Customer service still thriving behind masks at YWG

While a simple smile often speaks louder than words, employees at Winnipeg Richardson International Airport are finding new ways to meaningfully welcome and interact with travellers and visitors from behind a mask.

“We have to be more engaged now in the way we communicate,” said Christina Redmond, Manager of Service Delivery at YWG.

On Wednesday, the airport made it mandatory for all travellers, visitors and employees to wear a face covering or non-medical mask when in a public area of the terminal. Long before the requirement came into effect, Redmond has been preparing staff on how to communicate effectively with passengers when at least half their face is covered.

“We’re master communicators as humans,” said Redmond. “When we’re not able to use one aspect, which is facial gestures, we will adapt. We want to communicate and want to be understood.”

Employees throughout the terminal, such as those working at the Information Booth or the baggage drop-off, have been taught how to be more mindful on their body language when communicating. Friendly, open-palm hand gestures are being used instead of pointing to direct people in wayfinding as it’s more effective, polite and inviting. Staff are also relying more on active listening plus are extra diligent on the projection and tone of their voice.

“I’ve noticed with some passengers, I have to increase the volume of my voice,” said YWG Information Booth Supervisor Laura Nemogá. “I try to do so as polite as possible so it doesn’t sound like I’m being rude by speaking louder. I also make sure I’m enunciating better so that I can make sure my words are clear.”

And yes, smiling is still highly encouraged.
“You can always see a smile in someone’s eyes or hear a smile,” said Redmond, grinning behind her blue fabric face covering. “You can hear when someone is having a good or bad day. You can hear when someone is frustrated. You just need to rely on your other senses.”

To ensure all travellers and visitors receive the same level of customer service, Winnipeg Airports Authority will soon be outfitting customer facing employees with clear plastic masks and visors to allow them to communicate with people who are hard of hearing or deaf. Staff will switch out their face covering with this type of personal protective equipment when needed, making it easier for passengers to read their lips and rely on facial cues.

“Providing an exceptional passenger experience is at the heart of what we do on a daily basis,“ said Kirk Goodlet, Director of Airport Services at YWG. “Every passenger experiences travel differently and has varying expectations. YWG has to be prepared to offer dynamic customer service to reflect the evolving needs of our community and visitors to Winnipeg.”

After all, it’s about making sure everyone feels welcome at the airport. A personal touch YWG prides itself in providing.

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