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Hiring with Customer Satisfaction in Mind

COVID-19 and travel at SEA Airport More Information

October 16, 2018

There’s no question that high-quality customer service leads to people viewing a business positively. For example, think about the last time you took a flight somewhere. There are so many things that are out of your control — from weather conditions, to airplane maintenance problems, to your seatmate. No matter what happens, though, customer service can make or break your travel experience.

“Great customer service is no accident,” says Stacy Mattson, manager of Airport Landside Operations. Mattson oversees 54 full-time and part-time rental car shuttle bus drivers at Sea-Tac Airport, the ninth-busiest airport in the country. “You have to hire the right people, train them effectively and provide mentors and other support.”

You have to hire the right people, train them effectively and provide mentors and other support.

Mattson looks for drivers who have experience handling a 40-foot vehicle as well as the right personality to interact with new people again and again over the course of a shift, as they take the 5- to 7-minute ride between the airport terminals and car-rental terminal. Some of the qualities that go hand-in-hand with great customer service include confidence, communication skills, and the ability to keep a cool head in stressful situations.

“Safety is the Port’s No. 1 priority for hiring new bus drivers, and a genuine love of helping people is close behind,” Mattson says. “Our drivers pull up to the curb and get hammered with questions from harried travelers all day long — not just customers taking the bus. They need to know everything from where to catch an Uber to where the nearest bathroom is. They also need to be sensitive to people who may need a hand getting on the bus, they may need someone to ask how their day is going, or they may just need a few minutes of peace and quiet.”

Drivers spend two weeks in training, including one to two days with one of their experienced drivers who excel in going the extra mile for customers. One of these all-stars is Dwayne Bockman, who has been a rental car shuttle bus driver at Sea-Tac since 2012.

“Safety and punctuality are key, of course,” Bockman says, “but my job is really all about going the extra mile to put a smile on someone’s face. That might be as simple as asking how a business traveler’s morning is going or offering a family with kids tips on what to do while they’re in town on vacation.”

Bockman shows his reverence for veterans in a special way. If he sees a vet in a wheelchair waiting for the bus, he lowers the ramp and rolls out a miniature red carpet. “I’ll stand and give them a salute as they enter the bus and everyone on board inevitably gives them a round of applause. It’s touching, seeing how much it means to these guys to be appreciated.”

“Dwayne is a shining example of how our drivers make the five to seven minutes they have with customers count in a positive way,” Mattson says. “There are drivers who will sing songs if young kids are aboard, or make jokes to get passengers in a good mood. Our drivers are the face of the Port, and if they can relieve the stress of a busy travel day that reflects well on our business.”

The five essentials of great customer service

  1. Be patient. Sometimes giving someone an extra minute or two is more important than keeping exactly to a schedule.
  2. Pay attention. Seek out the opportunity to help customers instead of waiting for them to ask for assistance.
  3. Give feedback. Use positive language that lets people know they are heard and understood.
  4. De-escalate tension. If customers are angry and confrontational, be professional and non-emotional.
  5. Offer an option. You may not be able to help solve every problem, but offer options when possible. For example, rental car shuttle bus drivers at Sea-Tac have customer response cards with the Port website and email address.

Do you love providing great customer service to the public? The Port of Seattle wants to meet you. Learn more about working at the Port and see current job openings.

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