinerary listings actually clicked on it from an external computer to make sure it works? That's more than bad design and implementation---that's just sloppy page programming.
     
  4. Nov 19, 2019 #4

    Skyline

    Skyline

    Skyline

    OBS Chief

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    There is a reason many on this forum call 800USARAIL to do all their business with Amtrak. Sometimes you get an incompetent. Just hang up, call back. The next CSR will likely be helpful and knowledgeable. Try that on a website that has a #$@!&*! mind of its own.
     
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  5. Nov 19, 2019 #5

    Chas

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    Chas

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    I use the smartphone app to display ticketing info and to check on arrival times, etc. I would never using it for booking travel.
     
  6. Nov 19, 2019 #6

    Judy Tee

    J

    Judy Tee

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    Thanks. Wasn't even aware of 800USARAIL. Who is that?
     
  7. Nov 19, 2019 #7

    CAQuail

    C

    CAQuail

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    Assuming you are not being sarcastic, 1-800-USA-RAIL, is Amtrak's toll free reservation number
     
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  8. Nov 19, 2019 #8

    Judy Tee

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    Judy Tee

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    I was not. I have probably dialed it using numbers. Can't say my experience was all that great though. knew more than the agent did I am afraid!!
     
  9. Nov 19, 2019 #9

    BALtoNYPtraveler

    BALtoNYPtraveler

    BALtoNYPtraveler

    Train Attendant

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    Most of the time, the agents on the phone are great and book your trip almost before the words are out of your mouth. I have been very impressed by their friendliness and helpfulness. The website on my browser is clunky and full of bugs, but not QUITE as bad as it was a year ago. The phone app, I was pleased to see, has improved from a year or so ago. But that still leaves glitches on it, too. Since the phone app was nearly unusable for me a year ago and it displays all upcoming trips now, shows the ticket without another step to display it, actually accepts my login instantly, doesn't log me out... I consider it great (compared to past function.) I was not, however, able to navigate to AGR from the app. A link was offered, yet it tells me each time that my login information is incorrect (and it's not.) Oh well, I guess you can't have it all!
     
  10. Nov 20, 2019 #10

    bratkinson

    bratkinson

    bratkinson

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    Whoever maintains Amtrak web site really needs to keep up with the various problems I and no doubt many others have encountered. Just last week, I tried to book a multi-city trip using points and it can't be done. It would have been a round trip booking except that train #141 to #2153 does not show up as an option from Windsor Locks to Washington, yet the reverse #2172 to #412 does! Go figure. I naturally emailed them and got a 'standard response' - currently the site cannot handle multi-city booking using points...call to make a reservation...blah blah blah.

    So I called them. And while on hold, the announcement stated 'for Acela First Class passengers, seats are automatically assigned when booked....' They haven't even changed the voice announcement to indicate that business class seats are now assigned as of January <something>. I mentioned that to the agent and he got a laugh out of it too, and said he'd pass my comment to management.

    In short, I suspect there's a major shortage of IT staff that knows 'how it's all put together' and what feeds what, etc. Based on the consistently significant volume of Amtrak help wanted listings for IT, there's a significant turnover problem in my opinion. I have little doubt that much of the IT staff spends their time 'fighting fires' rather than longer term IT enhancements.
     
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  11. Nov 20, 2019 #11

    Skyline

    Skyline

    Skyline

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    That's an issue nearly everywhere, in almost every business sector. IT spends most of its time "fixing" stuff. Not enough good people nor time to actually make it work right in the first place.

    Another way to state it: Systems are held together "temporarily" with band-aids, and the really talented surgeons never get around to performing the badly needed permanent surgery nor the stitches.
     
  12. Nov 20, 2019 #12

    I like rolling hotels

    I

    I like rolling hotels

    Train Attendant

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    So what is the trick to getting through to a human being on the 800 number? When I say "agent", Jule asks what kind of agent, and for every reply I've tried she jumps in and tries to handle it herself.
     
  13. Nov 20, 2019 #13

    wwchi

    w

    wwchi

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    just keep saying agent no matter what they say...works for me! LOL!
     
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  14. Nov 20, 2019 #14

    Devil's Advocate

    Devil's Advocate

    Devil's Advocate

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    In my experience Judy is little more than a time wasting nuisance that has never once been able to handle anything for which I've called. Not even one single time. Despite being useless it always insists on trying to delay my path to a meaningful resolution. So I just keep telling it I want an agent until it eventually gives up trying to distract me from the task at hand and patches me through.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2019
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  15. Nov 20, 2019 #15

    tricia

    tricia

    tricia

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    Literally the only exception to that, in my experience, has been when I've needed to check if a train is running late. Julie's cumbersome for that, but workable.
     
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  16. Nov 21, 2019 #16

    Sauve850

    Sauve850

    Sauve850

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    Customer service technology advances faster than most companies big and small can keep up with. Mostly only those with deep pockets stay ahead of the game. Amtrak surely could do better in the tech department but cannot do what they really need given their financial priorities.
     
  17. Nov 21, 2019 #17

    RSG

    R

    RSG

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    Julie's original purpose was to provide quick (for the era) access to repetitive questions that can best be answered by technology, and to filter other requests to the correct 'department'.

    Now Julie's purpose is to play gatekeeper and to slow the entry into the Promised Land of helpful human agents so their call queue is managed most effectively for the company. It may certainly be time-wasting for the customer who uses it, but 'she' buys time for the company and their other employees. Julie is now an electronic bureaucrat whose primary job is to question the need for you to talk to anyone else in the first place.

    Combine this with the on-hold message that says "Did you know you can use amtrak.com to [...] ?" and the secret goal to get a certain percentage of the callers to just hang up and do something else other than tie up the lines for 800-USA-RAIL is achieved. This works great for the people who manage the customer service "experience" for Amtrak---and the other companies who use similar tactics, but just frustrates the people who pay the bills for the charade in the first place.
     
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  18. Nov 21, 2019 #18

    BALtoNYPtraveler

    BALtoNYPtraveler

    BALtoNYPtraveler

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    I see mentioned above that business class seats are now assigned. I did not know this, and I have tickets for upcoming trips in business class. Is the seat noted on the ticket? I looked and don't see anything. Edit: I called and the agent said she thinks that has not been done "for some time now," and she has not seen business class ever having assigned seating "except for the first few rows." ?? I was wondering if that means accessible seating or a table if you need it for a conference. ?? She acted like assigned seats are not a thing on business class, on the NE corridor (even though the website says it's a thing).

    Very confusing since the post above indicates this is a new thing. I've been on business class a bunch of times from 2015 through the present and seats were never assigned.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
  19. Nov 21, 2019 #19

    RSG

    R

    RSG

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    According to GetHuman, the key to "Get to a live person fastest" is to "Just listen to the message, then wait." (I've not tried this, so YMMV.)

    GH also notes that the best time to call is 9:15 AM [no time zone given] and that the average wait time is six minutes.
     
  20. Nov 21, 2019 #20

    railiner

    railiner

    railiner

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    Good to know, for those of us die-hard’s with rotary phones...oh wait...voice response works on rotary lines?
    Never mind....:D
     
  21. Nov 21, 2019 #21

    Bob Dylan

    Bob Dylan

    Bob Dylan

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    What's a Rotary Phone Grandpa???:D:):):)
     
  22. Nov 21, 2019 #22

    Qapla

    Qapla

    Qapla

    Lead Service Attendant

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    I have found on most system just dialing/pressing "0" several times gets me through to a person the quickest.

    When it comes to business websites, I find many/most of them to be more difficult than they need to be. One of the reasons they end up this way is because they are designed by techs/geeks who make them for techs/geeks and they are tested by techs/geeks - and they put in the features "they" like, not the ones that the average user will want/understand or even need, at the expense of usable functionality to someone who is not tech/geek minded.
     
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  23. Nov 21, 2019 #23

    bratkinson

    bratkinson

    bratkinson

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    If I understand what I've read previously on this and/or other sites, NEC business class seating is now assigned for travel starting sometime in January. I booked a trip for Jan 2, and it didn't assign a seat. For a trip in April, it assigned seats 1A in 'going' and 2A 'returning' that I had to call to get changed. What the 'all BC seats are assigned' startup travel date is, I haven't a clue.

    If you have already booked January <something> NEC travel, try modifying your trip and see if the system has assigned a seat. Assigned seats show up as larger than the rest of the text letters just below the '1 business class seat' on the printed reservation. Interestingly, it also shows CAR 0141, which matches the train number. But then, they do the same on the Acela first class, too. However, I would suspect that if you have previously booked a trip for sometime after assigned seating goes into effect, Amtrak should have sent you an email indicating here's a replacement ticket, just like they do the same when an arrival or departure time is changed , etc. Note that for trips in November and December that I booked since learning of the upcoming assigned seating, the system did NOT assign a seat.

    One of the problems I see for myself with assigned seating is using an upgrade from coach to BC. As I'm limited to 48 hrs in advance of travel, I suspect all the window seats will have been taken. Also, I wonder if the system will recognize the BC section in a split cafe car such as the Vermonter uses will only assign 18 seats. Maybe I'll make a 'test' reservation to the Vermonter and see if I can change my seat to a row 7 or higher.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
  24. Nov 21, 2019 #24

    wwchi

    w

    wwchi

    Service Attendant

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    still just the NEC trains though right? Not the Michigan trains yet? I always make Bus Class and don't see anything on my reservations after the new year.
     
  25. Nov 21, 2019 #25

    RSG

    R

    RSG

    OBS Chief

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    That used to be SOP to navigate through automated attendants. However, that is no longer the case---particularly with the Big Banks. Doing so with many systems now will send you to an audio decision tree where the automated attendant will attempt to weasel out of you exactly why you are calling in the best kindergarten teacher manner today's version of artificial intelligence can muster.

    Likewise with audible terms like "agent", "operator", and "help". As noted earlier, saying 'agent' with Julie goes into a smaller vision of that decision tree by winnowing down what type of agent you want. There is no one-size-fits-all method to avoiding automated attendant hell, just individual options for each company that routinely change.
     
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