Julio Badin, Senior Vice President, Customer Experience, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport
It’s clear that customers, influenced by the rapid advancement of technology, are no longer willing to accept yesterday’s standards. Customers are influenced by on-demand services like Amazon, Uber, and Netflix and now expect increased ease and comfort in each of their experiences. In response to these and other significant undercurrents of change in customer expectations, the senior leadership team and board of directors at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport embarked on a new mission and vision focusing squarely on the customer. All facets of Airport business were re-focused to support one overarching result, the customer experience.
At DFW, we begin our customer experience focus with “mastering the basics”. We also know that customers not only expect the basics but care more and more about “how” they get to their destinations
As part of this deliberate focus, a newly minted Customer Experience team set out to better understand the Airport customer’s needs. At the time, the Airport’s operations center, which had a myriad of other responsibilities, also had the responsibility of taking customer calls. With all the complexities of running an airport, the Airport’s operations center wore many hats and could not focus singularly on the experience of the customer. As such, the Customer Experience team implemented a service center concept of its own - The Experience Hub, focused exclusively on the customer. Four years ago, the initiative started with a leader, one hourly position, and six monitors. It has grown to a staff of fifteen as well as various partners.
We have long known that things like screening wait times, procedural or regulatory requirements, and disjointed processes between agencies, airlines and airports have contributed to customer frustration. These are basic issues at any airport. So, at DFW, we begin our customer experience focus with “mastering the basics”. We also know that customers not only expect the basics but care more and more about “how” they get to their destinations.
Employees in Customer Experience and throughout the Airport, live by a simple but very effective credo, “Clean, Working, Friendly”. Customers expect a clean terminal, with everything working and a friendly atmosphere. For example, when a customer calls the hub with an issue warranting immediate attention the specialist can work directly with our terminal team to engage directly with the customer addressing their need.
When a customer calls (i.e., they may have lost an important item or their flight was canceled), our customer experience service specialists works to provide them with the necessary information in a single friendly call. Having data at the employee’s finger tips is essential to their success. Types of data include flight information, weather patterns, social media posts, activities in the terminals, baggage handling systems status, checkpoint wait times, anticipated passenger volumes and even local information. Immediately, we saw the power of this data and used whatever data we could find to help our teams to master the basics.
We started small, achieving little wins. We hired analysts to help us interpret the data more precisely. They helped us see historical patterns in wait times and specific locations where congestion would occur. We introduced Airport Customer Experience Specialists (ACES) employees into the terminals. Their job was to take a daily plan “Playlist” produced by the Experience Hub, and be present at known moments that are can be stressful or confusing to customers in need and improve their experience in real time. We added a few more positions in the Experience Hub to take calls and more video monitors to display more data and visuals to reinforce our focus on the experience. We also added Industrial Engineers to better leverage the data in making operational improvements (e.g., reduce wait time and improve efficiencies). Our data analysts and industrial engineers worked with a growing number of partners joining the hub. Members from the airport social media team, baggage handling systems vendors, custodial and maintenance dispatch, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) planning teams joined the hub. Together, everyone in the Experience Hub is now focused on the customer experience.
Our goal is simple. We want to prevent and eliminate the need for a customer to call us for help. Don’t call us a contact center. We are much more. We are the DFW Experience Hub. We continue to learn and improve from this integrated approach. DFW Airport is now moving forward with plans for an Airport-wide integrated operations center which will bring all airport stakeholders under one roof. The integration of even more data along with the decision makers to act on that data will take the Experience Hub concept to even greater heights.