Setting Employees Up for Success

2014 Customer Champion Anna DiGregorio, marketing director at Marketplace Philadelphia Management, implemented training programs and gamification features to streamline services at Philadelphia International Airport.
Customer Experience

Providing consistency and excellence in customer service often starts with the individual. As Marketing Director at Marketplace Philadelphia Management (MPM) at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), Anna DiGregorio works with approximately 43,000 associates at more than 170 retailers and restaurants to ensure travelers have an optimal customer experience as they pass through the busy airport.

Several years ago, DiGregorio introduced a common service model-Cutting EDGE (Excellence Drives Great Experiences)-to help associates provide a consistent customer experience. The model includes reminders to greet customers, make eye contact, smile, and be attentive to customer requests.

DiGregorio also works with partners like customer experience measurements provider LRA Worldwide to create leadership seminars, frontline training programs, and in-the-operation coaching sessions to further enforce high standards among managers and frontline associates.

Training programs and coaching sessions are essential, DiGregorio notes, for helping associates provide excellent service, even though some people may resist the programs. Many associates assume "that I can't teach them anything they don't already know," she says. "The most common misconception that people who have worked in the retail sector have is that they won't benefit from our training sessions or learn something new."

DiGregorio says she and her colleagues slowly changed associates' minds by enlisting the help of managers to get employees to attend the training sessions, providing relevant content, such as discussions about the impact of social media and other relevant trends in customer service, and rewarding employees for excellent service with gift cards from the secret shopper program.

DiGregorio also introduced a gamification feature in which merchants earn points for participating in the marketing and training programs in exchange for quarterly and annual prizes. The program culminates in an annual gala event in which the top performers are recognized in an awards ceremony modeled after the Academy Awards. DiGregorio is also known for interacting directly with vendors and covers the 183,000 square feet of retail, dining, and service offerings multiple times each day.

DiGregorio and her team's efforts quickly garnered industry recognition. The concessions program Cutting EDGE has been recognized by Airports Council International-North America for several years running, and over the course of Anna's more than eight-year tenure has been honored by JD Power's highest in overall passenger satisfaction, amenities/food and shops, large airport division, Airport Revenue News, and the City of Philadelphia.

The key, DigGregorio says, is consistently helping employees maintain high customer service standards. "We work very hard to make sure that what we're discussing in our training is top of mind, and that people are walking away with something interesting and useful."