Going the extra mile

Roger Staubach once said, “There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.” I like this quote because it reminds me that we have to work harder and think deeper about what matters most when the orange barrels and construction fences come out — our customers.

Years go into preparing for major infrastructure improvements before the hard work begins. How can we ensure a positive, relaxing customer experience despite the construction that will surround them? At the airport, a relaxing customer experience isn’t just important, it is central to our brand.

Understand your customers

As we prepare to break ground on multiple construction projects, our top focus is on customer service. To protect our brand promise and help customers get on their way safely, it is vital to spend as much time considering how to ease customer pain points as it is to finance and design the project.

This is a team effort. We needed to get as many voices in the room as possible to think through all the potential customer contact points that could be affected by our construction. The team’s differing perspectives about our customers and how they use our facility helped us create that list and then find solutions to key considerations such as wayfinding, communication, signage and continuous improvement.

Travel can be stressful. Understanding your customers state-of-mind and factoring it into the decision-making model is key. To help make customers feel more comfortable about major construction or other disruptions, try to give as much advance notice as possible. Use your frontline employees to let your customers know what is coming and the duration of the inconvenience.

We send regular e-newsletters, update our website and use social media to keep customers, employees and tenants informed. We are also considering the use of CAK customer service ambassadors inside the building to answer questions and assist with way-finding to our gates. The personal touch, we have found, is particularly effective in reducing customer anxiety — going that extra mile, if you will.

Watch and learn

Since one of our major projects this year involves our main parking lots, clear and concise outdoor signage will be important to direct customers when they arrive. We will also take extra time to watch how customers move about the facility. From those observations, we will correct any difficulties we may have overlooked. Again, input from employees and management will be invaluable.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we will remain flexible. Conducting regular reviews of the plan and tweaking when needed will help customers endure construction disruptions or delays with less stress. It will be important to empower the team to make changes on the fly as well.

Keeping a customer-first attitude during a disruption is critical. Many of these lessons — wayfinding, communications, signage, continuous improvement — can help your business maintain a healthy relationship with your customers. Don’t be afraid to go the extra mile, especially when you know their experience will be significantly altered. Your customers and your brand will thank you.

Rick McQueen is president and CEO of the Akron-Canton Airport. He leads more than 50 employees at Akron-Canton Airport, which has annual revenue of $13 million. CAK contributes more than $500 million annually to the local economy and offers the lowest average fare of any Ohio airport.