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?
The one thing you do know is that you don’t have an unlimited budget. So you need to identify a small number of surveys that will provide you and your colleagues with the insight you need to define and guide your airport’s ground transportation / parking, commercial, passenger experience and route development strategies.
All the passenger insight you need in 3 surveys
Designing passenger research programmes for airports all over the world has taught us that all of the data an airport needs to understand its passengers, their needs & habits can be obtained from 3 surveys:
- A detailed passenger demographic survey
- A consumer survey on shopping habits
- A detailed passenger satisfaction survey
A 360 degree view of the passenger experience
Why are these three surveys the only ones you need?
The fundamental building blocks to adopting a customer-centric approach to managing your airport are:
- Understanding who your passengers are
- Learning what different groups want and expect from your airport
- Putting in place a system to deliver this experience for them.
These three surveys provide you with exactly the information you need to do that. Together they deliver a 360 degree view of the passenger experience helping you maximize passenger satisfaction & spending.
The detailed demographic survey shows you who your most profitable segments are.
The first step is identifying your most profitable segments. To be truly useful your survey needs to go beyond the usual demographics (gender, trip frequency, destination, etc…) in order to help you understand how different passenger groups want to use your airport, what their lifestyle & habits are and the sort of experience they value. With this information you will be able to create detailed passenger personas bringing key segments to life and helping your commercial and passenger experience teams design an airport experience that makes them tick.
The detailed commercial survey helps you identify what drives satisfaction & spending with your commercial experience.
Non-aeronautical revenue is where most airports are earning their money so identifying consumption habits needs to play a big part in your research programme. Understanding how and when passengers make purchase decisions as well as which aspects of the experience drive satisfaction & spending will help your commercial team craft a commercial experience that maximizes passenger spending.
The detailed passenger satisfaction survey will help you systematically monitor & improve the passenger experience
Finally you need a way to manage the passenger experience from an operational perspective. This survey will help you keep track of the pulse of the passenger experience at your airport, make sure your efforts for improving satisfaction levels are paying off and identify & fix problems as they arise. This survey needs to be extremely detailed if you want to be able to identify root causes of dissatisfaction and create detailed actions plans to systematically improve the passenger experience. And by creating one very detailed survey giving you a complete view of the passenger experience you will be able to avoid having to run multiple smaller surveys each time you need to understand why passengers are unhappy with one certain aspect of the passenger experience.
Systematically improve the passenger experience at your airport
Combining these 3 surveys provides more than just a very simple & effective way of collecting all of the data you need to truly know your passengers. The real benefit lies in the manner in which they can be linked in order to create a central hub of information about your passengers which you can use to coordinate a systematic, company-wide approach to improving the passenger experience.
Create a shared vision of who your passengers are
Insights from these three surveys can be combined into a single, comprehensive database of passenger profiles, needs & habits which different departments can tap into. This will help you create and disseminate a shared vision of who your customers are and how they use the airport.
Doing so will also help you avoid the situation we see in too many airports where each department is doing its own thing leading to a fragmented knowledge of the passenger and an average airport experience. Instead you will have a common understanding of what travellers want which is essential to deliver the sort of seamless passenger experience that characterizes the world’s best airports.
Implement airport-wide projects that actually have an impact on satisfaction levels
Systematizing how you collect & share passenger related data provides a unique opportunity to make passenger insights the starting point for key strategic decisions at your airport. If you take the time to sit down with internal stakeholders to understand the type of information they need to reach key decisions you will be able to design information flows & processes that deliver the insight your colleagues need when they need it.
When you start providing colleagues with information that is relevant and timely to their own goals you maximize the chances that they will use it, integrating a customer-centric perspective into their decision making process. This is turn will make it easier for you to create a consensus and get buy-in when you need to implement the sort of cross-functional projects which have a significant impact on the passenger experience.
Lower your research costs
Finally, by creating one single system to collect passenger related information you will be able to eliminate a number of duplicate surveys & research projects that may be run throughout your airport, thus lowering costs.
And because you will be running a smaller number of more detailed surveys you will ensure that you have sufficiently detailed data to be able to identify root causes of dissatisfaction without having to run additional research.
Research has shown that even a small increase in overall passenger satisfaction levels can have a significant impact on your airport’s bottom line. So taking the time to create a comprehensive passenger research programme is well worth the effort.
These 3 surveys provide a simple yet cost-effective way of collecting all the data you need on your passengers. So if you want to help your airport make a step-change in its passenger experience, maximizing passenger satisfaction & spending, from our experience these are the only 3 research projects you need.
What do you think? We would love to hear what research projects you would put in your ideal passenger research strategy.