Over the last decade, in an increasingly competitive market, airports have prioritized providing an exceptional experience to their customers.
Customer experience management is the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations. Increasing customer satisfaction leads to brand loyalty and advocacy, which in turn enhances revenues.
More specifically, “airport customer experience” can be defined as the sum of all the interactions that a passenger has with the airport community. It refers to how the customer perceives its interaction with an airport throughout their journey through it.
Since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, this focus on listening to customers has stood airports in good stead in adapting their offering to suit changing needs and expectations.
Experience is about emotion.
A customer that travels through an airport from ‘kerb to gate’ with a positive emotional response has had their needs and expectations met and will feel their journey has been effortless.
So, airports will try to build and deliver on a brand promise by constantly delivering a good experience over time that meets customer expectations. This has become ever more important as airports have sought to adapt their offering in response to COVID-19.
Passengers want a safe, hygienic experience and those airports that have heeded that message to adopt health and safety measures that provide reassurance will help to reduce the stress of travel during the pandemic.
Airports are sophisticated, multi-layered, complex operations, and are like mini-cities. In this context, a customer’s experience will be the outcome of the work of a lot of different stakeholders within the airport complex.
Moreover, each passenger has a specific set of needs and expectations based on past experience with airports and other industries and their own background. Added to this the current context of COVID-19 and it is clear that meeting the needs of customers is not a simple process.
Experiences must be built around emotions by prioritizing key moments in the passenger journey.
In order to do this and deliver an experience exceeding customer expectations, it is very important for all involved parties across the airport to have a common view of the overall objective delivering the experience for passengers and work together hand-to-hand according to a plan.
As airports begin to navigate a potential recovery from COVID-19 and prepare for sustained operations, there are a number of questions that they can ask to ensure they adapt their customer experience to the changing needs of passengers:
To guide airports in answering these questions, ACI’s Airport Customer Experience Model includes eight key domains including collaboration, culture, innovation, and understanding.
The Airport Customer Experience Model framework allows to structure Airport Experience Management in a better way and can be implemented by using Airport Customer Experience Accreditation.
Engaged airport employees – and those of airport partners and stakeholders – are one of the most valuable assets in delivering the best customer experience and must be central to any management plan.
Investing in employees, breaking the operational silos, and implementing a more structured approach to this work – lays the foundation for a better airport experience.
The key for management is to help employees become advocates and great leaders who engage colleagues to improve the end-to-end customer journey.
An airport customer experience leader is like a maestro within an orchestra which means they need some basic knowledge about the following disciplines:
ACI can help airports to invest in their employees through the ACES (Airport Customer Experience Specialist) Professional Designation by providing the foundational knowledge of how to design, build, and implement a customer experience strategy for airports.