Trying to change your travel plans is usually a nightmare. Flights and hotels are notoriously picky and unwilling to help, but what about train travel? Is Amtrak customer service good, easy to deal with, and helpful? Or is it a total nightmare? Read my experience to find out!
Calling customer service? Nobody looks forward to that, and neither was I when I dialed Amtrak in early 2021 to get my tickets changed a couple of days ago. In fact, I’d been putting it off for a week, just because I was dreading the inevitable. I thought I’d get the runaround, half-answers, and general lack of interest in my situation that’s typical of airlines and hotel chains.
And, honestly, if I were working the customer service line at these places, I wouldn’t be trying either. To be the person on the front lines, dealing with angry customers and bound by policies you didn’t write and don’t agree with? That’s the life of a customer service rep, and I don’t envy it. So, I try to be nice and understanding when I have to call, even though I know I won’t enjoy the experience.
The Problem: Changing Amtrak Travel Dates
This call with Amtrak was different, and on a day where I don’t have much time to write a full National Parks or Backpacking article, I thought I’d share. That call was the best customer service experience of my life, and there isn’t a close second. It all started when I realized it wasn’t a good idea to visit North Cascades National Park in June.
Being from the Midwest, June is a warm (if not outright blazing) month, but not so in the Cascade Mountains. This means my Empire Builder tickets set for early June would put me in the Pacific Northwest with not much to do other than drink coffee in Seattle. Don’t get me wrong, I’d have loved it, but that’s not what I booked the tickets for!
Fast forward to my call with Amtrak Customer Service. I dialed and waited less than a minute before I was speaking with a human rep. For a large travel company that’s strapped for cash, that was a feat in itself. I forget the guy’s name- either he didn’t say or I wasn’t listening- but he made it immediately clear he was on my side.
I explained that I was trying to change my travel dates, but kept running into problems on the Amtrak reservation portal. I’d booked with a holiday coupon, and when I tried to change it online, the coupon would no longer apply, doubling the price of my fare.
The Solution: The Most Helpful Customer Service Rep Ever
My customer service buddy (we were definitely buddies at this point) got to work right away, looking for new travel dates that would be of a similar or lower price. July wouldn’t work, and neither would August. He walked me through each route and travel date, was a total pro, but we couldn’t find a travel date that actually worked.
He was completely apologetic, identifying and empathizing with my frustrations the entire way. It’s not easy to toe the line between customer advocate and company ambassador, but somebody at Amtrak deserves credit for teaching it!
We finally found a week in September that worked with my budget and time constraints, and guess what? It was $370 cheaper than my original booking. So, not only was this customer service rep helpful and understanding, he took nearly four hundred dollars out of his own company’s pocket and put it back into mine.
But that wasn’t all. Once we settled on and confirmed the new travel dates, he immediately decided to go above and beyond. The new travel dates included a 36-hour layover in Chicago, something that sounded more fun to me than annoying. My new friend from Amtrak customer service rattled off a list of hotels, complete with phone numbers and shuttle information. He even told me which hotels would give me a discount just for being an Amtrak traveler!
Amtrak Customer Service: Nightmare or Not?
I know this isn’t a life-changing story, but I also know that lots of people are wondering if Amtrak Customer service is the nightmare experience that they expect it to be. The good news, it might just be the best customer service call you’ve had in a while. I can’t guarantee your experience will be the same, but my hope is that it will be!
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