Customer Service Initiatives: 1st PLace

Automated Passport Control Launch

In the summer of 2013, DFW Airport, like many other international gateways, experienced increase wait times among its customers in the Customs & Border Protection (CBP) area. The average wait time from May 1 to August 31, 2013) was 23.59 minutes. The maximum wait time during this period was 3.5 hours.

Since 2009, DFW has seen a 39% increase in international arriving customers, with no new CBP officers due to constraints such as budget, computer outages and staffing issues. Airline delays and/or early arrivals continued to add to the wait times during peak travel periods.

The extremely high wait times of 2 to 3 hours and more experience in the summer of 2013 were capture via social media and represented in local news coverage. The wait times would only get worse based on projections of international passenger growth due to new air service to Shanghai and Hong Kong in the summer of 2014. Projected international passenger growth from May 2014 through August 2014 was 8%.

In addition, based on market research, DFW found that wait-times in Customs continued to be the lowest scored satisfaction variable for DFW passengers.

On February 10, DFW officially unveiled 30 Automated Passport Control kiosks to significantly reduce wait times for U.S. and Canadian citizens who arrive into DFW. The system alleviates lines in CBP by enabling returning travelers to enter their own passport information on touchscreens and register their return to the country electronically. This process was developed through a collaborative partnership with CBP. A comprehensive marketing branding and wayfinding program accompanied the launch.

Entry Statement

Project Goals: 

The goal of the Automated Passport Control was to decrease average wait times to under 20 minutes during peak times. By enabling U.S. and Canadian citizens to virtually process themselves with limited interaction with an officer, it enables CBP to reallocate more resources to greeting foreign passport holders, shortening those lines as well.

Production: 

In order to ensure customers were aware of the new “self service” re-entry process, DFW Marketing developed a comprehensive branding and wayfinding campaign, assigning the color orange and an icon to the product to help international arriving travelers, who are sometimes tired and weary, easily find their way.

Wayfinding efforts began as soon as customer de-boarded their international flights with column wraps, stachions, dioramas and rack cards available throughout the Customs hall. Once customers arrived in the Customs Hall, clearly branded orange signage and queue line tape marked their path. Even the kiosks and employees helping customers were well branded.

The official launch on February 10, 2014 was kicked off with a press event in the international terminal on February 10, 2014 in coordination with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The event featured a demonstration of the new technology and remarks by the Houston Director of Field Operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Jud Murdock, along with remarks from Kenneth Buchanan, Executive Vice President of Revenue Management, and David Magaña, Senior Manager Public Affairs. Reporters were able to step through a demonstration version of the program, so they could experience APC first hand, and they were also allowed to talk to arriving customers and watch them go through the automated Customs arrival process. Leading to the event, DFW extensively pitched local and national print and broadcast media to attend for photo and interview opportunities. A news release was distributed and pitched to local/regional news media, international travel-related trade media, airport/aviation trade publications, national / top tier media and lower-tier community/minority media outlets.

For social media, the team’s plan included the creation of conversations on DFW’s social platforms announcing the new APC system and its benefits and encouraging testimonials from passengers who have used APC system.

Evaluation: 

DFW’s Automated Passport Control is a huge success. More than 320,000 customers have used the kiosks in the first three months of operations, representing 55% of DFW’s arriving international passengers. Projected wait times for the summer of 2014 are expected to be less than without APC and below actuals for the same time period in 2013.

Since the launch of APC, passenger wait times have decreased nearly 42% from 32.5 minutes in 2013 to 18.8 in 2014, significantly exceeding our stated goal of under 25 minutes.

Highlighting the news coverage was a front-page story, above the fold in The Dallas Morning News, headlined “DFW passport kiosks are a welcome sight” with a large photo and additional photos and copy on an inside page. A front-page story in the Business section of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram also generated a lot of positive impressions. The story also received broadcast air time on local affiliates. (http://tinyurl.com/ko8ooss) Overall, the total media engagement resulted in articles in 23 publications including major dailies, security trade and government trade publications, and the international travel media. The story also was published in 130 web sites and succeeded in generating considerable press worldwide, reaching a potential audience of over 12 million viewers in the United States, the UK, Australia, Hong Kong, Germany, France, Greece, India and Egypt. Communications regarding the implementation of APC reached 1500 DFW employees, tenants and partners. DFW’s Facebook post reached 11,948 people and received 223 likes.

Budget: 

Total cost of the branding and wayfinding campaign was approximately $75,000 USD.
• DFW Expenditures:
o Staff resources to manage branding and wayfinding campaign (strategic marketing direction, creative review and approval) – 160 hours
• Agency Costs:
o Production costs (creative, copywriting, voice over production) - $75,000 USD