FORT LAUDERDALE HOLLYWOOD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT|
QUICKLY RISES TO POST 9/11 CUSTOMER SERVICE CHALLENGE
(Airport Magazine, May/June, 2003)
By Ellen Boyle and Charles Jones
A harried traveler approached a semi-circle of chairs in Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport (FLL) baggage claim area , where 80 Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners were participating in FLL's "WE GET YOU THERE" customer service training.
"Can you help me?" the woman asked Brian Bishop, one of the screeners seated in the back row. The training is the first in the nation where TSA screeners have joined an airport's on-going customer service training effort.
"Sure, what can I do for you?" asked Brian, looking over his shoulder.
"I need to get to Air Tran," she replied. "What terminal is that?"
"You came to the right place" he said, as instructor Tom Murphy of the Service Institute addressed the rest of the screeners. "Because that's what I'm learning to do for you right now."
Using his "WE GET YOU THERE" handbook, designed for FLL by the Service Institute, through a grant from American Express Company, to provide airport employees with tips on how to meet customer service needs post-9/11, Brian located a map and showed her the most direct route to Air Tran.
She thanked him and off she went. Then Brian raised his hand and with a big smile announced to Murphy, "Excuse me, I just had my first customer."
The "WE GET YOU THERE" program, an expansion of Airport Ambassadors, is one example of how officials at FLL, including managers from Broward County Aviation Department (BCAD), the airlines and now TSA - are working as "partners" to develop solutions to the challengers presented by operating an airport in a post-9/11 environment.
FLL's Partnership Committee
Airline travel was reengineered post-911 and that meant adapting to the new environment. FLL management took the initiative and created the Partnership Committee to achieve a well-coordinated working relationship among FLL's "control-sharing" partners.
Below is a summary of the steps taken in creating the Committee which may serve as a guide for other airports faced with the same challenge. In addition, we invite colleagues from other airports to visit one of our Partnership Committee meetings and learn first hand about the benefits of improving communication among airport stake-holders.
Step One: Getting Issues on the Table
In April, 2002, William Sherry, Director of Aviation at FLL, invited the airlines and TSA to a full day "retreat" at an off-site location. The purpose was to permit airlines to share their thoughts with senior aviation officials and identify customer service challenges faced by everyone post-9/11.
The suggestions and ideas generated at the meeting were compiled and a report was distributed to all parties within a week. Suggestion number one: Create a Partnership Committee to oversee implementation of the issues raised at the retreat.
Tom Murphy of the Service Institute was appointed to serve as Partnership Committee "facilitator." With 15 years experience developing airport customer service programs and six years directing FLL's Airport Ambassador program, Murphy had a working relationship with all the airlines and tenants. Vivian Paulson, administrative director for BCAD was appointed Partnership Committee administrator along with Sandy Luongo, BCAD's customer service manager. The facilitation team was now in place.
Step Two: Getting Going
The Partnership Committee comprises airline station managers, BCAD Operations and Administration managers, senior TSA staff and Broward Sheriff's Office officials, who identified its overall objective:
Three steps were taken immediately:
- Work together to develop a "shared vision" and implementation plans as needed to make passage through the airport as safe, swift and courteous as possible for airport travelers in an environment of increased security standards.
BCAD Operations staff and the airlines were offered training to create this "implementation network." Once imbued with the "partnership ethic," this network was well positioned to carry out directives from the Partnership Committee.
- The Partnership Committee identified areas where customer service could be enhanced by strengthening the working relationship among the aviation department, airlines and TSA. The airlines meet in advance to identify their agenda items, and BCAD convenes aviation department staff required to address the issues and gain action. Some action areas include:
- Enhancing the EVIDS system (Electronic Video Informational Display System) and developing a new training program to promote greater understanding and application of new modifications made to the airport's system.
- Exploring ways to communicate more efficiently and effectively with passengers, including examining the airport's paging system and development of a master vision for "wayfinding."
- Improving internal communications including the development and dissemination of a new, comprehensive directory and a system for text messaging to ensure the ability for instant communication in the event of emergencies.
- Concurrently, work began on a second front: the creation of an airport-wide "TEAM Ops" to serve as the Partnership Committee's implementation arm.
Within a month, all BCAD Operations employees had participated in the first round of "TEAM Ops" classes. They were joined in the sessions by "ops" staff from nine airlines, including Continental, American, Delta, Southwest, United, Jet Blue, Northwest, USAir, ATA, Spirit, Air Tran and Frontier.
One immediate benefit from TEAM Ops was improved communication among the airlines and aviation department operational employees. Plans are being made now for a second round of training.
Step Three: Building on Achievements
- The airport then introduced WE GET YOU THERE to Airport Ambassador program members. Prior to designing the program, the Service Institute conducted extensive research and discovered a 23% increase in the number of FLL travelers asking questions post-9/11. With 40,000 travelers passing through FLL daily, this placed an increase demand for performance on front-line employees to be "information/agents."
- Throughout 2002, WE GET YOU THERE training has been offered to all of the airport's 4,500 primary contact employees from over 22 companies as well as the 500 TSA screeners who were trained recently. In discussing WE GET YOU THERE, Ricardo Baquero, manager of American Airlines said, "It's a valuable tool for our people who get approached with constant questions."
What has FLL gained by our efforts?
Within months, a "partnership base" was created, as Cindy Kiebus, Continental Airlines station manager described, "It's exciting to be on the same page with the aviation department, airlines and TSA. It's satisfying to see us all working together during these challenging times."
Aviation Director Sherry, who hatched the concept for the Partnership Committee, continues to look toward its goals for the future." The airport authority operates with a "macro" view of responsibility," said Sherry. "The airlines often desire flexibility. As an aviation department we must be responsive to the airlines, but all of us, the authority, the airlines, and now the TSA - must keep one guiding principle in mind. Every day we must ask ourselves what are the critical needs of our airport travelers. And every day we must work together as partners' to meet and exceed these needs of our customers."
For additional information re WE GET YOU THERE, log onto airportambassador.com, or call 360 738 3190.