An iPad, a Smile and Help When You Need It

New customer care agents will provide on-the-go support for travelers throughout the terminal

By Natalie Fiorilli

Published June 17, 2019

Read Time: 3 mins


If you’re trying to navigate Pittsburgh International Airport this summer, you might just run into Emilie Yosten, asking if she can help you out.

Yosten is one of four Carlow University graduates selected for a one-year pilot program aimed at enhancing the passenger experience at PIT.

“I think when people travel, they are in a zone, trying to get to their gate and get to where they need to be,” Yosten said. “So I think making it a more personal experience and developing relationships with the passengers is going to be a great thing for the airport.”

The teamwork with Carlow is the latest collaboration between the airport and leading regional educational institutions. The airport signed a deal with Carnegie Mellon University last year that makes the terminal a testing ground for technology.

Similarly, officials hope the Carlow program will blossom into a testing ground for improving the customer experience. The airport also routinely works with the University of Pittsburgh and Robert Morris University on projects.

Walking through the terminal to provide on-the-go assistance for travelers, Yosten and her fellow customer care agents will complement the existing support provided by customer service representatives stationed at information desks in the airport’s Airside and Landside terminals.

“The idea is to enhance the overall experience at the airport in a way that no other U.S. airports are really doing,” said Brian Stashak, vice president of customer and tenant experience. “This program will allow us to provide additional customer service in a unique way through activating a mobile team that can serve as the eyes and ears of the airport.”

Equipped with iPads, the agents will provide real-time updates on irregular airport operations, such as flight delays or cancellations, and help travelers solve other problems.

“Each year, more and more North American airports are finding new and innovative ways to show they care, and enhance the passenger experience using technology,” said Raechel Rucker, manager of communications and marketing for Airports Council International – North America. “The new Social Customer Care program at Pittsburgh International Airport will help passengers on their journey, and enhance the customer experience in what can be a chaotic environment.”

The program was developed through a partnership with Carlow, a private liberal arts university near downtown Pittsburgh. The university worked with airport officials to develop an innovative customer social care skill-building program to assist in developing a new type of customer experience.

Ten online self-directed courses were developed to help teach these focused customer care skills. Topics included intercultural communication, crisis communication, conflict management, digital environment relationship-building and proactive social media communication, to focus on meeting customers’ needs both face-to-face and via digital media.

The program will continue to evolve throughout the year, said Dr. Jim Ice, executive director and dean of Carlow’s new College of Professional Studies, which focuses on meeting the needs of regional companies and their adult learners.

“It’s really an opportunity to help shape this customer social care concept into what the airport wants it to be,” he said.

The students will give the airport feedback and make recommendations to help develop the program and craft the relationship with the passengers, he added.

“It’s exciting to be part of something as dynamic as what Pittsburgh International is doing and to help them think a little differently about this concept of customer social care and how the resources we can provide from Carlow can help the airport advance those ideas.”

For Pittsburgh International, regional partnerships with Carlow, Carnegie Mellon, Pitt and others are helping the airport develop industry-leading concepts, according to Jeff Martinelli, manager of customer programs at PIT.

“This is a great opportunity to work with yet another local partner in higher education to create an innovative customer experience – not just for the airport, but for the region,” he said.

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