Say Hello to Justin, Long Island Rail Road's First Customer Service Ambassador
His name is Justin Peterson, and he's meant to be, essentially, the face of customer service for the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR). He only started last week, but already some reports are coming in that Justin is making quite a splash with commuters on the LIRR, and is representing what may be a new kind of customer service paradigm for the wider industry.
There are seven such positions being opened, and with Justin in place, there are set to be six more to follow. The LIRR has reportedly received over 2,000 applications for the jobs, and plans to have the remaining customer service ambassadors in place by the end of the holiday season. Justin's primary duty includes helping commuters in Jamaica in the mornings and switching to Penn Station in the evening. Other ambassadors, meanwhile, will be posted in busy places like Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal. Ambassadors are also set to be deployed in split shifts, working four hours in the morning, and four hours in the evening, with four hours in between off, a decision that likely reflects the “rush hour” periods in the morning and evening.
Justin took on about a week of training before rolling out into his new position, which serves as essentially a search engine in the form of a live human. Travelers ask Justin a variety of questions daily, including those revolving around train schedules or directions, or just the location of the next train that's needed in a connection, and so forth. Justin has already proven a valuable resource for those who want to keep up, especially for first-time riders who can't quite get a handle on unfamiliar departure timetables.
Image via Shutterstock
Perhaps most interesting is how the customer service ambassadors will be deployed, once all said ambassadors are in place. Some will be posted at podiums, designed to be a sort of central location for users to go when they have questions. Other ambassadors will be free-range, of a sort, roaming the floor for anyone who looks in need of help. While the LIRR has several technological advancements designed to help customers, this is—according to LIRR president Helena Williams—a “human touch” to supplement those electronic measures.
Indeed, perhaps the biggest roadblock around technological help measures, be they at a call center or a website, is the issue of natural language. An interactive voice response (IVR) menu can be a great help when someone wants something specifically noted on the menu. But, go off menu or have an issue that fits into more than one potential pigeonhole, and the IVR's effectiveness tends to drop. Having that “human touch” thrown in is great for those times when software can't quite handle the matter, and that's what humans should be in a call center for. Using human staff to answer simple questions is a waste of human staff, live agents should focus on complex matters, or matters that can't be easily solved with a quick playback of a sound file.
The full extent of the LIRR customer service ambassador program likely won't be felt for some time—the Super Bowl in New Jersey will likely prove to be its biggest test—but the early going certainly suggests that there's plenty to like about this. Justin by himself is already said to be doing quite well; getting Justin some backup, meanwhile, is likely to turn out even better.
Edited by Blaise McNamee