DFW (Dallas/Fort Worth International) Airport was recently recognized as the top large airport in North America, ahead of others such as Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta and Denver International Airport.

The recognition came from The Airport Service Quality Awards, compiled by Airports Council International.

Loyalty360 talked to Julio Badin, Senior Vice President of Customer Experience at DFW Airport, about this esteemed honor.

Can you talk about being named the top large airport in North America as it relates to passenger/customer experience, and what DFW’s main priorities are around providing stellar and memorable experiences?

Badin: We are thrilled, but the work is never completed because we have new challenges and we’re looking for ways to improve every day. Getting that validation of a job well done is so gratifying, but the challenge to elevate the customer experience continues. Our goal is to transform the travel experience for every single customer. And part of that includes finding new ways to surprise and delight our customers in ways they don’t even expect.

How have your customers changed in recent years and how have you adapted to those changes?

Badin: Our customers expect more. And we are challenging ourselves every day to deliver more. DFW Airport has always been known for its hospitality. What you’re seeing now is DFW Airport taking that hospitality to an entirely new level. Our goal is to find ways to elevate the customer experience and find new ways to surprise and delight. We recognize the Airport experience is critical to the customer journey. But we also recognize that the journey begins before arriving at the Airport and ends long after leaving it.

We are focused on transforming that entire journey such that it’s memorable and meaningful. One of the tools enabling us to do that more effectively is our Terminal Service Center, which keeps track of happenings in the terminal. Our customer experience team staffing the TSC is able to spot issues immediately and rectify them quickly.

For instance, heavy foot traffic in one area may call for more staff being deployed there to help with whatever needs may arise. It’s all about maintaining a level of consistency and making sure the customer experience is seamless. For that very reason, our customer experience team focuses on the basics, operating from the mantra “clean, working, friendly.”

Can you talk about how technology aids your customer experience/customer engagement efforts?
 
Badin: Every aspect of our customer’s experience is being elevated via technological improvements. Social media enables customers to speak to us directly, and we can respond to them and their needs in minutes. Our DFW mobile app enables customers to monitor flight information, parking availability, find their way from one place to another with walking directions, even order food to go from restaurants in the terminal even before they ever arrive at the Airport. And, while here, digital signage helps direct people to various offerings inside the terminal. When you consider DFW Airport is larger than the island of Manhattan, these technological inroads are huge because customers can navigate the Airport so much more easily now.
 
What is the biggest challenge you face today as it relates to earning and maintaining brand loyalty?
 
Badin: Our biggest challenge is recognizing our customers have a choice of Airports from which to fly and making sure we provide that seamless, memorable experience that compels them to choose us.
 
What is the most underrated part of your approach to customer engagement/customer experience?
 
Badin: Our people. We’ve hired an entire team of employees devoted to elevating the customer experience. And, that’s in addition to our already well-established ambassador program, which is about to celebrate its 20th anniversary here at DFW Airport. These volunteers are former airline employees or aviation fans or folks who simply love being around airports and people. Their mission is to assist our customers in any way possible, whether it’s finding their way around the airport, or finding a quality way to spend their time between flights. These face-to-face encounters are a big part of what makes for a warm and welcoming reception at DFW Airport.
 
What are you most proud of?
 
Badin: Again, our people—from our entire DFW Airport staff to all of our partners. DFW Airport is such a collaborative environment that it makes focusing on transforming travel for each and every customer very holistic. Together, our people are making a huge impact on our customers, helping them on their journey, every single day. It’s often face-to-face, but it’s also via social media, where customers with questions and comments get quick replies. The topics run the gamut from wanting to know where to find a mother’s room to being surprised and delighted to encounter one of our free yoga studios or one of our newest restaurants or shops. In the past year alone, we have opened more than 50 new concessions in our five terminals.

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