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January 8, 2014

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Railway call operators learn to handle complaints, abuses

It is not an easy task being a call center operator at  a railway service hotline at this time of the year.

“It is part of our daily job to deal with complaints, and even abuses, from customers who could not get tickets during the Spring Festival holiday,” said Gao Qian, an operator at Shanghai Railway Bureau’s customer service center.

Every operator handles about 200 to 300 calls every day coming into January. The festival rush has quadrupled the call center’s business since the end of last year. The service number, 12306, receives about 150,000 calls on an average every day. Operators deal with about 30,000 to 40,000 of them while the rest are served by answering machines.

There are 157 regular operators in the call center. The bureau has moved 85 staff from other positions and added 120 volunteers from the city’s colleges to handle Spring Festival calls.

They are divided into groups and take shifts to maintain the 24-hour hotline service.

Over 45 percent of the calls handled by operators are questions related to train tickets purchased on the railway website They provide consultations on ticket cancellations, rerouting, starting time of ticket sales, as well as complaints about being unable to log on to the site.

Apart from offering information about ticket sale, rerouting and cancellation, explaining why it is so hard to purchase train tickets during the Spring Festival constitutes a main part of their job, said Gao.

“The railway capacity is limited and cannot meet the heavy demand. Those who fail to get the tickets turn to us for complaints, while some others even abuse us,” Gao said.

Gao said some of her young colleagues were in tears after taking calls from abusive customers. “We are not allowed to hang up the phone. All we can do is to tell the customers not to use improper words.”

Gao, who has been on the job for more than two years, comforts her young colleagues in such situations.

“We can understand the anger and disappointment of customers when they are unable to get tickets. But we also hope they would be more understanding and considerate about our work,” said Gao.



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