Mr. Raffie BeroukhimDigital Transformation & Elevating the Customer Experience
Mr. Raffie Beroukhim is the Chief Experience Officer at NEC Corporation of America and has worked for NEC in several roles since 2011. During a recent interview, he provided an update on some of NEC's latest projects involving biometrics and customer experience, and discussed some of his greatest career highlights and tips for success.
Raffie begins by explaining that some of his team's recent projects in the aviation industry have been temporarily delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he says he had seen encouraging results from their flagship biometric curb-to-gate ID program with partner Delta Air Lines before the outbreak intensified. He noted that 70% of passengers using the service were satisfied with the experience, and that the system has a 99% accuracy rate. He further explained, "it has been statistically proven that we can now board a large A320 double-decker plane 9 to 10 minutes faster than perhaps we could have done before. Not only it is much more efficient, but we can see the value it creates and the smiles from the passengers. They do not have to stand in long queues and can board faster. It also gives Delta employees the ability to look at the passenger, instead of looking at the passport, and welcome them aboard. This is one of the projects we've done that we are very proud of."
Raffie says he is quite pleased with the progress that NEC has made since the service debuted with Delta Air Lines in 2018. He believes the aviation industry is just the beginning, and that there is great potential for the expansion of a single, unified biometric key beyond the airport. Raffie goes on to explain NEC's master vision for future biometric services. "Instead of starting that experience at the airport, we want it to start at home when you book your reservation or call your taxi. And instead of ending at the airport, what if we extended that experience to your rental car or hotel. Then, what if we extended that further, so that when you went from one country to the other, the same services and digital identity could be used. And instead of paying for something with your credit card, you could use your facial characteristics, which we have proven is more convenient and secure."
Raffie strongly believes that Digital Transformation services, such as the ones NEC currently has deployed, should not only be used by the wealthiest companies and governments in the world and that there is a strong use case for these services in emerging markets as well. He considers this to be his personal mission at NEC. "We're not building a technology that perhaps only the most advanced countries can afford or can implement. Our technology is scalable across varying global economies. And it brings the same value, the same efficiency, and the same smile to everyone who uses it."
Raffie also mentioned that, although the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating to the global economy and has severely disrupted the lives of many people around the world, he has seen an increased interest in Digital Transformation initiatives to help fight the outbreak.
The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) Airports Division recently worked with NEC and other partners to introduce thermal temperature screening equipment, which is being used to scan arriving passengers at several international airports across the state for elevated body temperature (EBT). Raffie hopes that this solution will help protect the health and safety of the visitors and residents of Hawaii against the COVID-19 pandemic, and encourage tourism in the state.
In terms of business philosophy, Raffie believes there are three critical components that any organization must attend to in order to be successful. The first is always putting client's needs and demands must always come first, a policy he actively encourages at NEC. The second is always providing employees with continuous opportunities for growth. This is something he is grateful for at NEC, as he says his managers have done so for him over the years and that he strives to do this for those he manages. And the third is ultimately providing value to NEC's shareholders. Raffie says he also sees a fourth principle emerging: an increasing need to promote environmental sustainability. Hence, he hopes the solutions he implements via NEC will ultimately leave the world in a better position than it was when he started.
When implementing many cutting-edge projects, Raffie says he and his colleagues face various challenges. He believes NEC's global network is an important resource that is often called upon to troubleshoot. For example, during the recent Hawaii project, he said, "we reached out to NEC Singapore. We reached out to NEC Labs. This is the collaboration, the teamwork that brings all of NEC together." Raffie also feels that because he has so many colleagues throughout the world with deep experience, there is a global pool of knowledge that he can always call upon to apply to a new challenge.
On a personal level, Raffie highlights two instances that best capture his greatest achievements at NEC. "One was the day when Delta Air Lines launched their curb-to-gate biometrics experience," he recalls. "I was there that day, and I remember the photograph I took with their Former Chief Operating Officer, Gil West, and John Wagner, Former Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. I think it was a highlight of perhaps my career, having a handshake with those two gentlemen." Not long after this moment was another career milestone. "I had the opportunity to be there when NEC signed the partnership agreement with Star Alliance in July of 2019," he explains. " This was an example of a project we had to earn. It was a competitive procurement, it was a long-term partnership agreement, and again, it was also one of those moments I look back on with pride."
And while Raffie considers both events to be his biggest personal accomplishments at NEC, he also recognizes both were ultimately a team effort. He elaborated by saying, "perhaps my signature is there, or maybe my photograph is in the press, but I'm the first one to admit and recognize this work is the work of the entire NEC team. If we had not written the best proposal, if we had not priced it correctly, or had failed at the initial technology evaluations and the proof of concepts, then none of those would have led to the successes we found. So, my highlights are all of NEC's highlights. It is a team highlight. And I hope and wish all of NEC feels the same and shares in these highlights."
Raffie also believes strongly in work-life balance. He states, "the only way you can survive is through hard work, as well as exercise, reading and meditation. Those are the three things that I try to do. Exercise, reading and meditation. That's how I try to balance my life."
Originally from Iran, Raffie is a fan of renowned Persian poets. "We believe we invented poetry," he explained. "We have Rumi, Saadi and Ferdowsi. Some of the most renowned poets are from Iran and Persia. I am a fan of theirs, and continue to educate myself in their ways through their readings." Meditation is another key activity that Raffie believes is important to calm and soothe his mind, and is something he tries to do every day. Raffie is also celebrating his 30th wedding anniversary this year. While his travel plans have been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he is looking forward to traveling in the future and hopes to be able to use NEC's Digital Transformation solutions while doing so.