Creating a ‘sense of belonging’ to improve customer experience

Jeannie Wong by Jeannie Wong | Sep 30, 2019

As airports around the world invest capital on infrastructures to meet the demands of tremendous growth in air travel, Ben Lao, Managing Principal of BenL Consulting International, believes the emphasis has often been on creating unique design features that emote a ‘sense of place’ to enhance the customer experience. 

Speaking during the second day of the Customer Experience Global Summit in Bali, Indonesia, Lao observed that, with no other industry showing the same rate of exponential growth over the last few decades, the aviation industry is the only one that “tears down highly active, revenue producing, profitable and still fully functioning facilities 20 years old on average to make room for more growth”. 

He went on to outline example after example of new facilities, including the new airport in Istanbul that opened in April and Daxing airport in Beijing opening in September. 

The SOB factor

Today, airports are constantly changing, as are passengers’ demands on the overall customer experience. So much so that Lao believes that the SOB factor – “the Sense of Belonging – may be more paramount in the customer’s mind”.

Passengers’ expectations and anxiety levels might fluctuate depending on the different touch points of their overall journey.

In particular, Lao pointed out the three most critical ones: Departure (outbound), Arrival (inbound), and Transit (connecting). 

As for these three touch points, it was found that passengers have the same common concerns:

  • Location and proximity of bathrooms
  • Bathroom layout and details
  • Walk distance to various points within
  • Clarity of directional signage
  • Diversity of food and beverage offering
  • Interesting shopping experiences
  • Cultural uniqueness
  • Friendliness of various employees or personnel at the airport

Airports are going ‘back to basics’

From these, Lao said that there is an element of returning “back to basics”.  The same also applies to airport employees. 

Airports need to, “strive harder to create more meaningful, more thoughtful designs that touches [their] heart and mind”, making them “feel welcome”, to have the Sense of Belonging,” he said.

To do so, Lao shared his DRIVE effect – which is to treat everyone with:

  • Dignity,
  • Respect,
  • as Individual(s),
  • Valued and with Efficiency.

Jeannie Wong

Jeannie Wong

Head, External Affairs, ACI Asia-Pacific
Jeannie oversees the organization of events, communications, World Business Partners, members services, and capacity building related matters at the Asia-Pacific Regional Office based in Hong Kong. She also serves as secretary to the Regional HR Committee. Previously, Jeannie spent over 16 years managing revenue contracts and then the procurement processes, including sourcing, contract formulation, and tendering of many systems’ contracts for the airport in Hong Kong. Jeannie holds a BBA from Florida International University and an EMBA from the Jack Welch Management Institute.
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