On Board Chiefs Are Back (Sort Of).
On one of my first long-distance trips—I think it was the Zephyr—my wife and I were sitting in our bedroom shortly after leaving Chicago when a 40ish man, impeccably dressed in a snappy navy blue blazer, knocked at our door. He introduced himself as the chief of on-board services and explained that he was there to make sure everything about our journey met our expectations. He urged us to seek him out should there be any problems. I must say I was impressed.
But much more so the next day when we passed him on the way back to our accommodations after lunch in the dining car. He said—and I remember this quite clearly—“Good afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. Loomis. I hope you enjoyed your lunch.”
It had been almost 24 hours since he had first greeted us; there were probably 80 or 90 other passengers in the three sleeping cars; and he called us by name. That was impressive.
The chiefs are long gone—for budgetary reasons, of course—but in the intervening years, with surprisingly few exceptions, car attendants and dining car staffs on Amtrak long-distance trains did their jobs conscientiously and quite well, often under difficult circumstance. And they stuck together and did so despite the fact that there was no one actually in charge. Peer pressure was the glue. I find that to be quite extraordinary!
That, however, is apparently about to change, and for the better. NARP has been informed unofficially that Amtrak supervisors have been told to get out of their offices and start riding the trains in order to instill a “back to basics, consistency, and standards approach” to customer service. This is thanks to a directive issued a few weeks ago by Wick Moorman, Amtrak’s Co-President and CEO. Personally, I’m going to miss the guy.
Wow! Standards . . . Consistency . . . Supervisors on the trains. And better Customer Service. What a concept!