Episode

2

Season

1

Why Innovation is the Key to Great Customer Experience

With
Rick Belliotti
Director of Innovation and Customer Experience Design at the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority
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Transcript

Speaker 1 (00:15):

You're listening to the TechTables podcast, a weekly Q&A podcast dedicated to interviewing industry leaders from across the world, ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies, mixing it up each week with topics ranging from design and product innovation to IoT and industry 4.0. Let's do this.

Joe Toste (00:34):

Hey guys, we're back for another week in the world of TechTables, mixing the best in design and tech innovations with me, Joe Toste. I'd love to connect with you behind the scenes on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. There you can even message me questions for future guests coming on the show, but today's show I'm super excited. Today, we're going to shift our focus to innovation and customer experience with episode one, Why Innovation is the Key To Great Customer Experience with Rick Belliotti. Huge thank you to Rick for taking his time out of his busy morning in San Diego to chat with me. That's quite enough from me. Without further ado, I'm thrilled to welcome Rick Belliotti, director of innovation and customer experience design at the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.

Joe Toste (01:11):

Well, Rick, thank you for joining me today on TechTables. Really appreciate it. Thanks for coming on.

Rick Belliotti (01:17):

Yeah, absolutely. I'm always amazed that people want to hear our stories. So anytime I get a chance to tell it, it's great.

Joe Toste (01:23):

Awesome. I love that. So let's kick off today a little bit about you and your background as a software developer at Motorola, and then the move to airport innovation as the director of innovation and customer experience at the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. Walk us through that journey the last 15 years you've been on.

Rick Belliotti (01:41):

Sure. It's definitely not been a planned journey by any sense of the imagination. I guess when I started my career, I was in software development. I did computer integrated manufacturing, I was in that team at Motorola for their semiconductor product sector, and right around 2000, for those of us that can remember back that far, it was kind of a sketchy time. There was the Y2K bug and people were really getting nervous, and the economy was starting to drop a little bit and being in the semiconductor world, they're the first ones to feel the pain and the last ones usually to pick up from the pain. So there was a point in about 2000 where they came out and said, "We're going to cut pay," and at that time I had just had some kids and we were building a family and I went to my manager and I said, "I am not taking a pay cut."

Rick Belliotti (02:40):

They said, "No, everybody is taking a pay cut," and I said, "No, no, I'm not. I quit." So I walked out the door without knowing what I was going to do and it happened to be that a friend of mine sold his house to someone who had just gotten a contract at Phoenix Sky Harbor and that's ultimately how I got into the airport industry. I met this guy, we connected. We had similar life experiences and beliefs and goals, so we started building a company. From there I spent probably eight years or so doing IT and technology consulting in airports, mostly at Phoenix Sky Harbor, but had the privilege of working with IOTA to help kind of develop some recommended practices around common use and working in San Francisco and San Antonio. So, I just got a lot of great experience working in a lot of different airports.

Rick Belliotti (03:32):

From there, I jumped out into the solution provider side of the house and started working for a company called Ultra Electronics and I ran their North and South America operation. So again, just getting lots of experience, seeing what was going on in the airport world, outside of the U.S. and within the U.S. and really kind of starting to build up from all of that experience, all of my experience, what I was seeing as both innovation and technology experiences for people in airports. From there, I happened to land a job as the IT director at San Diego International Airport and that was really where we started recognizing some of the challenges that I had seen as a consultant, but really didn't know how to address, and that was how do we help bring in fresh ideas and fresh blood, if you will, into the industry and get people thinking a little bit differently?

Rick Belliotti (04:30):

That really was the genesis of starting innovation. About a year and a half ago, I moved out of the IT side of the house and really started focusing in on innovation and business development and then that started migrating somewhat naturally, I guess, into customer experience design and that's kind of where I sit today. So, I mean, as I look back over my career over the last 15 years, it was never really planned and yet it all kind of fit together and was this nice little path to get me to where I am today.

Joe Toste (05:06):

I love that, and there was a number of things that you said. First off, you quit your job, not taking the pay cut. So I love that. It's bold and it's like, yeah, you got to kind of take that stand. So that's really awesome. You mentioned South America. What countries have you been to in South America?

Rick Belliotti (05:24):

So I was only able to get to Ecuador in South America, and then we did some work in Liberia, Costa Rica. So really Central America, although that's still technically North America, I guess. And Panama.

Joe Toste (05:36):

Okay. Yeah. I've been to Ecuador. [inaudible 00:00:05:39].

Rick Belliotti (05:39):

I love Quito. It's one of my favorite places, really.

Joe Toste (05:41):

Yeah. Quito. Yeah. I, we did a mission trip there for ... there's an orphanage in Quito and we went to go and we were hanging out with the kids and playing with the kids and bringing soccer balls and all that kind of fun stuff. So yeah, I can picture Quito. Yeah. Awesome. So I moved from getting in as the IT director and then you move into kind of this customer experience. Do you like the customer experience role more than you liked the IT role? I feel like this role is a little more fun.

Rick Belliotti (06:11):

Yes and no. So the things I hated are also the things I loved. Right? So part of the nice thing or the great thing about IT is it's always something new every day and it's action packed and people are sort of depending on you to keep technologies up and running. So there's that aspect of it. But I can honestly say I don't miss the pager or the phone going off at two o'clock in the morning when something goes down. So there's that aspect of it. The customer experience, what I like more about now moving into the customer experience side of the world, to be fair, I didn't actually plan on going into customer experience. We had a reorganization about a year and a half, two years ago, and we were separating the innovation component from the IT component as a San Diego airport.

Rick Belliotti (07:04):

So at that time, I had innovation, business development and small business development in my wheelhouse. So those three other components, minus the IT, were moving into what we were creating as a new division and I was asked to choose if I wanted to stay with IT or if I wanted to move with the innovation and business development small business team. I chose to move because I felt like that was a more interesting path. It was something different. I could learn a little bit more about the industry that I hadn't learned before. Then about a year after that, well, six to nine months after that reorg, I was handed the customer experience portfolio.

Rick Belliotti (07:40):

So I picked up the arts team and the customer experience design component. So that was not actually something I was looking for. That was something that I was given. Having said that what I have always loved about airports and what I've always strived to be able to do in our industry is create an area where people are having great experiences. So what I've loved about our industry and continue to love is that it's a very positive environment, right? People are coming into airports, expecting something, they're going somewhere or coming from somewhere. There's a lot of positive energy and emotion in an airport and that's what I have always wanted to try and drive and continue to improve.

Rick Belliotti (08:20):

So when you see things like people getting stressed over getting through security, well, how do we improve that? People getting stressed about where they drop their bags and where's their gate and all of those things that create stressors, those are the areas where I've ... whether I was in technology or now being in customer experience, those are the areas that I have continued in my career to want to try and improve, because it's the positive energy of the travel experience that we need to continue to thrive and drive.

Joe Toste (08:48):

I love that, and there's a really great bridge as far as when we talk about innovation. So let's fast forward a little bit. You have an innovation lab that you guys are building out right now. How does that fit into your mission of thinking about and helping implement the new experiences for your customers at the San Diego airport?

Rick Belliotti (09:04):

Yeah, that's a great question. So we took a slightly unproven road when we started down our innovation path. There were a couple of airports out there in the early days. Early days, we've been doing this for about three years now, but within the last couple of years, there've been a few airports that have started doing some things around innovation, but we really started our program quite early in the thought process. What we were looking for originally was could we identify areas that would either improve our customer experience, reduce our costs, increase our operational efficiency or increase revenue.

Rick Belliotti (09:42):

So those were really our four kind of pillars that we were looking at. Having been in the finance team, the revenue component was really important, and so we were looking for non aeronautical revenue. Where we've kind of matured and grown over the last couple of years is really understanding that rather than creating all of these chess pieces that are sitting off to the side of the board, not knowing where they're supposed to go, which is how innovation has been running in our industry to date, we're looking at it as all right, we have a very specific experience that we want to be able to create for our passengers and as we're thinking about that experience, do we have areas where either A, we need to innovate and we need to ask people to come in and help us solve these problems, or as we call them opportunities? Or B, do we have things already in our toolbox that we can eye drop into that experience and say, "All right, based on the way we want our passengers to experience our airport, this solution fits in this spot and will help improve that."

Joe Toste (10:43):

Oh, I love that. No, that was really, really good. When we were talking pre-podcast prepping for this, you said most people aren't looking at the data to understand the customer experience. Can you dive into what KPIs or metrics you guys are looking to make sense of the data that allows you guys to make the impact on the customer experience in the future?

Rick Belliotti (11:02):

Yeah, so we're actually in the process of developing that now. As we learn and experience, we continue to mature in how we look at both innovation and customer experience. One of my IT things that I got to keep is the data analytics team. So as I split away from IT, I took the ... what we had as business analysts at the time and converted them into data analytics, because we felt like business decisions needed to be driven by looking at the data and understanding the data. So that's where we started with the business development and data analytics. As we look at our customer experience portfolio, we're starting to look at how do we do sentiment analysis and really do it well? How do we do things like if we do a marketing campaign, for example, or if we change an experience in a particular area, can we look at the lift in the revenues from the concessions program, pre and post, that change and see if there's any increase in revenue?

Rick Belliotti (12:07):

So those are some of the things we're considering. It's really difficult when you're dealing with things like feelings, which is really what experience is all about, to kind of metricized those. So those are the conversations we're having now is how do we really dig down? In our case, our brand promise is bringing good feelings nonstop. So what I think are good feelings may be different than what somebody else thinks is good feelings, and so how do we kind of calibrate that so we can look at it and say things like, "78% of our passengers have a positive reaction to this, therefore it's bringing good feelings." And that way we have this metric that we're all kind of using.

Rick Belliotti (12:50):

Right now 78% was just a random number that I picked, but that's the methodology that we're getting to. Really, it's about driving that language internal to the organization so that we're not operating as just a bunch of smart people sitting around a table thinking, "Yeah, they'll like that," or, "No, they won't like that." But we really do have some way to say, "Based on our data collection, based on our survey results, based on the sentiment that we're seeing in social media, we see a positive reaction here and it is measurable and that measurement is above some threshold that we've set."

Joe Toste (13:26):

Yeah, that's really, really great. I do have a lot of positive experiences coming out of the San Diego airport. Favorite data analytics, just as a quick follow-up, what is your team using right now?

Rick Belliotti (13:36):

So right now we're using Tableau. We're exploring a couple of other things. So having been in the IT world, I'm used to lots of projects and activities going on. So another one of our projects is doing our data modeling on the backend. We build our data analytics platform in the last year, and that platform was really built more front end facing because we needed to get the executives and senior staff on board to understand what we're trying to do with data. So for lack of a better term, there's a lot of duct tape and bailing wire in the back end trying to make it look like it works. So now we're building that up, but Tableau has been a great tool for us to be able to pull in spreadsheets and do some really great quick visualizations. We're looking at a tool called Snowflake right now. We're trying to decide if that's going to fit into our product portfolio or not, but at the moment we're using Tableau.

Joe Toste (14:33):

Oh, that's great. No, I really love Tableau. One of my favorite CEO's is Delta's Ed Bastian and the reason I love Delta and his leadership so much is his relentless focus on customer experience. Actually, at CES in Las Vegas this past January when I was there during his keynote, he said he wanted it to be a magical experience. So Rick, can you dive into how you're making the San Diego International Airport a magical experience for your customers today?

Rick Belliotti (15:00):

Yeah. I love that thought process because that's really what we are trying to do here as well. Maybe magical wasn't the word we were using, but it really is that experience that we're trying to create. So for us, we're looking at being an origination and destination airport. We're looking at how do we create that experience for our passengers so when they either arrive or they're departing, they're already experiencing what they've come to San Diego for. So a lot of that is sun, beach, the small communities that we have here. If you've never been to San Diego, what we have are these great little pocket communities within what turns out to be the eighth largest city in the United States. But when you're in downtown San Diego, you don't really know that because of these small communities.

Rick Belliotti (15:53):

So how do we bring all of that kind of relationship and experience into our airport from the time they walk in the door to the time they either get on their plane or the time they walk out that front door to get on their transportation to their local destination? The magical component about that, so it's not even so much about, "I already feel like I've got the San Diego vibe," but it's "I want to spend a little bit of time at the airport because it really is an extension of what I'm here for." That's where the magic behind that is how do we use technology without people knowing that we're using technology to do the things that we're doing.

Rick Belliotti (16:33):

Not in a creepy way, right? There's that stalker-ish creepy technology that's kind of out there where we know everything about you and we already can predict what you want before you want it, but more around the customer experience and customer service and human element of you just feel comfortable, you enjoy where you're at, you walk through the airport and by the time you get to either that jet bridge or that transportation, you have a smile on your face, but you're not exactly sure why. That's the magic that we're trying to create. We want people to be having that what we call good feeling, but that little smile on the end of the mouth where the mouth turns up just a little bit, you're feeling relaxed, you're feeling good. You're not exactly sure why, but the whole thing was just quite smooth. That's where we kind of see that blend of IT and technology and human touch really coming together in our airport and making it happen.

Joe Toste (17:27):

I love that. Yeah, that's so good. So good. Switching on a mistake that we probably both see in the business world today are folks starting with technology and thinking about what it can do for their business, rather than diving into the problem space and really drilling in on understanding the problem before moving to possible solutions. Just want to chat about just the framework for innovating and kind of how you and your team do that.

Rick Belliotti (17:53):

Sure, sure. We start with design thinking. We really start with understanding our customers, looking at, again, that data of where do we see the customers reacting? What is the feedback that we're getting? I think that's really one of the biggest mistakes that gets made in our industry in particular is we don't really start with what does the customer want? We start with what we think the customer wants. So we kind of start at that end and then we take that data and we take those learnings that we have when we're out in our terminal and we're out walking around and we go through a design thinking workshops with our internal stakeholders. Out of that, we start identifying where are some opportunities for innovation to fit in and whether or not that's going to be a technology solution or a touch solution.

Rick Belliotti (18:47):

But everything starts really from that first look at what is the area of opportunity or what is the challenge or what is the pain point or where are things not working quite the way we think they should, or the way we want them to, or where are our passengers not having a great experience, and then we bring in people from throughout the authority. So other departments, we're actually starting to reach out now to our stakeholders, which would include our concessionaires, our airlines, the federal agencies that are here and really bringing them into the fold of how do we look at these challenges. And then how do we put together what we ultimately call an opportunity statement that we put out on the street for people to come back with innovative solutions. A lot of those ended up being technology, some of them don't.

Joe Toste (19:37):

Yeah, that's really great. Related to that, one of the articles I read was field testing the future at San Diego's International Innovation Lab. Can you talk about the three innovator batches that you've launched so far and just how much fun you guys are having with that?

Rick Belliotti (19:50):

Yeah, we are really having a lot of fun. It's one of the highlights of getting up every morning is to be able to come in and watch these companies run through our programs. So at a super high level, the way our program works today is we do two 16 week batches and those batches are set around what we call our opportunity statement. So when we started two years ago, we had to slowly move the organization into understanding what we were trying to do with innovation. So we sort of did this 1.5 version, or 0.5 version really, of our innovation lab, where we blended a traditional RFP process with how we think the innovation program would work. So that was early on and that's where AtYourGate came out of ... You may be familiar with them, but they came out of that very first effort of trying to do innovation here and they've been fairly successful.

Rick Belliotti (20:47):

In the last three batches, what we've been able to do is we've worked through that design thinking process. We've identified opportunity statements. Our first batch, we focused in on parking, innovative solutions for our parking program and trying to improve that a little bit. Then we also added in innovative solutions for customer experience, where we were looking at passengers who might need additional assistance, whether that's a language barrier, or they had some deeds for additional help, whatever that might look like. We were trying to find solutions around that. Then the second batch, what we learned from the first batch and moving into the second batch is it takes us a really long time to approve what those opportunities statements are. Lots of people want to have their input, and we just didn't leave ourselves enough time between the two batches.

Rick Belliotti (21:42):

So what we did instead is we put out what we affectionately now call our wildcard statement, which was in the second batch we just said, "Tell us what kind of ideas you have that we might not be aware of." So we opened it up for anything and it was really good because it helped us kind of test the water for just throwing a wide net like that and seeing what we might get. so we got a few companies into the program there, and then we were able to work back into fitting innovation into this bureaucracy generally of an airport, right? It's not that one airport necessarily is more bureaucratic than another, but in any organization, honestly, you just have this layer of process that you go through, that people would call this bureaucracy.

Rick Belliotti (22:28):

So we put in to the process our next opportunity statement, which was more around children's interactive play areas. We didn't want to put out into our airport these sort of slides and tumbling areas that a lot of places are doing now. We wanted to try and be thoughtful and creative around that. That was probably my favorite batch, to be honest, because we had kids come into our innovation lab and we got to watch them play. If that doesn't help you get young again, nothing will because they were running around and screaming and it was great to have all of that activity and noise. It was controlled chaos, if you will. But we were able to kind of prove that we could do controlled chaos in a small area and it was just a blast. So that opportunity statement went on forward and at the same time we did our wildcard. So what we've now done is we have a specific opportunity and a wildcard statement. So we always have these two opportunity statements out there because we think we know what we know, and then there's things we don't know.

Rick Belliotti (23:32):

So there's always a [inaudible 00:23:34] opportunity for really smart people to come in and tell us things that we didn't think of, that we recognize once we hear it that it's a good idea. Our last batch that we're now just getting ready to start, so we're actually getting into the fourth batch in about a week and a half. That one's more around looking at sustainability and reducing waste and trying to come up with solutions that will help our industry look at how do we reduce the amount of waste that we create as airports and really help our local environments and our local communities.

Rick Belliotti (24:10):

So it's been a lot of fun. Every day you wake up, you never know what you're going to expect. We get to interact with really smart people. We get to watch people grow and mature. In that sort of startup world, they call it pivoting. So we get to see people as they're learning about our industry, pivot their ideas and come up with something new and interesting. When we have a success like AtYourGate, we get to see how it impacts our industry and for us, and for me personally, that's really what it's all about, is can we do something that changes fundamentally within our industry how passengers experience air travel?

Joe Toste (24:49):

Oh, that's great. I think my favorite one is the kids one too. Actually, I was in the Vancouver airport not too long ago and yeah, there was a whole kids playground and a bunch of other interesting stuff. I'm like, "This is really happening. This is really controlled chaos over here."

Rick Belliotti (25:07):

Yeah. You can't call it anything else when you get 30 or 40 kids in a small area, but it's absolutely exciting and fun. Again, it's that whole energy level of bringing people to a little bit of a smile.

Joe Toste (25:21):

Yeah. I love it. It kind of reminds me of ... just because I have two kids, we'd go to Lego Land and as you're waiting in line, you drop the kids off and they all kind of play in the middle and you do the line and then they pop out at the end. Traveling through Vancouver, it was like, oh, sip your coffee, watch the kids play on the playground and play with whatever else the airport designed and then grab them and check them in and you're good.

Rick Belliotti (25:45):

Yeah. Yeah. It's a great analogy between those two. The other thing I like to suggest to people is sometimes you get groups of people that are thinking, "Oh, well, that's just for the kids," or, "That's just for families with kids," but honestly it's for everybody because if I can contain the kids and they're having a good time and they're not screaming and whining and crying and frustrated about having to sit quietly, that's good for everybody. Right? So then people can move away from there if they don't want to be near the kids and that just helps everybody's experience within the airport and ultimately on that aircraft. If I can help relieve some of that energy level for those kids so that they can relax on that airplane, how much the better is that?

Joe Toste (26:30):

Yeah, you hit a couple really great points. One, it's definitely for everyone, because if you can contain the kids and they're not in the chairs jumping up and down on you and two, if they burn out their energy on the playground or with their contained area, whatever they're doing, then they're going to sleep on the plane.

Rick Belliotti (26:49):

That's the hope anyway, right? As parents, that's what we hope for.

Joe Toste (26:52):

Exactly. Okay, cool. I love it. Switching over to kind of more of the technology side around the airport, as I was kind of just researching some topics on the tech side, airport indoor navigation, stronger use of mobile apps, texts, assisted parking, you kind of mentioned earlier, API management, et cetera. Any of these topics that really pique your interest in 2020 on the tech front?

Rick Belliotti (27:16):

Yeah, I think really several of them. So the indoor navigation, when we started playing around with that early on, we really believe that that is how information and data is being transferred to people. We're all becoming very mobile, right? We all have our mobile devices. We're always looking at our Google maps or Apple maps or whatever product we're using to find out where we're at and what's around us. So that indoor navigation component is still in its infancy. It's not really been figured out the same way that we figure out our navigation when we're outside of the airport or outside of a large venue. We still, inside a venue, are looking and using physical cues as opposed to using that indoor navigation. But I think there's something to it and I think there's a lot of value around combining indoor navigation and augmented reality and those types of components to create a great experience for our passengers.

Rick Belliotti (28:23):

The API management is something that our industry really needs to focus in on because honestly, I don't want to create an app for my airport. We did it, it failed purposefully, but we wanted to kind of prove out some things, and you as a traveler or travelers in general, don't want to download an app for every single airport. So we really need to figure out how do we get the data that we have to the customer or passenger where they need it. So whether that's through their airline app or through a third-party app that they might be using, or one of the vehicles on their phone, whether that's a WhatsApp communication or text or however they do that, for that passenger, how do we create a mechanism that allows those avenues of endpoint user interface to interact with the data that we have today that will help our passengers in our airport do things that they want to do?

Rick Belliotti (29:20):

So I think those two in particular are really important. And then assisted parking, I think there's some really cool things that can be done there and there's some really interesting opportunities to continue to make our parking products better. What we're starting to see probably about four years ago or so, when we were talking about self-driving cars and everybody thought it was going to be 10 years before they were here, we're about halfway through that 10 year cycle and that 10 years keeps pushing out. So for the foreseeable future, there's going to be vehicles that need to be parked, whether they're self-driving, whether they're electric, whatever that might be and look like, we still need a place to put our stuff, which happens to be our cars in this case.

Rick Belliotti (30:02):

So I think that assisted parking is going to become really important, especially in an airport our size, where we're physically constrained and we have passenger growth that continues to break records. We'll see what happens this year, but we continue to grow, and that means more and more people need places to park. We've got to get really smart about how that looks.

Joe Toste (30:23):

Oh, that's great. Quick thoughts on Uber and Lyft. I don't normally have to park a car just because I'm usually traveling a ton for business, but I get to see every airport and how they kind of lay out that Uber and Lyft from LAX. It's basically got its own lot too. I thought San Diego probably had the best where they kind of quickly funneled you and you just kind of take the first Lyft or Uber that shows up. Just curious on that front, as far as kind of the ride sharing experience at the airport. I'd love to hear your thoughts on that.

Rick Belliotti (30:57):

Yeah. I think that it's an area that we continue to need to innovate in and I appreciate that the companies that are creating these solutions are really starting to come to the table and be partners and working together where we're coming up with these great solutions. So both Uber and Lyft have come up with their respective solution for the queuing that you mentioned, which I think is working really, really well. The biggest challenge that they're creating that we need to help figure out together is the traffic challenge. So we do end up with a lot more vehicles on our roadways than we had in the past. Even though the number of trips could be similar where you come in and you go out, it's a little bit different when you're coming in and parking versus when you're driving in and driving right back out again.

Rick Belliotti (31:47):

So that high velocity of traffic flow is something that we all need to work together on. It's going to be there. It's never going to go away. The volume of Uber's and Lyft's, in my opinion, is going to taper off here at some point, and we're going to hit this ceiling and then there'll be a relatively predictable growth pattern with relationship to passenger growth at airports. What we've seen up-to-date is that there's this astronomical increase and now we're all starting to see that exponential, if you will, process taper off at the top. So there's still growth, but it's now becoming a little bit more manageable. I think that while we've got the pickup component working well, the drop-off component probably needs to be considered only from the perspective of how do we reduce roadway traffic, and again, kind of reduce that stress and that experience that people are having just getting into our airports.

Joe Toste (32:48):

Oh, that's so great. Cool. So beating on that drum as far as customer experience and design really being everything. I'm a huge fan of airports that deliver on that promise, especially since my second home is often an airport. I always want the look and feel of the airport I'm in to give me the best experience possible, both from a people, architecture and technology view. What's your favorite example of an airport delivering on this experience holistically right now?

Rick Belliotti (33:17):

Yeah, so I think there's a lot of airports delivering on components of it, for sure. I like Nashville. I think when you fly into Nashville, you feel like you're in a country music home. I love Orlando and what they've been doing with their digital interaction with their passengers. I think that's been working really well. There's a small airport in Montana in Bozeman that I think is one of the prettiest, most amazing airports I've ever been in. It's really small, but when you fly into Bozeman, you feel like you're in a lodge in the middle of Montana. It's got these great large wood beams. They've got this huge fireplace. They have all of those feelings of being in a lodge. You do not even feel like you're in an airport. So I have to say that's one of my absolute favorites. I also really enjoy Seattle. I think Seattle is doing some great stuff. Although their passenger volumes are exceeding the building right now, so it's getting a little tough to do things up there, but I do think they're doing great work up in Seattle.

Joe Toste (34:29):

Oh, that's awesome. Lastly, before we hit the 60 second TechTables segment, what's the number one problem you're seeking to solve right now as the director of innovation and customer experience at the San Diego Airport, and you might have more than one problem.

Rick Belliotti (34:45):

Yeah, yeah. We do. We certainly have a lot of challenges and I think there's probably two that I would touch on. One is internal and one is sort of customer facing. So internally we have this challenge of really trying to help our organization understand what customer experience design is as opposed to customer service. So working through what that looks like versus the physical customer service component of meeting the passenger physically where they are versus really thinking about our customer experience and thoughtfully putting together a journey for them, kind of helping that.

Rick Belliotti (35:26):

The other really big thing for us is we're about to embark on building a new terminal and that will really be the last major construction that we can do here, and that will our terminal one and then give our terminal one passengers a similar experience that we have in terminal two, so that elevated kind of San Diego experience that we want to have across the board. That is just putting a lot of pressure on decision-making and how we do things, but really wanting to be thoughtful and ahead of things when we start looking at the customer experience in that terminal. That's probably our biggest, biggest challenge right now is making sure that we keep that customer at the very forefront in that new development that we're about to do.

Joe Toste (36:13):

Love it. Okay. So under 60 seconds, three quick questions, kind of rapid fire, let's go. One, what's your favorite airline to fly out of when you travel from San Diego?

Rick Belliotti (36:23):

Yeah. I don't know if I'm allowed to actually say that. So I love them all, but I had a great experience on JetBlue. I had some time to travel up to Boston and I think JetBlue does a really good example of that customer experience component. I fly a lot on Southwest. I love flying Southwest. Then because I came out of Phoenix, US Air, now American, those are probably the three airlines that I fly the most, but I have to say I love them all.

Joe Toste (36:53):

Very diplomatic answer. Number two, what's your favorite autonomous robot that you've seen at airport so far?

Rick Belliotti (37:00):

Okay. So going back to the parking one, the robots that pick up the cars and put them in their places, that's brilliant. We need to do more of that. I think those robots are ... it's a controlled environment. It's a known kind of dimension. I think those are brilliant robots and we need to do more of that.

Joe Toste (37:22):

Oh, I love that. Number three, what airport innovation in the next five years would you like to see?

Rick Belliotti (37:29):

I think we need to do a little bit more around passengers and their carry-ons and their luggage. So I would love to see a solution where passengers wouldn't have to bring anything to the airport. If they want to, they can, but they wouldn't have to. If we could solve that problem in a way that fits into the market space, that would be great. Then the other part of that is if we could come up with a solution from an artificial intelligence point of view that would help people quickly put their bags in the overhead bin in a way that we know that they're all going to fit and everybody doesn't have to panic and fight over bin space or worry about where their things are going to fit, that would really improve experience in airports in my opinion.

Joe Toste (38:11):

Awesome. Love it. Rick, so that wraps up the podcast. Where can people find you?

Rick Belliotti (38:17):

I hang out on LinkedIn a lot, so you can find me on LinkedIn and then that's probably the best place, honestly.

Joe Toste (38:24):

Awesome. Love it. Okay. Well, really appreciate you coming on the podcast today and I'm looking forward to flying through the San Diego Airport and seeing what new innovations you guys keep coming up with.

Rick Belliotti (38:35):

Sounds great. I really appreciate you giving me the opportunity to tell our story.

Joe Toste (38:39):

Thanks, Rick.

Rick Belliotti (38:40):

You bet.

Speaker 1 (38:42):

If you're interested in seeing what Nagarro, a high-end technology solutions company to some of the world's leading organizations can do for your business, you can email Joe at joe.toste@nagarro.com, or message Joe on LinkedIn. For all information on Nagarro, check out nagarro.com. That's N-A-G-A-R-R-O.com. You've been listening to the TechTables Podcast. To make sure you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you have an iPhone, we'd love for you to open the Apple podcast app and leave a review. Thank you so much for listening. To catch more TechTables episodes, you can go to techtablespodcast.com, and to learn more about our sponsor, please visit nagarro.com. That's N-A-G-A-R-R-O.com. Of course, you can find Joe Toste, your podcast host, on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. That's Joe Toste. T-O-S-T-E. Thanks for listening.

Joe Toste
Joe Toste
Host of TechTables Podcast

I'm passionate about investing in communities locally and internationally across several organizations (Young Life, Compassion, and DP Basketball 🏀 (high school basketball coach). This passion intersects across technology and the public sector too.