the feels

Amtrak Customer Service = Hugs

Remember that magical conversation I referred to in my last post? Well, turns out that stars have aligned and something in the universe has been preparing me to go to Detroit. 

Am I excited? I'm trying to keep my cool... but I think it's going to be pretty rad. !!

The thing about this is that I don't know what to expect... but I do know this - I believe in my heart that the people there are great and that we believe in the power of Human Centered Design. So, let's do this. 

However, sometimes when the universe aligns perfectly for someone else, things are breaking apart for others. It's strange how life works like that but this has happened to me before. Actually, when I know things are about to be great and everything just seems to be going right for me, there's a part of me that begins to reserve space in my heart and mind for sadness. It's almost like metaphysics. You can't control it.

This time around, a really good friend of mine was the one to break some awful news to me about something in her life. I get so upset when bad things happen to good people. I just... I just can't. 

Amtrak's 1971 logo.

Amtrak's 1971 logo.

This is all to say that because of recent events such as those mentioned above, I found myself having to purchase an Amtrak ticket for my trip to Detroit. The website was confusing (UX Alert!) and their guest reward thing is separate?? Actually, it was so bad that I decided to call. Yes. I opted for calling someone on the phone to talk to a human. I didn't see any 'chat now' buttons and my password wasn't being sent to me after I reset it so I figured I had to. 

I had the best customer service that I have received over the phone in probably my entire life.

Even better than Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. 

She was kind, efficient, offered to do things for me when she didn't have to, and even asked about things I hadn't thought of regarding my trip. She also knew the order in which my mind was processing all of this information and it seemed like she had it down to a science. It was great UX. 

I think old systems like train/railroads have a great customer service embedded into their phone culture because that was the UX of their time. The hottest new thing was the telephone and businesses competed with each other by trying to offer the best services via operator. It's fascinating how often history repeats itself in different ways. The answers to things are usually already there - you just have to readjust the solution and reapply it to the context at hand in a mindful manner.

What I loved about the entire experience though was how much she made me feel at ease with the confusion of what I was seeing on screen. She explained why changes weren't showing up and assured me that my information was being updated as she typed. The secret to her miracle UX work was being able to mix both phone services and web delivery all at the same time - she made a believer out of me. 

So, I guess the phone isn't dead. I'll definitely remember this experience and take a chance on calling if everything else fails. I won't start to expect great phone service though - I think companies still need to desperately straighten that out. 

If there are any UXers who would like to tackle the Amtrak system - it would be a good idea to hang out with these phone service operators. They just might be able to write the whole architecture out for you.  

UX Notes: When Macy's made the decision to have their operators help direct customers to other stores to find what they needed, this was a UX decision that worked in their favor. They did this all by phone. What if our department store online checkouts also searched and crawled other stores' websites and directed their customers with a link to purchase their goods there if they were in the same situation? I guarantee loyalty.


When my friend left after a week, I moved into another AirBnB to start my two week stay as a lone traveler. It's amazing what happens when you are confronted with being alone. 

I am an extreme introvert who has somehow learned to survive in an extrovert world (some say to a point where I seem extroverted) so I was a bit excited for it but also terrified. Being alone in your apartment and an environment in which you know is easy but being abroad in someone else's space was intriguingly something else. 

I remembered this clip from Louis C.K. (who I adore for a multitude of reasons) and I feel as though he described so perfectly what happens when you let yourself feel that moment of being completely alone and allowing sadness to come and engulf you. Watch it and make sure you get to 3:30.

And then it happened.

I felt grounded, human, and more real when it hit. It was as though I got myself back after the years of being drowned in so many things, conversations, activities, deadlines, etc. - all of which I love and treasure but this was leaps and bounds better than Shavasana.

So, yes. It's lonely. But, oh so good.

Here is a photo of my take away food from Letz Sushi (their photography is a visual feast in and of its own). The take-out packaging was impressive - I think particularly because of the bag which was reminiscent of shopping bags. Imagine if all of our take-out or delivery was thoughtfully packaged. I think our dining experiences in these contexts would be more pleasant and enjoyable, no?

Service Experience Notes: Taking food to go or getting food delivered doesn't need to feel like such a 'eat to live' experience. If restaurants took the time to make the act of taking away food an extension of their business, my gut says that they would have more loyal customers. At the end of the day, the food needs to be great - remember, content is king, but this could be another example of where form could follow function.

It was delicious. But not better than LA :)