How to design a comprehensive research strategy for your airport on a tight budget
Imagine you’ve just been given a clean slate to completely redefine your airport’s customer research strategy. You have finally convinced your colleagues that the best way to grow non-aeronautical revenue is to understand the type of airport experience your passengers want and deliver this for them. And now you need to create a research programme that will support that strategy. So where do you start?
A quick guide to surviving the dreaded “Why aren’t our scores increasing?” question
Know that feeling? You are about to present the latest passenger research findings to your colleagues and the news is bad: satisfaction levels have not increased at all, or worse they have dropped despite the new customer service initiative you just implemented. And you don’t really know why. So you are just sitting there dreading the moment your boss will ask you point blank why satisfaction levels aren’t up, expecting a detailed answer from you.
The link between a great experience and spending patterns
From a commercial perspective, airports are in the enviable position of having a captive audience. But just because passengers are trapped in an airport doesn’t guarantee they will actually shop in it.
“What special things are top airports doing in order to achieve such great satisfaction scores? Is it their shopping? Their staff? Artwork? Sense of place? etc… They must be doing something really different in order to score so much better than us.” I hear this quite a lot from airports seeking to increase passenger satisfaction levels.
So what is this special thing the top performing airports have? The more I travel and work with airports all over the world, the more I believe it comes down to 1 simple word: balance. Continue reading
I’ve got a two year old son. Like kids of his age he is starting to want to do things his own way – mainly things I don’t want him to it seems. And so I regularly find myself having to tell him “no”, “stop” or some other variation of the same theme.
While this approach worked at first it doesn’t seem to have the same effect any more. As soon as he gets over the initial surprise of me talking with a much louder voice he simply starts doing the same thing all over again with a smile on his face.
After a while, clutter is unnoticed – bags of rubbish and mobility scooters left in plain sight in the terminal.
For most airports, it is possible to significantly improve ambience without spending a large amount of money. To do this, you first need to get to grips with what causes poor ambience and then work on creating a great ambience.
Let’s face it. Despite all you see in industry news about new terminals being built, the majority of airport facilities are not brand new. And for most airport managers, daily reality is working with facilities that were built years ago and designed with other passenger needs in mind.
This makes improving service quality challenging and it is tempting to simply give up and wait for a new terminal to be built and hope to see satisfaction levels go up. But older facilities don’t have to be problem and some airports are able to achieve high levels of passenger satisfaction despite their age.
How do you make airport toilets great?
One of the first things I was told when I started working with airports, was that ultimately passenger satisfaction is all about the toilets.
Washrooms at Seoul Incheon Airport
While it’s true that there is a general correlation between overall satisfaction and the toilet experience, what is very clear is that poor experiences in the toilets are often very strongly linked to passenger overall dissatisfaction. Therefore while it is good to have a great washroom experience, it is essential that the passenger does not have a bad experience.
To improve service quality, airports generally focus on specific touchpoints – the critical moments when passengers interact with the airport and its services. The idea is that by improving certain key services the overall experience will be better. But is this really the best approach? I would argue not necessarily.
Passengers want airports to provide integrated and seamless experiences. The current touchpoint approach is ill-suited for this purpose because it places too much emphasis on individual processes & services at the expense of the big picture and doesn’t reflect what the passenger actually experiences. Rather, airports need to adopt a more holistic approach to managing service quality centred on the notion of passenger journeys.
If all airports provide the same basic service, how is it that some seem to get the recipe just right? What makes those airports so good? Why are they able to provide an experience you look forward to while others provide one that you will go to great lengths to avoid?
Working with over 300 airports, we’ve been able to see first-hand how some of the best manage their passenger experience. While they each manage their business in their own special way there are some common practices that are worth noting.