HHH charts course to customer care
Story by Leslie T. Snadowsky
Hilton Head Island Airport (HHH) is right on the island and offers hassle-free flight options to locals eager to return home and visitors who want to start their vacations as soon as they land. Airport Director Jon Rembold said his crew is empowered to navigate any customer service turbulence that may arise from flyers en route to and from the airfield.
“We’re a Southern Lowcountry vacation destination,” he said, “and our goal is to make people feel comfortable as soon as they arrive, up until the last minute they depart.”
Rembold, who’s a member of the South Carolina Aviation Association and American Association of Airport Executives, runs a tight ship. He oversees a team of 20 that manages the airport for its tenants. While responsible for safety and operations, Rembold doesn’t have direct control over TSA personnel or the American, Delta and United Airlines agents who interact with the public daily, but there is a bridge of communication and influence. “We engage the airlines and our other tenants and try to make sure they’re on board in understanding how important the customers are to all of us because they’re all of our customers, and we all share a responsibility to put our best foot forward,” he said. “They help to further our mission.”
HHH employees gather for informal fellowship sessions where they review case studies from the aviation and other industries. Rembold said they often discuss leadership and customer service lessons learned from the early startup days at Southwest Airlines.
“We engage in family-room-style conversations where it’s just really informal,” he said. “Because we’re a really close team, we want to carry that family mentality through everything we do at the airport.”
Rembold said when it comes to customer service, there’s no delay. He encourages his staff to take the wheel.
“I remind my team that they have the ability to make decisions,” he said, “and I trust that my team understands our mission, so I encourage them to keep the flow going and to not be afraid to make decisions, knowing that they’ve got the correct motivation.”
Rembold said that empowering people to make decisions helps the team meet its goals.
“If there’s a customer who needs something and you’ve got an idea of how you can provide that, but you’re not quite sure if it’s in the corporate playbook, you’re empowered to make that decision. You don’t have to go up the chain with it. We’ve got a great group that really, really cares, so it’s easy to empower them that way.”
When conducting customer-service training, Rembold likes to tell a tale of the generic traveler sporting an invisible backpack.
“We don’t know exactly what’s in that backpack, but it contains their personal issues,” he said. “Some of those they are going to share with you, but some they’re not. Sometimes the most important thing you can do for somebody is to smile and tell them to have a nice day. That could change somebody’s day completely. So why not do that? It doesn’t take very much energy to smile, and it makes you feel better, so at the very least we’re going to give everybody a smile and tell them to have a great day.”