Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is a Trailblazer

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is a Trailblazer in delivering a responsive, data-driven travel experience.


The customer journey begins with the customer experience (literally).

When it comes to air travel, people talk more about the airline experience and less about the airport experience itself. But airports, their operations, and the people hard at work behind the scenes each and every day all play a huge role in easing the all-too-familiar stress involved in a day of travel.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) is responsible for the operation of Washington Dulles International Airport, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, and the Dulles Toll Road, as well as the construction of a portion of the D.C. Metrorail system. MWAA employs 1,500 people who serve over 45 million customers a year, managing functions like central administration, logistics and operations, and MWAA's very own police and fire departments.

“We have a lot of messages we are trying to deliver in a consistent, timely and relevant manner across several distinct campuses,” said Goutam Kundu, MWAA Chief Information Officer, “which means we need to maintain an expansive yet targeted communications plan.”


That customer experience is dependent on speed.

“We also need to maintain an extremely responsive communications plan,” said Saurabh Sharma, Program Manager for the Business Innovation Group at MWAA, “so that we can address everything from the ordinary to the extraordinary.”

With respect to the ordinary side: MWAA serves as a lessor to the many shops and restaurants that populate its airports, meaning that retail tenants have just as big an impact on the customer experience. A study from McKinsey & Company, which looked at one airport in particular where executives asked travelers to identify factors with the biggest impact on their overall experience, found that retail cost and speed of food and beverage delivery (experiences that are controlled by the retail tenant), leave just as big an impression on travelers as do traffic flow, bag delivery, and more (experiences that are controlled by the airport lessor).* These complaints are a high priority, and teams at MWAA have a very short window in which they can recognize a concern, communicate with its merchant, address the issue, and resolve it with the traveler before he / she / they boards their flight. In ordinary situations, speed is critical.

With respect to the extraordinary side: “Safety is our number one priority. And if you look back at any sort of incident, there is usually some sort of indication on social media before it happens,” said Sharma, “which means we need to be active listeners. And if we hear something, we have to be able to move fast.” In extraordinary situations, speed is paramount.

MWAA unlocked data and efficiency on the cloud.

Sharma and team deployed an outreach and engagement platform on Salesforce. It combines social media listening, customer service, and advanced analytics capabilities into one system, giving MWAA the tools it needs to track a question, concern, or incident from inception to closure.

  • Social listening: Sharma and team deployed Marketing Cloud's Social Studio, which is used to identify conversations containing key words, hashtags, specific handles, a certain sentiment, and more (including but not limited to those managed by MWAA directly). “We use this as a way to bring situational awareness to our efforts. We receive tons of feedback across many  channels, and thus need to isolate the questions that are most urgent,” said Sharma.
  • Advanced analytics: Tableau CRM was layered on to evaluate which category a given question or comment might fall into — lost and found, shopping, dining, or internet access, for example — and tag it accordingly, allowing the team to pull reports that reveal important metrics like how often a certain type of question is asked.
  • Case management: Feedback from public-facing websites and surveys integrate with MWAA's Service Cloud instance, turning multi-channel customer feedback into cases within a single system. Service Cloud's profile-like setting creates a 360-degree view of the case, giving MWAA the visibility to case status at any point in the resolution process. “We also trigger email notifications to the customer so they know their comment didn't disappear into a black hole, and assign them a point person to be accountable for closing the feedback loop in a timely manner,” said Sharma.

Best practices from MWAA's move to the cloud

MWAA built an accountability element into their cloud-based strategy, one of five best practices that came through in their example. Get the rest in the team's checklist.
  • Outreach and communications: “We also use Social Studio to schedule time-sensitive promotions and announcements — such as the introduction of a new air carrier, or advertising the opening of the new Sleepbox Lounge at Dulles,” Sharma continued. Information stored in Service Cloud is used to shape and direct future conversations, time posts, and keep a consistent message going out across all channels.

“We are using the cloud to be in the conversation, and reach people when it matters most,” said Sharma. “And produce and track actionable data from customer engagement,” added O’Brien.

MWAA's customers have benefitted — both directly and indirectly.

The capabilities delivered by this platform have benefited MWAA and its customers. The customer service groups have adapted to the new system and are efficiently working through the cases. As an example, during the three most recent two-week periods, an average of 395 customer feedback cases were logged, with an average of 93% resolution rate at any given time.

The capabilities delivered by this platform have also benefited MWAA's employees internally, which in turn brings additional benefits to its customers. “Our customer service groups now have the data-driven reliability they need to be decisive, all from a single platform,” said Sharma. This reduces the amount of time employees need to spend on tracking down answers and connecting the dots between one system and the next. It also helps customer service groups better understand the big picture surrounding all customer experiences, so that they can apply resulting insights and apply them proactively to future scenarios.

At the management and executive levels, “we can pull reports and see how customer service groups are responding to certain requests in aggregate. We can see what actions were taken, pinpoint strengths (or weak spots!), and repeat best practices across all service categories,” said Kundu.

“This kind of data-driven insight has also helped us reach customers like never before: by age, by preference, by frequency of the traveler,” Kundu continued. “This makes the customer experience more relevant, more engaging, and more meaningful — exactly what we want to provide to someone kicking off a busy day of travel.”


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