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CUSTOMER SERVICE DELIVERY-THE MISSING LINK IN THE RE-ORGANIZATION OF AMTRAK TO FULFILL A CONSISTENT, POSITIVE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE”

By M.E. Singer

In response to the long awaited, desperately needed re-organization of Amtrak announced January, 2017 by CEO, Wick Moorman, it is time to recognize a missing organizational value that a parallel ,previous problematic culture, United Airlines, recently embraced. Sadly, any notion of customer experience at Amtrak over the prior ten years before Mr. Moorman, if addressed at all, was through an “echo chamber.”

Acknowledging how Disney created the relevance of having an overall, hands-on perspective of the Customer Experience, United Airlines, under ex-CSX President Oscar Munoz, has jumped in with both feet, with United now having a Senior Vice President Customer Service Delivery. Indeed, the immediate relevance for Amtrak is how United has explicitly delineated its expectations for the position of Customer Service Delivery: “Our customers have told us they want a more consistent positive experience, and bringing all of our people that serve customers daily into the same team ensures a great experience at every point in their travel. This will include all aspects of United’s customer-facing experience, ranging from food service, airport operations, airport lounges and inflight services, with an employee and customer focus.” In respect to Mr. Moorman’s re-ordering of Amtrak’s values to now focus on emphasizing 1) safety; 2) customers; 3) employees, the timing is perfect to emulate United’s deliberate 180 degree turn. In the very competitive airline business, United’s focus is on eliminating operational firewalls to ensure all customer-facing areas are ‘rowing in the same direction’ to accomplish a consistently, positive customer experience. For that, this key position at United reports directly to the Chief Operating Officer.

Now, even major medical centers and cruise lines are also giving credence to the concept of customer service delivery to alleviate their haphazard approach towards achieving the customer’s expectations in a highly competitive marketplace. Just as United is well on the way of a sustainable flight path of a successful turnaround orchestrated by an ex-Class 1 railroad as its CEO, Amtrak now also enjoys a former railroad CEO seeking to run Amtrak as a business. Mr. Moorman’s history evidences his appreciation for the value of how customer experience is a critical component for change. It’s time to apply to Amtrak how Mr. Moorman successfully changed Norfolk Southern’s customer delivery metrics; how today, Michael McClellan, Jim McClellan’s son, is taking those metrics to build a merchandise business line on that same railroad with boxcars and reefer cars within a previous non-competitive 750 mile market to now go head-to-head with trucks.

As I was fortunate to experience private passenger trains in the 1950s-1960s, from the very best (Super Chief), the good (City of New Orleans), the horrible (The General), and the pathetic (Manhattan Limited), I also experienced Amtrak from its beginning. It’s interesting to remember how well the Super Chief was maintained until 1973, when Santa Fe CEO John Reed rose-up to protect ownership of the brand by refusing its dismemberment; how well maintained the Metroliner parlor service was into 1973; yet, how quickly the Empire Builder faded into a bland, standardized service concept. The point here is that regrettably, from its beginning, Amtrak’s one consistent issue has been the proliferation of its inconsistencies towards customer service delivery and experience.
Typical Customer Experience-And Issues

Before delving into the overall perspective to support an executive management level position at Amtrak for Customer Service Delivery/Customer Experience, what prompted my research on this topic was a recent trip over 2016 Christmas weekend. With my only daughter overseas, the idea of spending Christmas solo was dreadful. Cheaper than a psychiatrist, I booked a round trip roomette on the Capitol Limited, leaving Chicago on 24 December; arriving and leaving Washington back to Chicago on 25 December. What struck me was the perpetual attitudinal and service inconsistencies that would truly fluster a newbie rail traveler. Mind you, not one of these points elaborated upon is based on any reflection of, “back on the Century…”, as each and every issue was avoidable, if under the eagle eyes and nurturing wings of a competent head of Customer Service Delivery/Customer Experience at Amtrak. Ironically, despite the plethora of blogs, including Amtrak’s site, and the how-to books, Amtrak has yet to appreciate how its customers outside the “Acela Corridor” lack an institutional knowledge, a reference point, and the frame of mind of passenger train operations and services. (Just think of the crowd flying in the summer and its lack of decorum en flight.) In my commentary below, the central theme is identifying how Amtrak is not sensitive to and focused on how to deliver a favorable customer experience.

12/24/16
Metropolitan Lounge (Chicago Union Station):
Am I the only one who believes this area to be so very overbuilt; to question why, given so much space, a vendor, or Amtrak, could not have a spot to sell cocktails, wine, and beer? Set-up on a few tables are the Amtrak throwaway freebies–a couple pieces of fruit, and real cheap nuts that pour into your hand (and all the others before you) by turning the wheel; coffee and water dispensers; and the inevitable Pepsi branded fountain (where would this less desirable product be if it did not seriously undercut the more popular Coke brands?) Ironically, when I checked in, a redcap was also seated at the front desk, as if he was on break. Curious why there were no schedules inside the lounge, I inquired and was sent next door to the ticket office, where I was told they no longer have “timetables.” I was referred to the large waiting room where racks of schedules were finally located. But why make it so difficult to not be able to pick-up a schedule in the lounge? Note how the indistinguishable upstairs Pennsylvania Room was unused, as well as the equally indistinct Burlington Room, which was pre-occupied with the Polar Express displays. Also, no communication to inform customer what feature equipment their train carried, e.g., diner/cafe; sightseer lounge. As the menus are now so pathetically homogenized, this would have been an ideal opportunity to also evidence (hanging frames) menus and how to select what’s included per meal.

To test the new lounge boarding process, I inquired at the front desk. The lady was rather short in her answer, repeating how actual track numbers were only for coach passengers. (The lack of social skills apparently a classic example of “friends & relatives” hiring. ) I just wanted to verify that customers are no longer escorted directly to their train gate and advised location of sleepers (forward or aft). Listening to her garbled mispronunciations, as with marbles in her mouth, of prior departures over the PA, I knew people would be confused and persistently inquire about their train, and how to find it. When #30 was announced, we were directed to just go through the side doors marked, “To Trains.” Although I know the South concourse and gate numbers, how would anybody new to this travel mode understand and correctly find the boarding gate?

Boarding #30 CHICAGO-UNION STATION:
Just to verify sleeper position, as nobody was at the gate, I inquired at the first open car where a very young (and cute!) conductor stood (I found out later she was Jen-Toledo), and was directed forward of the diner/cafe. Amazingly, she smiled and said, “Merry Christmas!” I turned and inquired was she that happy that former CEO Boardman was out, or, Trump elected? I encouraged her to most certainly continue with that spirit, and never lose it. But, was it that long ago that a lighted train sign was at the gate denoting the cars consist by type and line number? The Q went all out with a full-size silver “Zephyr” sign over the entire gate. Hard to believe in Europe, with so many more trains, that depot platform signage actually electronically indicates the class, car line, and destination, so customers know where to stand. Of course, the cars are colored by class and denote class level by number as well.

En Route #30 to WASHINGTON:
Remembering from prior trips the ridiculous excuse for no ice bins in the sleepers due to District of Columbia health regs (really?), I had prepared a large bag of ice and cups from the Metropolitan Lounge for my Crown Royals (also knowing there is no real liquor kit or trained bartenders on board). Also, I learned to bring a quality air pillow for my back, and when sleeping, for under my head to avoid falling into the well. Although my dinner reservation had been secured in the Metropolitan lounge, a SA came by inquiring re dinner times, but never reinforcing how dinner was complementary, or, what was on and included from the menu. Aware of the inventory par level/stockout issues, I never do dinner after 730pm. The cafe section did not open until 735pm (see 12/25 notes). Despite prior news of Mr. Moorman re-establishing the flowers on tables, not here yet. But very acceptable white linen-type tablecloth and dark linen-type napkins. Steak dinner was fair; service by 2 SAs confusing. Some sleeper customers had no concept of how and what to select; the process had also changed, confusing customers what part of the order check to even complete. It also would be wise to stamp on the menus and meal order forms that “Tips Not Included” for the benefit of so many pretending to be from France and expecting “Service Compris.” Steak was ’86’ by 845pm (see 12/25 notes).

At the end of dinner, no staff in the diner, or sleepers, offered information identifying when breakfast hours would be the next day. Interesting, nobody ever even suggested viewing the beautiful Allegheny grades from the non-staffed Sightseer Lounge next to the diner. Apparently, no longer does the TA offer to take wake-up calls, despite a schedule taking so much longer with a 105pm arrival in WAS. (Note, under the B&O, even into the mid-1960s,”The Cap” was almost 2 hours faster.)

12/25/16
En Route #30 to WASHINGTON:
Riding lower #14 directly over the trucks, sleep at night was like a sub being depth-charged and laterally thrown around violently, given the less than desirable roadbed. Too bad customers are not warned of such obvious rough spots. Also, how many times did I hear people complaining of no WiFi, as apparently they were not informed in advance that between Pittsburgh-Cumberland, “nada WiFi.” If a person somehow cannot be awed by the sheer beauty and history of the grades and curves of the Alleghenies, nothing like a good book. Breakfast in the diner: I learned long ago to order the omelette minus the stuffing, as you received three eggs. But the perfect square size, thin, rubbery dimension of this omelette, served with no garnish made me wonder were the eggs pre-made for Guantanamo? No Tabasco or other condiments offered; no suggestion by SA for Bloody Mary, etc. But SA strictly held to the so-called limit of only two drinks, despite my requesting two juices and a black coffee, and in respect to a good tip at dinner night before. I did inquire if their would be a brief Express lunch, but was informed not with the train running early

I returned briefly to my roomette to find the TA, though responsible for two sleepers, diligently working with a carpet sweeper in each compartment and corridor. I applauded him for his effort, as well as the very clean bathrooms, despite how quickly I noticed people re-trashing them. Also, very interesting to see this TA inform customers on the PA of the majestic beauty of the Alleghenies, and how at Cumberland, there would be an extended smoke break and WiFi, as we were running early and would be in by 12:40pm. This TA was very gracious when I palmed him $5 at Cumberland, as I found that he had really provided overall good service, unlike most on that line.

As the Sightseer Car was dominated by obnoxiously loud teens, I went to the cafe to chat with the very friendly LSA. I noticed how he (and later, others) had their own Amtrak business cards; though inconsistent by not all showing their position, or, to where to either call (800) or provide written comment. So, menus are standardized, but not business card format, eh? I could not help but to acknowledge how the pass through station was nicely decorated with Christmas lights, inquiring if that was a “post Boardman policy change,” remembering how the diners in past years since 2013 had become a rolling “Charlie Brown Christmas tree?” This LSA, Jordan Lombardo, appeared quite knowledgeable of food & beverage, coming out of the restaurant business. When I inquired why the cafe opened so late the night before, he informed me it was because 14th Street yard had pulled the diner/cafe he came in with on #29 that morning; nobody informed him the car was pulled or why. But my immediate thought was, ” how could you be so blindsided when there is a Train Manager plus a Route Director?” Just like a hospital, there should be no break or absence of management just because of a holiday. This lack of communication is indeed a serious issue impacting customer experience. Because of this lack of communication, the diner crew needed more time to set-up, as I was informed that usually the cafe is open leaving Chicago Union Station and until 12:15pm the next day if on schedule. That last minute switch also explained why they ran out of steak at dinner, whether or not the inventory par level is allegedly set by the load. Someday, Amtrak will have a Point-of-Service software program (POS) for all food and beverage purchases to alleviate the still extensive manual accounting required to track all items. Although I chose not to put this LSA in a conflict re POS details, I did indicate how I had personally researched a POS offered byToast-how it is used in major Chicago restaurants, and its application to treat each diner as a restaurant or sightseer as a bar, and not require WiFi to operate.

Despite delayed departure from Chicago due to #4 Southwest Chief arriving late, and the passenger emergency requiring police/ambulances near Elkhart, we arrived Washington 12:35pm-30 minutes early. So, Christmas Day is indeed the best one of the year for passenger train schedules!

12/25/16
Acela Lounge-WASHINGTON:
Given the fact it was Christmas Day, one would think the staff in charge of this so-called First Class passenger lounge would be able to answer what exactly was open in the depot for lunch; indeed, to have a list depicting who exactly was open. Interestingly, there was a pile of folders on the counter with advertising by Rapido Trains Inc. As I have not seen a “ticket document” in years, you would think there would have been some signage to take one and how to use?

Unlike Chicago, when #29 was announced, we assembled at the doorway and were escorted to the specific track for boarding the Capitol Limited to Chicago. As with incoming #30, the consist was one baggage, one dorm sleeper, two sleepers, one diner/cafe, one sightseer, and two coaches; a reduction from December, 2014 when the consist included four sleepers and four coaches.

12/25/16
En Route #29-CHICAGO:
Although no PA announcement re bar service in open cafe upon on-time departure from WAS, this train’s SA and galley resembled elements of a first string crew, when combined with my TA and LSA on #30. What a total difference the steak dinner experience was eastbound on #29. Instead of two mediocre SAs, we had one individual SA holding down the entire diner, Mr. Floyd Elliot Bateman. Talk about somebody who knew his job and really hustled! Service was far better, faster, friendlier, and more motivated than the night before with two SAs! Complementing Mr. Bateman on the far superior quality of the meal preparation, he proudly informed me he was working with the “A Team;” providing me with the business cards of Chef Brett Weakley and Food Specialist Dora E. Luna. However, lacking any information with their ticketing or in their compartment, or, verbally indicated by their TA, I encountered passengers who had no idea what the complementary meal and its options included. As well, there was no communication from the diner crew, or TA, identifying breakfast hours the next day.

There were issues with customers who had no idea how tight the roomette space was for two senior adults, as apparently Amtrak, blogs, how to travel books, just fail to competently explain the space limitations; how to upgrade to bedrooms; the fact that the berths are no longer in existence, replaced by thin Army mat rolls and the windows far above the berth space. Apparently, both Baby Boomers and Millennials were befuddled by such layout. As well, this car, Florida, had multiple bathrooms with broken locks; wonder if ever reported and why not fixed?

Again, no solicitation by TA re wake-up call, or, information re breakfast hours; or, even smoking stops.

Although most customers in my sleeper retired by 9pm EST, I was shocked how the TA, Timm, did not control the customers exiting and boarding after that hour, as I was continuously rudely awakened by loud talking customers oblivious to the old Pullman adage, “Quiet Is Requested For Those Who Have Retired.” Never did I ever hear the TA request those customers to tone it down.

To my shock, the TA, Timm, got on the PA at 0715 EST to wake everybody up at once in our sleeper, as if we were in boot camp, to announce the diner was open and described in vivid detail the breakfast menu. Really? Even if running on-time, let alone, on 26 December running early, the theme is apparently what works for Amtrak’s convenience. I noticed how quickly the TA moved between compartments to change linen and towels, just so the car would be ready arriving CUS. As well, it was then emphasized how the diner would be closed after South Bend (7:51am EST/6:51 am Chicago time).

Breakfast in the diner with SA Bateman was a pleasure–omelette appeared quite attractively; my request for two juices and coffee not dismissed; however, ran out of croissants. I noticed several sleeper passengers who viewed the menu and just left their tables. At my my table, I had to walk through the menu and selection options with a millennial couple who had no idea how to order. Ironically, only one Tabasco to share between tables. I did learn how 14th Street yard persistently stabs this train by pulling cars with no communication; adding “cold cars” which would explain the shortage of steaks on #30. For the convenience of the diner crew, at least one booth is consumed with silverware and set-ups.

No PA announcement to customers how early train was running; actually arrived CUS approximately twenty minutes early.

CHICAGO-UNION STATION:
Devoid of any signage, I had to inquire at the Hertz counter how could I find the walkway to the new CTA bus terminal across the street on Jackson/Canal. I was informed to follow the sign reading, “to parking garage.” Really?
Analyzing Organizational Effectiveness to Check, Verify, and Re-Check to Fulfill Customer Experience

Given this agonizing trip report, it becomes quite evident how Amtrak still does not understand the demographics of its customers, nor, how to appropriately and acceptably communicate to them–as they contemplate ticket purchases, accommodations, to understanding the meal concept and bar situation; in essence, life aboard Amtrak in the 21st century. As this trip report depicts, what happens on the rails continues to be quite different than whatever is professed by any Lean Six Sigma diplomas or analyst assurances at HQ, let alone by Amtrak’s Customer Advisory Committee NARP is paid to operate. It is time to look beyond simply re-cycling internal candidates for the much vaunted meritorious promotion concept of Amtrak and seek from outside the organization fresh blood with a new set of eyes and bold ideas, mindful of the history, but not blinded by the dismissive corporate milieu disdainfully responding with, “this is how we’ve always done it;” or, “we tried it once, and it didn’t work?”

Whether Amtrak is mandated to foist the long distance routes upon the states, or, make a 180 turn to reinvigorate customer services, what should apparently be obvious is Amtrak will not be allowed to continue on this current tangent track over the next four years, let alone, indefinitely, without a curve either way. Accordingly, Amtrak’s re-organization needs to embrace the growing recognition in the hospitality, transport, and medical world of a senior individual to “own the brand,” to have the organizational structure reflect its new mission to ensure the customer receives a consistent, positive experience. To “own the brand” means taking the same interest as the IC’s CEO, Wayne A. Johnston did into the mid-1960s, expecting his Panama Limited to arrive on time, everyday; demanding accountability if the train was late. In essence, given Amtrak’s past decade of Strategic Plans giving lip service to being “customer focused,” it’s time to take to heart the Bloomberg analysis of January 14, 2016, “United’s Quest to be Less Awful.”

The building blocks for this new position for Amtrak should reflect what will ensure its accountability and opportunity for success; to prevent any false starts. This will require a senior level management grade to lead from a diverse platform incorporating customer-facing areas to collaborate, gain consensus, and build alignment to support execution of customer-centric strategies; creatively address multi-faceted issues to manage through ambiguity; to drive influential actions and behavior across multiple departments focused on the stakeholders–the customers. Importantly, to work with Brand Management to re-focus on the customer experience, which is what should define the brand. To be effective throughout the organization, and ensure accountability as a change agent (“disrupter”), this position must report to the CEO. To emphasize the importance of customer experience, the Board of Directors should create a “Customer Experience Committee” requiring at a minimum a monthly verbal/written report to review identifying issues, and progress to resolve, or not.

Expectations and Reach to Ensure Implementation and Accountability of Customer Service Delivery, as referred to at Disney as “Operations Integrity”

Eliminate the customer odyssey forced to learn “the Amtrak way,” instead of how the process should be sensitized towards the customer.
For example, in reference to my trip report, raise the customer’s expectations to a more effective process:

Ticketing Process
Need to more adequately explain room size and dimensions on booking site; perhaps even have mock-ups in the major depot lounges. Explanation on E Ticket indicating what meals included in fare; typical menus, and selection option. Indicate if bar service available, and in what car. Ideally, some details on what to pack in room; perhaps even recommended range of tipping (just as restaurants print requisite tip percentage for parties of six or more); information re availability of WiFi; use larger, darker font indicating car line and room assignment. Facilitate on-boarding of customers by reserving individual seats in coach on long distance routes and business class (just as the railroads managed to perform manually until Amtrak).

Metropolitan Lounge
Escort customers to train gate. Post menus in Metropolitan Lounges and on-line depots, again reinforcing what meals included in sleeper ticket (without pricing), selection options, tipping not included. More effectively train staff on proper use of PA and word annunciation.

Train Gate (Departure Terminal)
Destination signage at boarding gate to include car line numbers and type in consist.

On-Board
Instead of National Magazine (no perceived value), use space to include menus; information on bar services and diner location. Train TAs to inform customer of diner and lounge; hours of meal services; offer drinks, ice, or meals. (Should be an up charge for non-disabled customers requesting meal room service). Inform of shower and dressing room availability and procedures, i.e., towels. Train TAs to offer wake-up calls; refrain from using PA to wake-up entire car; to explicitly advise night before of breakfast hours on arrival day. Focus on cleanliness and mechanical functioning en route.

Diner
Menus in diner for sleeper passengers should be without prices to eliminate confusion; set-up as “A La Carte” to clearly indicate what is included by selection options, e.g., 2 beverages; indicate tipping not included. Restore flowers. Have table tents suggesting cocktails, wine, and beer at each period. Diner SAs/LSA must explicitly communicate to customer breakfast hours on arrival day. Drastically improve re-order points of par level inventory system to prevent stock-outs of food and beverages. Instruct chef to greet passengers during meal periods in diner; SAs to re-fill drinks. Improve and clarify new meal order ticket, i.e., explicitly break-out by meal period and selection options.

Lounge
Should be set-up, open, and ready to serve upon boarding for sleeper passengers, recognizing conductors lifting tickets only in coach as still not reserved by individual seats. Amazing how the better airlines have invested in the customer experience en flight, learning how popular an on-board bar is for their customers to mingle, enjoy themselves; even offering signature airline themed drinks; some sponsored by the distillery itself.

Re-Inventing MBWA (“Management By Walking Around”)

Assign “road days” for managers in customer-facing areas and those impacting customer experience to actually be visible on the trains; lounges; yards to learn first hand the frustrations and problems impacting consistently acceptable good service. Identify “A” team members to staff same train to enable management to more properly focus 80% of its time on the 20% persistent problem issues to bring up to “A” member standards all other OBS crews. Identify needless layers of “cardboard management” inhibiting timely communication, blocking change, and demoralizing employees. (When Humana recruited me in 1991 to help run Michael Reese Hospital Medical Center, a 900-bed Chicago teaching hospital, the first action was to eliminate the position of Ph.D RNs, who as ‘desk jockeys’ were redundant in clinical management and stifling needed change.)

Maintenance/Repair Yards
Establish performance metrics to ensure clean windows and interiors; properly functioning equipment; check and verify how problems attended to as reported on inbound trains; improve metrics for turning around a consist for cleaning, re-stocking, and inspection. Establish communication channel to Train Manager/Route Director when cars are pulled out of consist by the yard to ensure outbound crew alerted; feature cars properly inventoried and supplied. In hospitals, they have an Administrator-On Duty for nights, weekends, and holidays, realizing they are not a 9-5, Monday-Friday business operation.

Product Development/Mechanical
Identify how to fix bathroom sink faucets from splashing water spray on customer. Identify how to repair/fix partitions between Superliner bedrooms B-E that allow voice sounds, smells, and rattling noises to permeate throughout trip. Identify more acceptable and comfortable replacement for horrid contraption that replaced the berth, providing only a flimsy pad and army roll to bounce on the seats/couch; position of head far lower to window.

Product Development/Food & Beverage
Vastly improve menu selections and product quality; craft menus by real chefs. Review feasibility of converting to a Bistro-type menu; or, determine if charging sleeper for meals would allow improved quality and selection. Introduce coffee shop/grill service for coach. Train LSAs in mixology; provide inventory and garnishments to increase sales in diner and lounge; ensure staff have the tools to do their job. Determine feasibility of enabling coach customers to pre-order/pre-pay meals, bar; to convert cash to prepaid cards at certain depots. Ensure quick implementation of a POS to improve customer experience, prevent stock-outs, etc.

Food & Beverage
Identify reason for stock-outs en route, especially with no ability to re-stock en route (as VIA does in Winnipeg). Identify shortage, or non existence of condiments, e.g., Tabasco.

HR
Establish more successful metrics for candidate selection for OBS; push accountability to hiring manager for orientation, training, and supervision; as well as cost of turnover. Develop more successful employee engagement policies to acknowledge the higher value of an engaged workforce; acknowledging how clarity in communications is like oxygen for employee growth and development. Need focus on improving employee experience.

Marketing
Eliminate payment to NARP for running the Customer Advisory Committee, as this forum’s relevance should be contained exclusively within Customer Experience. No customer experience focused transportation firm outsources such a vital component to identifying and resolving issues in a format potentially biased by its reliance upon a monthly check. Identify extent of how customer base is currently segmented by age and other demographics. Ensure knowledge of research in healthcare to an understanding of millennials as unforgiving–one bad experience, and they will not return. Restore and embrace true concept of First Class, e.g., morning newspaper (USA Today); flowers in diner and sleepers; happy hour on second day of western routes; wake-up calls, etc. Identify what is the real cost of eliminating amenities vs. lost opportunities for revenues? What would research indicate re customer experience if provided pajamas; upgraded linen and pillows? Push for research to truly identify the impact of eastbound/southbound long distance routes from Chicago scheduled to meet typically late incoming western trains vs. producing schedules to explicitly serve their market. Coupled to this would be the financial impact re asset utilization, i.e., market-specific schedules would reduce required consists from three to two for New York, Washington, and New Orleans.

Survival Requires Operational Integration and Planning of Customer Experience Areas to Overcome the Hurdles

Although Amtrak did away with the Passenger Service Representatives in the 1970s and the Train Chiefs by early 1990s, VIA Rail Canada continues to rely upon the Service Director for the entire train and the Service Manager for food/beverage services for the same train, The Canadian, between Toronto-Vancouver. Even Indian Railways has instituted a Train Captain on its Nilgiri Express to ensure proper customer experience en route. Key to appreciating customer experience is best expressed by United’s CEO, Oscar Munoz, who stated in The Seattle Times of October 6, 2015, “…the processes and systems and investors and all that stuff? Those are wonderful…but what I’ve got to start with is people.” Indeed, the employees cannot hold a negative perception of the company and their work environment; lacking employee engagement policies. What Disney learned long ago, and what United is now realizing is the fact that the employees cannot hold a negative perception of the company and their work environment, lacking clear employee engagement policies and encouraging an owner’s mentality.

As emphasized here, Amtrak must accept how the customer should be made to feel respected, relaxed, and rewarded with a consistently acceptable, positive experience to engender a sense of wanting to ride again, and soon. And for that customer of Amtrak to have a direct communication channel to air issues and to receive satisfactory response. The essence of how Disney appreciated customer experience was the fact of understanding that people did not visit every few days, or, even every week. Outside the Northeast Corridor, this is also true for Amtrak, making it all the more reason to have the capacity to deliver daily a consistent product and service; to fulfill customer expectations.

As much as Mr. Moorman is to be a shot of B12 to Amtrak, a successful, all encompassing customer experience commitment will require an individual to manage the overall customer services delivery bringing together all the customer-facing areas and contributing operational areas to eliminate the firewall mentality; to prepare Amtrak for its future direction within these next four years. This preparation must include how to contend with what is currently under the radar of FRA’s proposal to competitively bid out three long distance routes. How will Amtrak’s customer experience match-up against a potential private operator?

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