Keeping the Spotlight on Customers – the O’Hare Way


Keeping the Spotlight on Customers – the O’Hare Way

Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD) is the second busiest in the nation, with a strong international presence, flying to more than 60 foreign destinations. ORD has been voted “Best Airport in North America” for 10 years by readers of the U.S. edition of the Business Traveler magazine and the Global Traveler magazine.
Being an example of excellence in customer satisfaction means thinking outside the box when it comes to customer interactions.
O’Hare was the first U.S. airport to install the Map Unit, which features a large 3D projection of the terminal parking lot enclosed in the tamperproof stainless steel enclosure and comes with a built-in single-button ADA-compliant assistance phone.
Thirty-six Map Units are installed in O’Hare’s parking garage, one for each set of elevators throughout the six floors of parking space. This is designed to give travelers a sense of security and a way to talk to a live person in case they are lost or having car problems.
The Map Unit serves a dual role. On the one hand, it provides visual information about the parking garage to O’Hare travelers, who are also able to push a single button and get connected to a customer service representative for assistance. On the other hand, the ADA-compliant emergency phone inside the Map Unit can be used for emergency situations. Once the emergency button is pushed, the blue light strobe mounted above the unit starts flashing, distracting a possible perpetrator, while security personnel are able to assess the situation through an embedded CCTV camera.
Expanding the idea of customer service with audio and visual aids is smart, The possibilities are endless: Bus stations, shopping malls, convention centers and array of other facilities could improve on their customer interactions by integrating a two-way communication device into a facility map.
Another application of the technology at O’Hare was implementing hands-free assistance phones with audio message boards into automated ticketing stations where cars enter the garage. If there is a jam or some customer is having troubles dealing with a ticketing station, a warm welcome message is automatically played and airport staff is notified of a problem.
O’Hare International Airport adheres to the policy that small gestures do count when it comes to customer satisfaction, while going an extra mile to protect its travelers. It also chose to install 20 emergency phone towers, all of which are topped with blue light strobes and strategically placed throughout the remote parking lot, providing a reliable two-way communication solution between security authorities and visitors.
The familiar always-lit blue light atop the towers is designed to reassure passers-by that help is only a push of a button away and that a million candlepower strobe is activated the moment the emergency call is initiated, attracting attention to the scene.
The visibility of the emergency phone towers was a crucial issue at O’Hare’s remote parking lot due to a fleet of shuttle buses picking up visitors on a regular basis from various bus shelters. To address the issue, all towers were customized 2 feet taller than the standard unit. Elevating the blue light strobe above all traffic on the parking lot guaranteed its visibility at all times
Each tower also came equipped with a custom spotlight, enhancing illumination of the area around the tower. This upgrade made the towers highly visible and accessible during the nighttime, while giving security personnel a clear situational awareness of the parking lot through a network of densely installed CCTV cameras.
Customizable emergency phones and notification systems yield many benefits when used across multiple functional platforms and departments within an organization. Finding new and useful ways to align technology with organizational goals, while keeping the spotlight on the customer, is what makes O’Hare a success story.
Samuel L. Shanes, Chairman of Talk-A-Phone Co., can be reached at

Article contributed by:
Samuel L. Shanes
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