Memorable Airport Customer Experience - a Case Study of the JFK t4


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  • How @T4 makes real customer experience impact

    Today we share our impressions from visiting our welcoming host Chad at JFK Terminal 4 in NYC. We also celebrate Chad as an effective Customer Experience professional/practitioner. His work is worth sharing on several levels. For those who are given the role of Customer Experience leader and do not know where to begin making impact, learn from Chad’s approach to his role. For those of us who have been on the brand side, Chad and the work of T4 are an inspirational case study for customer experience design. And a reminder of why we are all in this business.

    We hope you enjoy this story as much as we enjoyed our T4 visit!

    A Terminal that Serves the World

    JFK T4 terminal serves 33 airlines as customers that fly 21 million international passengers a year. In other words, Terminal 4 is an international airport in itself. Most guest services are outsourced to outside business partners. There are heavy dependencies on TSA and CBP. The terminal itself is managed privately by the Schiphol Group in Amsterdam.

    Many people in Chad’s role would get discouraged by the dependencies and constraints that come with all these stakeholders who are part of his customer experience eco-system. Not Chad. Instead, he mapped his passengers’ pain points and identified which require long-term and collaboration to fix and which he can tackle by himself. He did not stop there though. You see, many people would do nothing to change the customer experience in an environment like this. They  document all the obstacles and the reasons why they cannot make an impact on the customer and move on.

    Working Hard for Customer Experience

    Chad has worked hard to earn street credit with the operation and other T4 frontline employees and formed different alliances with the people whose buy-in he needs. He identified the things that he could change and went on to do them.

    For example, he created an experience at a decision point on the passenger journey by installing this sign at a choke point. This is the kind of addition we appreciate only after it is there. The sign, though, is a great example of what customer experience is. It empowers T4 guests to make the right decision for their trip. It not only presents the options available, it informs customers of the trade offs in terms of time lost to do the job. As an added bonus it also helps with wayfinding – a challenge for all first time visitors in New York.

    Wall Sign on T4 JFK
    Source: The Petrova Experience

    Ultimately, Chad was empowered to create this kind of impact because he is operating within an organizational culture that connects core values to customer experience.

    To give credit where credit is due, the T4 Senior Leadership supports customer experience at the strategy level. T4 has a customer experience strategy called MORE – Making Outstanding Rewarding Experience. And they have values that are lived by all employees and business partners of T4. This makes T4 a great example of organizational culture that works in favor of the business and the customer.

    Do More for Customer Experience Impact

    Like Chad,  you can do much more for your customer than you think. You do matter and you can make an impact. It may not come to you immediately, but you will impact the customer if you look for the things you can change.

    In Chad’s case, it was a decision touchpoint for the customer that was confusing. He engaged with an affordable agency and designed this wall to help customers flow through the terminal. And that is a job well done!

    Organizational Culture and Access to Information

    By and large, people perceive culture as an HR discipline. The most common perception is that culture covers the soft side of performance. Culture is about how you do things, not so much about what you do. This approach to culture could not be more wrong. In fact, organizational culture is about so much more than a few words in a performance review sheet.  It is about leaders expressing values, and the action guidance their cultural behaviors provide.

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