Rosa Cruz, Director of Marketing & Communications at Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation, interviewed Customer Service Experts CEO, Lise D'Andrea, in an effort to spotlight her contributions to the local business community.
» Tell us a little bit about your business and how you got started.
My background began in the corporate world, working mostly in the hospitality, retail, and business-to-business industries with companies like Hilton Hotels, Saks Fifth Avenue and Xerox. My roles were in HR, training, or in a sales capacity. With each new position, I began to develop a passion for customer service and enhancing the overall customer experience. I began exploring ways that to leverage my experience and and interests into a more entrepreneurial role.
In the early 90’s, I began working in Washington DC doing customer experience consulting work. After about six months, I had several successful clients that were very happy with my work. It was then that the owner of the firm announced his retirement and offered to write letters of recommendation for me to my clients. It was with that motivation that I started CSE.
In the beginning, we were focused mostly on shopping centers – food and beverage, and retail. Then we expanded into other vertical markets such as banking, recreation and destination, and non-profits. Eventually one of our larger shopping-center clients moved into the airport retail space. We decided to take the model we were using to develop exceptional service - training solutions, mystery shopping, and performance management into the airport market space. We developed the first ever customer service program in 2000 for Reagan National Airport. Now we partner with airport authorities, national brands, concessionaires, and airport services to define and develop the ingredients needed to deliver a consistent customer experience within that specific location. From working with shopping centers, we watched as trends developed and saw the potential for mass growth in the development of retail spaces within airports.
» What is it you specifically provide to enhance the customer experience in airports?
As airlines rates continue to come down, people are able to travel more because it’s more affordable. More travel means more time spent in airports, especially with having to navigate through security. Airports are catering to those passengers and their free time by adding amenities. Airports are now concerned with the entire passenger experience. We refer to it now as “bedside to gateside,” which includes the online experience and transportation getting to the airport. But the passenger experience doesn’t stop there. Its travels from curb side to gate side and all the touch points in between. So airports are now in the business of trying to understand their passengers so they can offer them amenities and services that can conveniently, efficiently and profitably get them from point A to point B. CSE provides solutions that measure customer experience as well as employee performance, and provides training and appreciation programs to sustain positive service cultures in airports.
» What advice would you offer to a prospective entrepreneur?
One of the reasons I took the consulting job in DC is that I had an entrepreneurial mindset and spirit and was ready to try something new that tapped my passion for service. My corporate roles helped develop the foundation I needed to develop a business. Entrepreneurship allows more autonomy and the the ability to continually build on ideas and passions.
As far as advice for other entrepreneurs? Keep an open mind and take risks! Following my intuition is the basis of my my leadership style. In running your own business, there’s lots of planning and strategy involved, but the basis for any of my business plans is intuition. Every day we are faced with making tough decisions and I ask my team, “What does your gut say?” and it’s usually the right thing to do.
» Were there any local programs that helped your business?
One of things I did when I moved our business from the Philadelphia area to Annapolis was to join Leadership Anne Arundel. I got to meet other business leaders and find a peer group that I connected with right away. I was new to the area so it helped to familiarize me with many opportunities in this town. That was 15 years ago and I am still in contact with those amazing people! Entrepreneurs Exchange is also another great group. It’s a terrific incubator and a great place to meet people, build your confidence in entrepreneurship, and understand local business.
More recently, Randall Toussaint from Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation met with the CSE team. It was like Christmas when he said “If you need any money to train your team, let us know.” We had some things on our wish list that we couldn’t afford. And sure enough! He helped us prepare the grant and now we have three trainer-consultants getting their ATD Master’s Training Certificate funded by AAEDC.
» What's one good thing about locating your business in Anne Arundel County?
I initially moved my business to Annapolis because we were doing so much work in the DC and Baltimore area, and this area is centrally located to many different business markets.The convenience of several airports close by is also a plus. BWI/Airmall is one of our clients, and we really enjoy the convenience of having a workplace and travel place so close by. Plus, Amtrak can get us to New York in three hours.These were all factors for relocating to the Mid-Atlantic.
As a certified woman owned business, there’s also a plethora of government business potential in this area. Given our airport work, we are now heavily immersed in government contracting, which has proven extremely successful for us!
Customer Service Experts is dedicated to helping clients improve their airport guest experience. Check out the below links for more information about how CSE could help you today: