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Amtrak Historical Society

Lee Gleysteen's Speech
at the 2001 Conference of the
Amtrak Historical Society™

I'd like to start my remarks this evening by expressing my appreciation to you all for the opportunity to address your meeting, and for the remarkable foresight demonstrated by the members and founder of the Amtrak Historical Society. I don't know how many of Amtrak's founders felt about our railroad's place in history, but my experiences in the early years of my career led me to believe that we were not an organization that had a sense of history. That has changed to some degree, and Amtrak has become more serious about preserving its past for the public record, and also, and I think more importantly, to provide a baseline and meridian from which to measure our progress in the transportation industry, the economy and the social fabric of America.

I stand before you as an emblem of at least one historic change at Amtrak and in the American business place - a victim of 'business casual' attire. Like so many conservative corporations, Amtrak began experimenting with 'casual Fridays' a few years back, and has gradually slipped into something even more comfortable in the past year-and-a-half. While preparing for this talk, I discovered last Wednesday that I no longer have a business suit in which to stand before you. So in this brave new world of shirtsleeves and slacks, let me tell you a little of my Amtrak history.

In July of 1976, I joined Amtrak in Seattle, Washington as a clerk. Amtrak was then five years old and I was fresh out of college and eager to learn the ropes and make a difference on the railroad. I made a difference that first day by mopping the commissary floor. As a clerical employee, I was on the unassigned list, meaning that I was on-call for work in the commissary, crewbase, baggage, ticket office, redcap and administrative departments.

It takes a while to assimilate in an organization, and to get an accurate sense of priorities and prospects. One event that resonated for me was the disposal of dining car silver plate from the predecessor railroads, which we handled purely as surplus property. Enterprising individuals within the company saw the value of the pieces, but Amtrak's goal was to unload inventory and make a little money. We were trying to be 'new' in all things, and I think in our eagerness, we overlooked the importance of heritage and our own unfolding history.

I worked clerical jobs in the Northwest for about five years, leaving the station at Portland to become a Chief of Onboard Service on the Pioneer between Seattle and Salt Lake City. Four years later I took a job in Sales and Marketing Training Department located at the Fort Washington, Pennsylvania reservation sales office. At that time, we were training Amtrak's field sales representatives, the reservation offices and travel agents how to effectively sell Amtrak.

After three years, I returned to Salt Lake City to become District Supervisor for stations in Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming and Colorado. From there I came to Chicago with the formation of product lines to lead The California Zephyr and Desert Wind team. I am now temporarily on staff with Don Saunders, Vice President of Customer Services at Intercity.

Now that you know a little bit of who I am, let me tell you about a few things about Amtrak's Service Guarantees and some milestones we have passed on the way to our thirtieth anniversary next month.

Amtrak's service guarantee. Let me read to you the guarantee:

The Amtrak Promise:

Satisfaction Guaranteed

You're our guest on Amtrak.

We promise to make your trip a safe, comfortable and enjoyable experience. If something isn't right, talk to any Amtrak employee and we'll try to make it right. If our efforts aren't enough, call 1-800-USA-RAIL for a Service Guarantee Certificate toward future travel.

Your Satisfaction is Guaranteed!

We entered into this guarantee to set a new standard for high quality consistent service - for ourselves and the industry.

It provides a mechanism that helps identify and correct service shortcomings and reduce or eliminate recurring sources of guest dissatisfaction.

The guarantee increases guest satisfaction and therefore increases ridership and revenue.

The Satisfaction Guarantee became effective July 4, 2000, and the goal is less than one guarantee invoked per 1000 guests served company-wide.

From July 4 through the end of March, Amtrak has issued 57, 700 guarantees, valued at $5.2 million dollars.

Amtrak has sold 17.3 million tickets valued at over $974 million dollars - which is an increase over the previous year of more than $117 million or 13.7%.

We have issued Satisfaction Guarantees to less than four out of every 1000 guests.

These numbers indicate the power of the Satisfaction Guarantee. Total number of tickets and revenue have increased dramatically since the guarantee's inception. We are currently over goal for number of guarantees per 1000 guests, but we have seen a downward trend over the course of the program. Not surprisingly, NEC and Amtrak West have the lowest ratios, approaching 1 per thousand. Intercity, with more products and longer journeys has been consistently higher than the other groups, but is also trending downward.

The service guarantee process captures important data on guest satisfaction. When claiming a guarantee, the guest is asked to provide input on their entire experience. This data helps us focus attention in areas which most affect guest satisfaction. A summary of the guests' experience is forwarded to the product line and the VP Customer Service in real time, giving managers the opportunity to address problems in some cases even before the train reaches its final terminal.

Roughly speaking, the greatest number of guarantees are issue for late trains, followed by equipment problems and then personnel issues. While these trends are not surprising, they provide important information about the cost of failure in each area. They provide valuable directions toward service success.

We believe the Service Guarantee has contributed to ridership and revenue growth. During the past year, Amtrak carried an all time record of 22.5 million trips, just ahead of America West Airlines, by comparison, and ninth among air carriers.

Amtrak's guest loyalty program, Amtrak Guest Rewards, is building long-term relationships with our guests, offering points toward rail, airline, hotel stays and merchandise purchases.

We also had growth in the mail and express area, expanding by 25 % to $122 million, and set a record for non-passenger commercial revenue of $1.1 billion.

Tomorrow, Acela Express will add two daily round trips between New York and Boston, and weekend service between Washington and Boston. By the end of the year, Acela Express is projected to add $180 million annually to the bottom line.

So, on our thirtieth anniversary, Amtrak serves, 500 communities in 45 states along a 22,500 mile route system. We have record revenues and ridership. We have new loyalty programs and products to move us forward. We are making history for the travel industry, our economy and society.

Thank you.

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