Best time to call for Customer Relations

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calwatch

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I was stuck on a train with mechanical issues (Amtrak's fault IMHO since the conductor gave misleading information on when the train would be moving, although he did recommend to everyone to call Customer Relations to get a voucher) last month and am trying to get a hold of Customer Relations. I get transferred quickly from the main agent, but get placed on hold for Customer Relations, and since I am calling an hour before closing time, when the end of the day hits it dumps me to an answering machine. This has happened twice now and I'm loathe to wake up at 4 AM pacific time to get placed on hold for over an hour. What's the best time to call?
 

rickycourtney

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I've never honestly had to wait that long for Customer Relations once I was transferred. I usually call weekdays, midday pacific time.
 

SarahZ

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General rule is to never call within an hour of opening, during the lunch period, or an hour before closing. A lot of people do this because that's when they're free, but you end up in line with all those other people.

I've found the "sweet spot", with any business, to be around 2:00 PM their time. Everyone is back from lunch, the call center is fully staffed with first and mid-shift employees, and nobody else is calling because they're busy working too.
 

oregon pioneer

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Thanks for the advice from someone who really knows, Sarah!

I understand that Amtrak's main call center is in Pennsylvania, but I am sure that I have at least once talked to someone in the Bay Area (California). But that might have been a general call to a regular "agent" (can't remember). Does Amtrak have multiple call centers for Customer Relations, and if so, does anyone know what cities (and time zones) they are in?
 

Devil's Advocate

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Here on the forum we've been repeatedly told that asking for "Customer Relations" is a completely different experience from asking for "Customer Service" even though the specifics of what that actually means are never addressed. Here on the forum it's treated as if it's some sort of secret masonic code for the "real" support desk. If it takes multiple calls over multiple hours just to reach the first person at the "better" support desk then how much of a benefit are you really receiving from it? Seems kind of silly honestly. Until someone spells out the specific differences I'd suggest dealing with the folks who actually pick up the phone and stop worrying about the super secret extra special help line that may or may not actually exist and repeatedly hangs up on you regardless.
 
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jebr

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My understanding is that customer relations is the only one empowered to give vouchers for problems with travel. Other than that I'm not sure what extra powers they hold.
 

oregon pioneer

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My understanding is that customer relations is the only one empowered to give vouchers for problems with travel. Other than that I'm not sure what extra powers they hold.
I believe that is correct. If you have a complaint that entitles you to a voucher, the first person to answer the phone will listen patiently to your concerns, and then (hopefully) say: "I would love to help you, but that is beyond my powers. I will direct your call to Customer Relations." If they don't say that, you may end up wasting yet more time talking with people that can't help you, or even writing letters and waiting months for a response.

If you get to talk with Customer relations (and I did not have any trouble getting through to them after my bustitution from PDX to SPK last December), you will receive an offer for a voucher on the very same phone call. The person you speak to may, as happened to me, put you on hold while they consult with a supervisor about the amount you are to be offered. The amount may not be "fair", as compared to the amount you see others on AU receiving for similar inconveniences. But you will receive an offer, and if you're able to use the voucher, it will be adequate recompense for the tme spent seeking it.
 

Bob Dylan

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Customer Relations doesn't just deal with issuing Vouchers and they don't do refunds, there is a "desk"(department)for that which a "regular" Amtrak Agent will connect you!

CR takes Complaints and Compliments about employees and really anything to do with Travel on Amtrak! There is no Secret, inside Number to call, first come first served @ 1-800-USA- Rail, then go thru Julie and the transfers to the correct department! (AGR does have Hot Lines for their Select and up Members)

As has been said on here, calling and talking with a real person is generally the fastest way to file a complaint and concern as opposed to e-mail or snail mail!

You can send complaints ( via snail mail) to the CEOs office, Joe Boardman, and also to your Congress critter if you have one that will give you the time of day!( expect a form letter from most!)

I've always had good results when I called, whatever the reason, but As has been said, a lot has to do with the agent you get( if you're not satisfied ask for s Supervisor),the matter you are calling about, and your own attitude towards the agent! Generally , IME the AGR agents ( I'm a lowly Select Member) seem to be friendlier, more professional and knowlegable, but most Agents have been doing their jobs!
 
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George K

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What's an "excessive" delay? I'm headed west on the EB on Friday, and returning to Chicago on the CZ the week after that. These trains seem to run a delay of 3-5 hours as a matter of routine.
 

SarahZ

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What's an "excessive" delay? I'm headed west on the EB on Friday, and returning to Chicago on the CZ the week after that. These trains seem to run a delay of 3-5 hours as a matter of routine.
It depends on the situation. Some people think two hours is an excessive delay, some people think five, and some people don't care unless it means a missed connection.
 

George K

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I suppose it also matters on the planned distance. A four hour delay from Chicago to Portland is probably not as big a deal as a four hour delay from Chicago to the Twin Cities.
 

Ispolkom

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What's an "excessive" delay? I'm headed west on the EB on Friday, and returning to Chicago on the CZ the week after that. These trains seem to run a delay of 3-5 hours as a matter of routine.
It depends on the situation. Some people think two hours is an excessive delay, some people think five, and some people don't care unless it means a missed connection.
I've never complained about a delay that was the host railroad's fault, like a bustitution because of a derailed freight train, or a three-hour delay 4 miles from my destination because the line was blocked by a freight train waiting for a crew. I won't even complain about missing a connection, if I'm not downgraded from sleeper to coach on my new train. I've only complained about broken toilets, not being woken for a middle of the night stop, things that really were Amtrak's fault.

Of course, I habitually ride the Empire Builder, so my expectations for on-time performance are lower than others'.
 

the_traveler

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My understanding of the "difference" between "Customer Service" and "Customer Relations" is that is not "a secret code word". When you call Amtrak and speak with the agent who answers the call, s/he is providing you with "service" - thus they are "Customer Service" but they can not offer you a voucher. Only "Customer Relations" can.

Likewise, if you go to Burger King, Denny's, Target or Red Lobster, the server or cashier provides a service, but I'm sure they can not remedy a problem and give you a $500 refund or gift certificate on the spot for a problem you had. Maybe it has to be elevated to a manager or more likely you will be told to call "that secret place" for resolution.
 

VentureForth

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The only time I complained about a delay was on my return to Savannah from Orlando. I had actually rebooked from the Star to the Meteor because I was done with my business and prefer to arrive home at 7:30 pm rather than at 1:30 am. Well, a trespasser was hit by some train and meteor was delayed for hours.

I called just to see if I could get the higher cost refunded because I wasnt going to get in much earlier than the Star after all.

The first human didn't care, but the CR did and sent a voucher for $100, which was about $10 more than the res change cost.

Then my wife though it was junkmail and tossed it.
 

amamba

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IMO a 3-5 hour delay on the EB is standard at this point and doesn't really qualify as excessive.

You may disagree.
 

MARC Rider

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You can send complaints ( via snail mail) to the CEOs office, Joe Boardman, and also to your Congress critter if you have one that will give you the time of day!( expect a form letter from most!)
About 4 years ago, I had a trip on NER #67 that turned out to be about 4-5 hours late due to a HHP-8 that died somewhere between Rt 128 and Providence. This was on a night with a temperature of about 12 degrees F, and the resolution involved us being rescued by the last northbound train of the evening, a return to BOS, where we sat on the hard seats in the closed station until they dragged the train back to Boston, found a new locomotive, and finally got us on the move at 1 or 2 AM (originally a 9:30 departure.) At least the WiFi in BOS was working even though the station was officially closed, so I was able to send an email to my boss that I would be late to work that day. Let me tell you I didn't get a normal night's sleep, that;s for sure -- It was light by the time we got to New Haven, and I wasn't going back to sleep, fancy business class seat or not.

So I wrote a letter to Mr, Boardman asking for some consideration for the inconvenience, but didn't hear anything back and forgot about it.

Then about a year later, I was on #30, the Capitol Limited eastbound, back when they were doing all that trackwork in Maryland, and you ran the risk of bustitution if the train didn't get into Cleveland by a certain time. Well, I hit the lottery on that one, and they stuck us on on a bus a Pittsburgh. The funny thing was, we actually arrived in WAS pretty close to the scheduled time, even though we left Pittsburgh about 3-4 hours later than we should have. (The 70 mph drive on the PA Turnpike in pouring rain was a bit more of a thrill ride than I signed up for, though.) However, I was in a sleeper, and my having to pay for a fast food breakfast at the Gateway Travel Plaza in Breezewood, not to mention the rather cramped bus seats, was not exactly first class service. So I went to Customer Service or whatever they call it in WAS and told them my tale of woe, and they gave me the magic phone number. When I called, them, not only did they offer to gve me a voucher for the pro-rated sleeper charge from Pittsburgh to Washington, they said, "we've been trying to reach you for months" about my letter to Mr. Boardman. They then offered my ANOTHER voucher for my inconvenience on NER 67. As I recall, it was for a larger amount than the partial sleeper refund on #30.Idon't remember now what I used the vouchers for.

On the other hand, in 2007, I had a real hell of a ride in #30, my all-time Amtrak delay, 10 hours late into WAS, due to weather conditions. I didn't even think of calling Customer Relations, I just enjoyed my extra lunch in Ohio, and the emergency ration beef stew as we were rolling over the Sand Patch Grade at dinner time. They even held up #66 in WAS so I could make my connection to BAL, I certainly felt the "evil eye" from all the other passengers as I looked for a seat on #66. :) Now I wonder if I could have gotten a voucher.
 

Acela150

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General rule is to never call within an hour of opening, during the lunch period, or an hour before closing. A lot of people do this because that's when they're free, but you end up in line with all those other people.

I've found the "sweet spot", with any business, to be around 2:00 PM their time. Everyone is back from lunch, the call center is fully staffed with first and mid-shift employees, and nobody else is calling because they're busy working too.
I can agree with this to a point. I've found calling certain places of business that have a 1-800 number within an hour of closing. AGR is one of them.

The list is endless.

Not working toilets, excessive delays, bustitution, etc, etc, etc...
Does the whining passenger who don't understand things can't go their way count towards that list?? :p
 

lstone19

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Having worked for an airline, I am familiar with the standard department names pretty much used throughout the travel industry so I expect by Amtrak as well. "Customer Relations" is not some magic term but rather a department. Typically, Customer Relations is empowered to deal with service problems that occurred during travel but only after travel has concluded. The front line people answering the phone at Amtrak's main reservations number are not part of Customer Relations, they're part of the Reservations department. So when you want Customer Relations, you need to be transferred to them.

Customer Service, OTOH, and at least where I worked, was another specific department and referred only to the customer contact people at the airport (ticket counter, baggage check, and gate). The ticket counter agent or gate agent is properly called a Customer Service Representative (CSR - OTOH, the phone person handling reservations is an RSSR - Reservations Sales and Service Representative). In the jargon of the airline industry, Customer Service is what we call "above the wing". The "below the wing" counterpart is Ramp Service which handles baggage and other stuff that goes on out on the ramp (an Amtrak baggage handler would be the Ramp Service equivalent). From what I've observed, Amtrak and airlines are similar in that at a large station, people are generally dedicated to a specific role (in airline terms, Customer Service or Ramp Service) but at a small station, might switch between the two as needed.

Above, someone brought up refunds. A normal refund is normally handled by Reservations or Customer Service as it's simply the reversal of a sale. You give them your tickets (real or electronic), they give you money. However, a refund due to a service problem where there is no unused ticket to be submitted would be handled by Customer Relations. Customer Service or Reservations can't just give you money for nothing; Customer Relations can.

In short, when you miss your connection and need to be rebooked, need a hotel, etc, you see Customer Service at the station. After the trip is complete and you believe you're entitled to compensation of some sort, you contact Customer Relations.
 

SarahZ

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The only time I called them was to let them know the person working in Dallas was absolutely awful and downright rude about a cancellation, not to mention she had turned the sign notifying passengers of the cancellation so that it was facing the wall. Also, I hadn't been notified my train had been canceled, which resulted in four wasted hours of driving in an ice storm, after checking out of my hotel, when I could have stayed in my hotel and attempted to book a flight.

They told me they'd alert the manager in Dallas, apologized for the lack of notification, and gave me $100, which was really nice. :)
 

Acela150

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It's been a couple years for me. I think the last time I called was when I didn't receive a second meal with my AE FC ticket. When I call I always try to make sure there is a compliment in my call. Cause all they deal with is folks who ***** and moan..
 

calwatch

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Nov 28, 2010
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My call to Customer Relations was due to Amtrak engine failure on the Northeast Regional and a misleading time frame as to when the train would get moving. The conductor was frustrated and told any passenger who complained to him to call Customer Relations to get a refund. Apparently dispatch sold the conductor a bill of goods as to when the rescue locomotive would actually leave. I was about five hours delayed and I think that warrants compensation, especially for a corridor which gets competition from bus and plane.
 
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