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Rail News Home Passenger Rail

10/9/2002



Rail News: Passenger Rail

Amtrak concludes launch of automated speech-recognition system


When would-be passengers call Amtrak’s 1-800-USA-RAIL, they’re no longer instructed to push buttons to meander through the railroad’s automated voice-mail system. The voice-mail system’s still there, but now "Julie" asks callers questions and routes calls based on spoken answers.



Julie is the voice of Amtrak’s new automated speech-recognition system, which is designed to provide callers immediate access to train status, schedules, fares and reservation information.



Since replacing the touch-tone system a year ago with Julie, Amtrak’s customer satisfaction has increased 61 percent, according to a prepared statement.



In 2001, Amtrak began the first phase of implementation, which involved using Julie to provide train-status information. Now Julie handles 70 percent of train-status calls without the help of an Amtrak agent, compared with 40 percent prior to implementation.



The second phase involved using Julie to handle more complex schedule, fare and reservation services, which comprise nearly 70 percent of all call center transactions. Currently, Julie is processing 70,000 such calls daily; ticket sales processed by the system have increased more than 90 percent since the second phase was introduced.



Amtrak and SpeechWorks International Inc. worked together to develop Julie’s personality. Abandoning the railroad’s previous formal approach to customer interaction, Amtrak adopted a more casual and conversational approach for its new system.



But if callers are uncomfortable conversing with a computer, they still may opt to speak to a live operator at any time during the call.


Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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