Don’t Be Like Amtrak (Please)

September 22nd, 2009

Ride the train. Buy the ticket online. Get from Boston to New York. How difficult could it be?

Source: cliff1066 @ Flickr

Source: cliff1066 @ Flickr

If anyone can make it difficult, it’s Amtrak. They have many of the annoying restrictions of an airline (must book 14 days in advance to get special fare) without many of the key conveniences (like, um, being able to print your ticket).

But adding insult to injury is their written communications. Case in point: the confirmation e-mail. Not only does it tell me I can’t print my ticket, it also informs me I have to print out a page with a bar code on it and take the page with me to a kiosk at the train station in order to get my ticket. Anyone following this?

Now for the best part, and I’ve included the entire e-mail (minus reservation number) below in case anyone thinks I’m making this up or blind as a bat.

The e-mail instructs me as follows:

SCAN AT QUIK-TRAK

1. Print this confirmation page.
2. Scan the barcode under the scanner below the keypad.
3. Touch the “Print Tickets” button.

No credit card is needed.

Well, I was visiting my folks (love ‘em; they’re the best). They live near my brother and his family. And my sister and partner were in from Colorado. In short, lots of chaos. And what slipped through the cracks? Printing the confirmation page.

I panic. In the middle of the requisite visit to Marshall’s for tax-free clothes shopping (and designer names for less!). How am I going to print my ticket? The e-mail was very explicit about printing from the kiosk using the bar code. It didn’t say I could obtain my ticket any other way. So I call.

And guess what? At the kiosk, you can scan the bar code OR…you can use a credit card. So apparently, while no credit card is needed should you opt to print the damn confirmation and shlep it with you to the station, a credit card is a perfectly reasonable and convenient option. That’s not mentioned anywhere in the e-mail.

People, people.

You gave me an anxiety attack in the middle of all those discounted designer brands and in front of my two gorgeous, brilliant nieces. Really. Now, maybe I’m just a dope who should know that even Amtrak isn’t so stupid as to not make a credit card option available. Maybe I should have tried to enlarge the itsy-bitsy photo of the Quik-Trak in the e-mail and looked for a credit card slot. But geez Louise, do you have to make it hard? Really? Something so easy?

Who is writing your e-mails? Better yet, who is proofing your e-mails?

Sometimes it’s the obvious things that are easy to miss. Especially for Amtrak

Proof, proof and proof again.

Thank you for choosing Amtrak.

p.s. I left out the part about how the first agent I spoke with told me that if I didn’t print my ticket at the kiosk at least 30 minutes before the departure time, my reservation would be cancelled; the second guy was, to his credit, competent and polite.

…………….THE ACTUAL E-MAIL……………………..

From: Tickets@amtrak.com

Subject: Amtrak: Reservation Confirmation – THIS IS NOT A TICKET

Thank you for choosing Amtrak. Save or print this page for your records.

Reservation Number: 15C…

THIS IS NOT A TICKET. You must obtain your ticket(s) before boarding any train; this confirmation will not be accepted onboard.

——————–
This confirmation notice is not a ticket. You must obtain your ticket(s) before boarding any train.

TICKETING INFORMATION
———————
Pick up your tickets at any Amtrak Quik-Trak self-service ticketing kiosk, or at any Amtrak ticket window. Check station operating hours before you go; ticket window and Quik-Trak kiosk hours vary from station to station. Your entire reservation (all segments) will be cancelled if you do not pick up your tickets before your first departure or if you no-show for any segment in your reservation. If your reservation cancels, you will need to make a new reservation, which may be at a higher fare.

SCAN AT QUIK-TRAK

1. Print this confirmation page.
2. Scan the barcode under the scanner below the keypad.
3. Touch the “Print Tickets” button.

No credit card is needed.

IMPORTANT POLICIES
——————

For important identification requirements, please visit http://www.amtrak.com/IDrequirements.html.

For important baggage policy information, please visit http://www.amtrak.com/BaggagePolicy.html.

All Amtrak trains except the Auto Train are non-smoking.

PASSENGER INFORMATION
———————
Passenger 1: Deb Arnold (Adult)

ITINERARY
———
============================================================
Westwood – Route-128, MA (RTE) to New York – Penn Station, NY (NYP)
04-OCT-09; 5:24 pm – 04-OCT-09; 8:45 pm
============================================================

Service: 2297 Acela Express
Duration: 3h 21m

<Departs>
Westwood – Route-128, MA (RTE)
04-OCT-09; 5:24 pm

<Arrives>
New York – Penn Station, NY (NYP)
04-OCT-09; 8:45 pm

<Seat(s)/Room(s)>
1 Business Class Seat

Amenities: ============================================================
FARE INFORMATION
—————-

[I don’t know you that well]

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
———————-
* We recommend that you arrive at the station at least 30 minutes prior to your scheduled departure. If you need help with ticketing, baggage or other passenger assistance, please arrive at the station at least 60 minutes prior to your scheduled departure.

* If you are traveling on the Auto Train you must check in at least two hours before scheduled departure.

* You may cancel (but not modify) your reservation online. Cancellation fees and/or refund fees may apply. To change your reservation, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).

* Need a hotel or car? Amtrak offers great deals for your destination. For the best hotel, car and activity deals, visit http://trip.amtrak.com to book now.

* THIS IS NOT A TICKET. You must obtain your ticket(s) before boarding any train.

HAVE A GREAT TRIP!
——————
Questions? Contact us online at http://www.amtrak.com/contactus.html or call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).

Sometimes It’s the Little Things

September 10th, 2009

(Nah, it’s Pretty Much Always the Little Things)

I took my car in to the dealer be serviced this week. Just the routine 10,000-mile check-up. Everything went like clockwork and everyone was friendly and efficient, as per usual at Carter Volkswagen in the lovely Ballard neighborhood of Seattle.

A few days later I missed a call from Carter. The message left on my voice mail was from an actual person in the Ballard office, rather than from some national VW call center, calling to make sure everything went smoothly and to see if there was anything else they could help me with. I was pretty impressed, and rather appreciative.

Source: Ken Paris @ Flickr

Source: Ken Paris @ Flickr

They know as well as I do that I didn’t need anything else – I just had the car serviced. But their taking the time to pick up the phone and make contact sent just the right message: We care about your satisfaction as a customer, and we’ll provide friendly, personal service whenever you need it.

Of course, it’s not like it suddenly occurred to that guy to call me. They’ve got mechanisms all set up so that people get a call two days after they bring their car in. And that’s exactly how it should be done: they clearly have a strategic communications plan that supports their business goals, one of which is providing friendly, personal service to drive customer loyalty.

Every leader of a business, a division, a team, needs to think the same way about their internal audiences: what are my business goals and how can I consistently communicate with my employees in order to help reach those goals? What mechanisms do I need to put in place in order for that to happen like clockwork, every time? How might I surprise and delight them in a way that drives loyalty, motivation and productivity?

Think about the last time you had a positive experience as a customer, and how you might take the essence of that experience to transform your internal communications.

Learning Program and Team Awards 2009-2014

ORGANIZATION / CATEGORY DESIGNATION

ASTD Excellence in Practice

Technical Training Award
Training Management Citation (for new programs)
Learning Technology Citation
Workplace Learning & Collaboration–Leadership Development (x2) Award, Citation
Workplace Learning & Collaboration–Onboarding Citation
Sales Enablement Citation

Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning

Best Custom Content Gold
Best in Learning Strategy and Governance Gold
Best Leadership Development Program Gold
Best Innovation in Learning Technology Silver
Best Leadership Sales Training Silver
Best Integration of Learning and Talent Management Bronze
Best Use of Games for Learning Bronze

Brandon Hall Technology Excellence

Best Advance in Social Learning Technology Gold

CLO Magazine Learning in Practice

Technology Innovation Gold, Division 1
Innovation Gold, Division 1
Business Impact Gold, Division 2
Business Impact Bronze, Division 2

 

Learning Organization Ranking Awards

ORGANIZATION / AWARD NOTES

American Society for Training & Development

ASTD BEST #1 (up from #32 in one year)
#2 (up from #37 in two years)

ELearning! Media Group

Learning! 100 #1 (first year on list)

Chief Learning Officer Magazine

LearningElite #1, #4

Training Magazine

 Training Top 125 #1, #2 (up from #41 in one year)
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