Fifty Shades of Blue
By Casey Jones, CAPP
Last year, I traveled about 130,000 miles. My work takes me to all kinds of places and I have the chance to be in lots of different airports along the way. There are also a few I travel to and through more frequently–DEN, SFO, ORD, and IAH, in addition to my own, BOI. When you spend enough time in an airport, you gain a level of familiarity that might elude a more casual or less frequent traveler. How the concourses are laid out, how long it takes to get from one terminal to the next, and where the best restaurants are located are all things you learn over time.
Another thing you get a good feel for is what to expect at the security checkpoint. Each airport has basically the same army of blue-uniformed Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents and you’d think that there would be little difference from one airport to the next. My experience is exactly the opposite, though I’m certain the same kind of hiring, training, supervision, and duties exist at every airport in the U.S. On one end of the spectrum, I’ve felt very welcome, cared for, and treated with respect and dignity; on the other, I’ve been treated harshly and made to feel guilty before being proven innocent.
The same thing happens in parking facilities though the essence of what is being provided from one garage or operation to the next is essentially the same. Sometimes I’ve felt like the special guest in someone’s home while other days, I’ve been made to feel insignificant and unwelcome. Just like with the TSA, parking staff have essentially the same function but there can be a big difference between one experience and the next. Why is this so?
The right training programs and supervision play a big part in determining whether a guest has a positive or negative experience. The initial training program along with continuous coaching and mentoring will help employees understand how they are expected to interact with their customers. But the most important factor is hiring the right people, and by “right” I mean “with the right attitude.” Anyone can be taught how to operate a fee computer or direct traffic, but the technical duties are less important than how a person views their work and how they choose to interact with their patrons and co-workers. No amount of training or supervision can change a person’s attitude—they either have a good one more often than not or they don’t. It’s entirely a personal choice.
If you travel through BOI, I think you’ll find a group of people wearing blue who have a good attitude about their work. But at the same time I think you’ll agree that safety hasn’t taken a knock here just because the TSA agents smile frequently and engage their guests in a friendly way. They’re still safeguarding all travelers.
Casey Jones, CAPP, is vice president, institutional services, with SP+.