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Interview with Rob McDaniel, DRG Metrix

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Rob McDaniel interview

Rob McDaniel, President, DRG Metrix

“Impacting the passenger journey to positively influence customer experience is ultimately the challenge of bringing together high-quality data from the entire passenger journey to find opportunities for improvement.”


Mr. McDaniel, please tell us about Metrix and its activity in Airports

Metrix has provided management consulting and program management services to Top 25 North American airports since 2010. Most notably Metrix has managed the Premium Value Concession (PVC) program at Denver International Airport (DEN). The PVC program is a first-of-its-kind 360olongitudional evaluation of DEN concessions designed to identify top performing concessions regardless of location in the airport. The PVC program won the FAB Global Innovation Award in concessions in 2013.


Airports must meet passengers ‘needs. What are the advantages of Metrix systems to capture data and improve customer experience in real-time?

North American airports generate terabytes of information daily, but our research has shown that despite the volume of data that is being created, the siloed and legacy nature of this data makes it notoriously difficult to use. For this reason, our approach to airport analytics is focused on the process, not just the analysis. The process of how data is collected and how it is (or isn’t) validated is the fundamental gateway for how this data can be used to impact the customer experience.

At Metrix data analysis in in our DNA. Once we have understood the data streams themselves we work closely with our clients to understand how to turn their data into usable insights. The single biggest challenge that we see in accomplishing this is that passenger journeys cross many different operational elements of the airport: roadways, parking, security, concessions, etc. Our solution is to help our client’s bring high-quality data together from disparate airport sources to address a specific customer experience need.

For example, in once recent project our client was consistently receiving poor social media reviews of their airport for bathroom cleanliness. Metrix was brought in to see how we might impact this negative customer experience.  Our reviews of janitorial logs and vendor service level agreements provided by the maintenance department did not reveal any performance issues. However, once we combined this data with specific gate arrival and departure information provided by operations, it became clear that the standard janitorial cleaning schedule was not aligned with concentrated periods of heavy arrivals and/or departures at specific gates. In close collaboration with our client and the janitorial vendor we are currently working to optimize bathroom cleaning with flight schedules to make sure that cleaning crews are concentrated at the right bathroom facilities at the right time. While this is a relatively straightforward opportunity to impact the customer experience, it highlights the need for reliable cross-functional datasets that explain the passenger journey.


From your point of view, what are the main challenges of airports in this field?

In today’s airport environment it is almost impossible to attend an industry conference or read a trade publication without customer experience and/or passenger journey headlining the discussion. The challenge is that very few airports can define what these buzz words actually mean to them. In general, we see customer experience being defined in very tactical ways: for one airport it might be reflected by positive reviews for clean bathrooms, for another airport it may be increased parking revenue, but a common definition of great customer experiences in airports remains stubbornly illusive to define, let alone deliver.

At Metrix we have evolved our approach to view the customer experience as frictionless travel. Put another way, the passenger journey is analogous to a manufacturing supply chain. From the purchase of the airline ticket to arriving at the final destination a long series of events must occur in the correct order, at the right time, and in the right way for the final product to be perfect. The big difference between manufacturing and airline travel, of course, is that a very wide and disparate group of companies and organizations that are involved in the process.

Currently there are many companies in the marketplace that are investing heavily in selling the vision of the perfect passenger journey, but there are a scarce few examples of airports that have been able to operationalize this beyond a tactical level. Impacting the passenger journey to positively influence customer experience is ultimately the challenge of bringing together high-quality data from the entire passenger journey to find opportunities for improvement. This is also the work that drives Metrix. 


Why is the Metrix evaluation system beneficial for airport concessionaires? What advantages does this system have for travellers and for the airports?

The evaluation system we have implemented to support the PVC program at DEN has clear advantages for concessionaires, travelers and airports.

For concessionaires the program provides a clear quantitative score to distinguish performance from peers. This leads to extended contract term for top performers and creates a marketing opportunity to highlight exceptional performance from both a customer service and financial performance standpoint.

For travelers the PVC program is beneficial because we measure the quality of the customer service being delivered by each concession on a monthly basis. This competitive and ongoing measurement helps assure travelers that they are receiving a positive customer service experience when dining or shopping at DEN.

For airports, the PVC program creates a transparent and fair environment for measuring concession performance on a location-by-location basis. It also allows the airport to retain its best operators beyond the initial contract term to enhance long-term reputational and economic return.


Do you think that this system could be extended and integrated with other airport systems and thus improve the passenger experience?

Absolutely. We are currently working to expand the program to include additional data elements from a wider range of airport stakeholders. As I mentioned earlier, great customer experience is user defined and have a great partner in DEN that is actively seeking methods, inclusive of the PVC program. to operationalize its vision. The key element, or course, is understanding the available data and then translating that data into metrics which are trackable and explainable.    


MetrixIQ, in collaboration with the Denver Retail Group, is created a technological application called OWLe that enables forward thinking airports to record and share information in a quick and cost-effective way. What are its advantages?

The OWLe product is a natural extension of our focus on measuring and impacting customer experience. As we worked with our clients in the field we realized that the expansion of mobile technology into all aspects of live fit very well with capturing observations and checklists of key performance indicators in real-time. Since it is a configurable mobile application OWLe is easily customized to meet an airport’s specific compliance needs.

By eliminating paper and desk-bound reporting OWLe instantly digitizes, stores and complies the operational data collected in the field. No double data entry, no scrambling for notes.  Operational information is readily available at any time. 


Is this application as valid as for big and small concessionaires?

Yes. Given the scalability of the OWLe platform it can be expanded to support airport and concession programs of any size.  Larage clients and small clients alike benefit form the efficiencies brough forward by the tool.


How does the experience/services of Metrix enhance customer satisfaction?

At Metrix we like to deliver outcomes. We don’t believe in building the biggest solution, we believe in building the smartest solution. Our experience and success has been built on developing pragmatic measurement programs that can be implemented and managed in actual airport environments.  Simply put we help our clients enhance customer experience by understanding their objectives and finding pathways to measuring and achieving those objectives in a short period of time. Typically our objective is to define, deliver and implement program within one year of beginning an engagement. We like results, and we like to see them quickly. 


Do you see this program to be easily transferred to other airports?

Certainly. Every airport has room to enhance the customer experience they are delivering and our focus is to help our current and future clients identify these opportunities and find practical ways to improve.



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