The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on almost every facet of our daily lives, and we have all had to adapt to how we work, shop, and travel.
More than ever before, we have looked to retailers and service-providers to listen to our concerns and to adapt their businesses to meet our changing needs and expectations.
Those businesses that have shown that they have listened to customers – and have adapted the experience they provide to ensure that people feel safe – will have a distinct advantage over those that fail to do this.
Nowhere is the voice of the customer more important than in the aviation industry where airports are prioritizing the health and safety of passengers through an experience that meets the expectations of a new reality.
As the aviation industry continues its recovery from the pandemic, it is important that we take time to celebrate those airports that have shown that they listen to passengers and make the effort to tailor customer experience to meet their needs.
In March, as the global lockdown began, ACI announced the winners of its annual Airport Service Quality (ASQ) awards.
These awards reflect the commitment of airports to improving the passenger experience and represent the highest possible customer experience accolade for airport operators around the world.
This year, 140 awards have been won by 84 individual airports – representing the largest ever number of recipients – with a mix of consistent winners and a large number of first-time award recipients.
The ASQ programme is the only one that not only recognizes excellence but also provides airports with objective measurement and benchmarking to help drive their performance.
This insight helps airports deliver a better customer experience. While in ordinary circumstances this is an important business strategy in an increasingly competitive airport industry, in the new reality, those airports that have consistently shown that they are prioritizing the voice of the customer will be best placed to adapt to their changing needs during this pandemic.
In delivering this year’s awards, ACI has formed a strategic partnership with global travel technology company Amadeus to ensure that winners can be appropriately celebrated for their achievement. Amadeus has joined with ACI to create an online celebration of this year’s winners on social media in lieu of a gala event which is not possible due to the pandemic.
To provide airports with a true 360-degree view of customer experience management in the new COVID-19 reality, ACI has also adapted its current Departures survey, the results of which will feed into next year’s awards.
While the key steps of the passenger journey remain the same, passengers have a new set of expectations in regards of their own health and safety and, by adding questions to the version of the survey that is delivered by tablet, these new and important considerations can be added to the benchmarking history for participating airports.
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The data collected will provide insight on safety and hygiene measures as well as how passengers view the various touchpoints, resulting in a better understanding of their expectations during this health crisis. It will also contribute to restoring their confidence in travel and facilitate recovery.
The pandemic’s effects vary significantly between regions so ACI has adapted the way it collects and measures data this year which informs the awards to be presented in 2021.
ACI has amended some categories and temporarily removed others and introduced a new category – called the Hygiene Award – which will be based on the score of the three new safety and hygiene questions.
ACI is also introducing a new form of recognition called the Voice of the Customer which, separate to the awards, will recognize airports that demonstrate significant efforts in gathering passenger feedback to help them better understand their customers during the pandemic.
By adapting the way data is collected and measured to reflect the changing industry reality, ACI is ensuring that airports can continue their objective measurement and benchmarking to help ensure their customers are heard.
It is clear that, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are demanding new services and procedures based on their specific needs, requirements, and concerns across society.
Airports are seeking to adapt their infrastructure, adopt new technology, and streamline their processes to best match what customers want because they recognize that those that respond to the evolving needs of passengers will not only deliver an award-winning performance, they will also be an example to their partners in the aviation ecosystem.
The health and safety of passengers and staff remain the priorities for airports, so it is important that operators understand where passengers are demanding different or customized services based on specific concerns and requirements as a result of COVID-19 and that is where ACI’s ASQ suite of solutions is crucial.
But there is a bigger picture here – the implementation of health measures following international standards will not only provide a better customer experience, it also supports the sustainable recovery of the industry with economic and social benefits for the local, national, and regional communities we serve.