To celebrate Customer Service Month, which takes place annually in October, we will be profiling our frontline workers on the Peninsula Moves! Blog.
No matter how often she hears her voice—either through an automated message, via the public announcement system at Caltrain or over the onboard message program on SamTrans buses—it still sounds strange.
Rachel, a Customer Service Representative for the San Mateo County Transit District, has been the unofficial voice of the agency for nearly 20 years now—her recorded voice messages greet customers who call 1-800-660-4287, or employees who call the IT department and the front desk at Central headquarters, among other departments. Even though she’s been doing it for years, Rachel said it’s still odd when she hears herself on the other line.
“It’s definitely strange,” said Rachel. “It’s almost like hearing a different person. I’m like—‘that’s me?’ Sometimes I can’t tell my recorded messages from some of my co-workers.”
Rachel first started providing her voice for Transit District duties in 1996, when she began recording PA messages at some Caltrain stations. At the time, there was no message system for passengers waiting on service updates. Rachel, who’s been handling customer service calls for SamTrans and Caltrain for almost 30 years, was asked to record the messages because her boss noticed that she had a particularly soothing, calming voice.
“I was a little surprised at first when they asked me to do this,” said Rachel. “But I got into the rhythm of doing it pretty easily. I’d just record a list of PA announcements that they wanted me to make. I’d go home, call a number, press a button, and next thing you know, my voice was being broadcast at the Caltrain stations.”
Following the success of that campaign, Rachel lent her voice for service and stop messages announced onboard SamTrans buses. From there, she transitioned to recording automated messages for the 1-800 number, plus the front desk at Central headquarters and various other extensions.
“Most of the time, I’m recording major service announcements, like changes due to holiday scheduling and things like that,” said Rachel. “Also, when we have news on fare adjustments, or new programs like our SamTrans youth pass, I’ll record messages.”
Rachel usually has a script for the messages, and even though she just has to read off that document, getting the perfect take can be a lengthy task.
“I’ll be fine, and then as soon as I start recording, things change,” said Rachel. “I’ve done five or six takes for a single message some times. It can actually be pretty difficult, but I get great support from my supervisor. Rona [Rios] always provides really helpful, supportive feedback on my messages.”
While Rachel is no longer recording messages for the Caltrain PA system or SamTrans onboard messaging alerts, her voice is still omnipresent over the automated phone system. She said she’s proud of the voice work she’s done for the Transit District.
“This certainly isn’t something I set out to do at first,” said Rachel. “But it’s been a great experience for me. It’s been an honor to be asked to continue to do this.”