by Sevda Fevzi (Montreal, Canada)
In the second of her ‘Interview’ series for IR Pulse, Modalis associate Sevda Fevzi talks to Atlanta’s Steve Mayers and explores what it takes for customer experience success in the new reality of COVID19 and beyond.
As the Director of Customer Experience, ADA, and Title VI Coordinator at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) for more than six years, Steve Mayers oversees quite an array of services. In addition to those in his title, he looks after the volunteer and non-profit program and team member development program at America’s busiest airport.
With more than 25 years of management and hospitality experience, Mayers has held leadership positions in big companies including Sandals Resorts, Wells Fargo, Radisson and Best Western Hotels & Resorts.
Mayers has earned the International Airport Professional (IAP) and Certified Member (C.M) designations from Airports Council International and the American Association of Airport Executives respectively. He is also a Federal Aviation Administration Office of Civil Rights award winner.
He received his undergraduate degree from Temple University’s Fox School of Business and his MBA from Louisiana State University.
In this interview he recalls his switch from the private to public sector and discusses the actions taken to keep ATL’s commitments to the passenger experience alive and well.
With your long experience of the hotels and leisure markets, what was it like coming to ATL airport and become a long-term leader of customer experience?
Having worked in the private section before coming to ATL, I immediately realized that the public sector could be challenging and complex. ATL is complicated due to its multiple organizational structures and applicable regulations that each entity must adhere to. Given this fact, I had to use my expertise to analyze the goals of our employees, customers, and the airport itself.
Following that analysis, what has worked well across your organization?
It led to creating the ONEATL program focused on building a community of common experience goals driven by employee and customer satisfaction. My team and I laid out a road map for both employees and customers and drilled down on how we can most affect each touch point. We controlled the controllable and heavily influenced change with those we did not. Developing interpersonal relationships is the key to success in this environment.
During the continuing era of COVID19, how have the fundamentals of customer experience success altered?
It’s incredible that customer satisfaction scores increased during the onset of the pandemic. We deduced that passenger traffic reductions caused fewer barriers to travel, resulting in these higher scores. For example, less use of our restrooms and checkpoints meant higher cleanliness and security processing scores.
With an analysis of labor and passenger numbers, we now have a baseline to hold our partners accountable to specific key performance indexes (KPI). Therefore, we can now correlate labor hours with customer satisfaction. We know that higher customer satisfaction equals higher revenues.
The severe downturn in passenger numbers has affected non-aeronautical revenue and the bottom dollar for the majority of the world’s airports. Is it time for the business model to change and to re-balance revenue streams?
One of the pleasures of my job is the sheer amount of data we collect on our customers and employees. We know that customer and employee desires go hand in hand. As revenue streams shift, we must continually understand why their desires have changed and explore that. This must be done in real-time with systematic analysis of sales data, feedback, satisfaction, etc. These analyses present unique revenue streams to package and sell data. Of course, no personal data will be shared. I believe out-the-box strategies such as this can help to shape or redefine the airport business model.
Moving forward during the new reality of COVID, what pearls of wisdom can you share with other leaders to rebuild the foundations of passenger confidence and maintain the customer experience?
An effective leader must communicate and educate both team members and customers. It is imperative that when we share a procedure or process change, employees become experts on what that change will do for the overall strategy of the airport.
On the other hand, customers must understand how changes affect their journey. We must not be afraid to make negatively impactful decisions in the short term when it is evident that benefits will be achieved in the long term. Leadership is communicating how the short- to long-term journey can bring individual benefits.
[Main image: Steve Mayers courtesy of ATL]