With a number of ongoing expansions, upgrades and modernizations, Houston Airports takes great pride in meeting and exceeding customer expectations.
According to Chief Terminal Management Officer Liliana Rambo, it’s as simple as “being a good host with guests coming over” — with an estimated 44 million “guests” expected by the end of 2021.
“When we are expecting guests at my house, we take special efforts to make sure the house is organized and clean,” Rambo said. “We employ that very same philosophy at Houston Airports, though clearly on an infinitely larger scale. As our Director Mario Diaz recently said, ‘Our passengers are at the center of every decision we make.’”
Houston Airports recently unveiled its new customer experience brand promise, specifically designed to intimately serve its guests — every customer who visits George Bush Intercontinental, William P. Hobby and Ellington Airports. The brand promise states:
“From your house to ours, we promise to deliver a five-star airport experience for our guests that showcases world-class service, modern facilities and uniquely ‘Houston friendly’ hospitality — first time, every time.”
Diaz was resolute in saying that it’s no longer good enough to simply say that Houston Airports promises a world-class customer experience.
“We have to go beyond that,” he said. “In other words, what we say and do means nothing if we fail to make an authentic and meaningful connection with one another. What a profound concept to apply to our approach to customer service.”
He said that Houston Airports has shifted its culture to customer-centric and the brand promise applies to every single guest, every single day.
Diaz said that to fully deliver on that promise, the airports must be consistently clean, the experience must be safe and efficient, and even more value is added through improvement of processes and new guest experience offerings that will help the airports reach a vaunted 5-star Skytrax rating.
Ronnie Pickard has served as Houston Airports’ manager of Customer Experience Strategy since December 2020 and recently discussed the brand promise, created from months of collaboration and consultation. Pickard said that Diaz, Rambo and Houston Airports senior staff tasked him with taking into account every facet of the customer experience.
“We have taken a long look at the customer experience — mapping the journey itself from the time each guest arrives at the airport, through wayfinding, activity in the garage, experience at the check-in counters, availability and usefulness of amenities and much more — everything that has an impact on that customer.”
“We have closely examined everything that the customer is experiencing from a touchpoint perspective, especially the emotional, human element of it.”
When drafting the prework that led to the brand promise, he worked closely with Maria Amezaga, director of Marketing and Molly Waits, chief of Marketing, Air Service Development, and communications officer and their staffs to ascertain “the voice of the customer.”
Subsequently and key in the formation of the brand promise was a workshop held June 15-17. Approximately 75 team members attended, a cross-functional representation of each of the 11 divisions within Houston Airports.
“The premise of that workshop was to identify components of who we want to be as HAS and how we want to be viewed by our customers,” Pickard said.
Each group broke into teams at the workshop and came up with key phrases that they thought were reflective of the commitment to customer service at Houston Airports. Pickard said, “The workshop was intensive and extremely productive, with each group empowered to provide open, honest dialogue and healthy discussion.” Joanne Paternoster, CEO of Butterfly Consulting, was brought in to assist the team with the necessary steps for establishing the brand promise and enhance the customer experience. Defining the customer base and identifying key stakeholders was imperative in developing sound strategy.
Pickard said that he and the leadership team put in the work and were very satisfied with the ultimate result — the brand promise that will serve as a “guiding light” in serving others.
“Our brand promise is who we are at our core,” Pickard said.
“The brand promise for Houston Airports needed to feel warm and personable,” he said. “Liliana reminded us of that when she said that if guests come to her home, she cleans it from top to bottom and wants it to be in tiptop shape.”
“That’s exactly the feeling each ‘guest’ at Houston Airports should feel, whether a frequent business traveler or a once-a-year leisure traveler.”
Houston Airports wants each visitor to truly feel special and wants to convey respect and appreciation for them.
“This is every single day, for every single visit, no matter where they are in their airport experience,” Pickard said. “That goes for frequent business travelers as well as the occasional leisure traveler — no matter who you are. If you come to our ‘house,’ you are welcome and appreciated.”
He said the brand promise was created from a lot of work but is organic and really came about from the genuine intentions of Houston Airports team members.
“Going forward,” Pickard said, “we want everyone within Houston Airports to take ownership of it — that’s the way we will be successful. We will measure that by the service level we deliver through customer service satisfaction surveys, customer comment cards and more.”
He said that the brand promise will eventually be rolled out to their partners in the airport community — TSA, CBP, the airlines, concessionaires and the like.
“Our partners should take ownership of the brand promise themselves in order to provide a pleasant and seamless guest experience,” Pickard said.
Pickard continued, “The goal is to have each guest — each customer — walk away with a positive experience. We serve ‘cradle to grave’ and all walks of life, and through our brand promise, we squarely address the human element. Our hope is that living this out in the workplace will instill an even greater sense of pride within the Houston Airports team as well as the airport community as a whole.”