From delays to marriage proposals. From queen Maxima’s purse to a bracelet worth 100.000 euros. Every day is different as an airport information employee at Schiphol Airport! Read along with Anne-Marie van Eijden, Business Unit Manager at Yask Airport Information. Yask Airport Information kicked off an Emergenetics-change-project this month. They want to empower their employees to coach each other, to improve their customer service for us as passengers when we’re at Schiphol and have a question.
You find Yask Airport Information allover Schiphol, both in front of and behind customs. Your employees are the ones behind the yellow desks and they are the voice on the intercom! Who are your employees?
“Many of our employees have worked for Schiphol’s information services for over 15 years, but we have a few students too. The most remarkable characteristic of our employees is that they all speak four to five languages. We have a Dutch guy who speaks Arabic, and another who’s currently learning Chinese. And the voice over the intercom actually consists of 80 voices! All our employees broadcast. They like it.“
You don’t always have the best news to share, for example when a flight’s delayed. Still, you want your customers to be satisfied. What’s your desired customer experience?
“Customer experience is a very important indicator for Yask Airport Information. Our service isn’t very tangible, yet highly personal. We can measure our customer experience very well. Every quarter, Schiphol mystery visits us. They score our expertise and waiting times, of course, but they also measure the customer experience. We want our customers to walk away with a smile and a good feeling, the feeling that things will be all right. We want their visit to our service desk to be a good start or ending to their visit to Schiphol.“
Sitting behind a desk for eight hours is a long stretch, and you also work early morning, evening, and even night shifts. How do you ensure that your employees can fulfill the promised customer experience day in, day out?
“We strive to make shifts as diverse as possible. Every one-and-a-half to two hours, you change desks. After answering questions about train tables for a few hours, you can get pretty bored of course, and this influences your behavior towards a customer. We want to keep our work fun, both for the employee and the customer. We also share fun questions on our internal jokes page, because apart from questions about departure times, we regularly get asked strange questions too. The other day, someone asked whether she could bring hard-boiled eggs onboard an airplane. We laugh about these things together. But no matter how weird the questions, we always take them seriously. We listen to every customer, and everybody receives and answer.“
After answering questions about train tables for a few hours you can get pretty bored…
Currently, you work with Emergenetics, a tool that provides insight in thinking styles, personal leadership, and behavioral preferences. Which patterns do you wish to break, and which ones do you want to establish?
“With Emergenetics, we wish to further develop collaboration within our team at Schiphol. We want to create a safe space where people have a shared understanding of the way people think and act, and provide them with the tools to coach each other. At this moment, some employees still find this threatening. For example, they often switch shifts amongst each other. What if you gave a colleague some critical feedback, and he won’t switch shifts with you anymore? We want to take away this fear. By creating a mutual understanding we want to teach our employees to create an exceptional customer experience together, by giving feedback to each other. This is very important, because our agreement with Schiphol ends in two years, and we of course want to extend our partnership!”
“We’ve only just started using Emergenetics, but people are already speaking in colors. [Emergenetics signifies thinking styles with the colors yellow, red, green, and blue, ed.] They may say for example: “Would you help me fill out this checklist? I could use some of your green.” The philosophy of Emergenetics seems to click with our employees. Now it’s our job as management and leadership to keep the culture alive, and make the change sustainable!”
It’s our job as management and leadership to keep the culture alive, and make the change sustainable!
Tell us more about that marriage proposal and queen Maxima’s purse!
“I’m also responsible for the lost and found articles of Schiphol. We have a warehouse with at least 40.000 items. We find the strangest things, from artificial legs to a 100.000-euro bracelet, and also once we found queen Maxima’s purse! If items aren’t claimed within three months, we donate them to charity or auction them off. Last week we assisted with a marriage proposal! The man had come to Schiphol as a surprise. Our employees broadcasted his girlfriend’s name over the intercom and asked her to come over there. They stalled her a bit with some questions, while the man prepared for his proposal. And she said yes! Our work is pretty special.”