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Meantime's software enhances Heathrow's customer satisfaction

Michelle Smith, head of passenger welfare with Heathrow Airports Ltd, explains how a partnership with Cumbria-based company Meantime IT has resulted in ‘one of the most innovative things the airport has done for customer satisfaction’

Heathrow VolunteerMeantime has delivered several successful projects for Heathrow Airports Ltd. One of the first was an internet-based system to track and process ID applications and statuses of more than 50,000 employees. More recently, they created a programme to recruit and manage volunteers to assist passengers during busier times in the airport.

The latter project was commissioned by Heathrow’s head of passenger welfare Michelle Smith, who is also the driving force behind the airport’s Reservist system.

Waiting in the wings

During busy times in the airport, such as major events in the capital or busy holiday periods, non-operational staff such as administration workers or human resources teams help out in the terminals. The staff help passengers to find their way across the airport, as well as directing them to their locations by bus, train or taxi, helping them to locate their accommodation and dealing with any issues within the airport such as missing luggage or lost passports.

These ‘Reservist’ staff were being managed by a paper-based system which was proving cumbersome, so Michelle appointed Meantime to develop a system that would allow her team to manage deployment of staff via web-based software.

The result is an information communication and booking system that operates using real-time online shift booking and role allocation for around 900 colleagues. Each of them is kept up to date with their roles, instructions and other requirements by SMS on hand-held Blackberries and tablets. The instant nature of the mobile messaging means that staff can be deployed where they are needed within seconds, ensuring any disruption is kept to an absolute minimum. The level of information stored also means that people with specific languages or specialist knowledge can be sent to an area where their skills will be put to best use.

Specialist help in seconds

"This is a really exciting tool which has been highly successful in enabling us to mobilise at short notice and provide information to our staff about where we need support,” says Michelle. "A good example would be the snow and freezing fog in January 2013; it caused all sorts of situations and we were able to get colleagues to passengers who needed help in a minute or two.

"Once there, they were able to use the iPads we supply to check transport and hotels, or use the Blackberries each Reservist has with international call functionality to contact relatives and let them know what was happening, or check with all the major airlines to find out who was flying and what the conditions were around the world.

"We have 950 people in the Reservist programme, some who are happy to help in whatever way they can, others with more specialist knowledge or rare languages. This is all information we have on file anyway, we’re just using it to the benefit of the passengers. We can identify who they are, whether they’re on duty, where they are within the terminals and then send them an SMS with detailed instructions, all within seconds.

"It’s definitely one of the most innovative things that we’ve ever done for passenger satisfaction."

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