Written by Jeannie Wong, Head, External Affairs, ACI Asia-Pacific
Kicking off ACI’s second annual Customer Experience Global Summit, keynote speaker Vimal Rai, Founder and Managing Director of TRACE Consulting, delivered a captivating message on customer experience and why it matters in passengers’ journeys at airports.
Airports are unique in that they serve a multitude of business networks and customer groups. The one common thread is the people, all of whom have needs, wants, desires and expectations.
Rai retraced how society progressed from the age of industrialization through digitization and IoT. Customers are now much more informed about products and services. They are driven by YOLO and FOMO experiences… you only live once and fear of missing out. It’s one of the contributing factors to LCCs success. Today, customer experience is important for businesses because ‘brands that create extraordinary experiences achieve financial returns more than double the market’.
To help the audience better understand Customer Experience, Rai asked everyone to close their eyes and think back to a most amazing or terrible experience. Did the audience think about the Technology, Data, Department or Process? Likely not. And that was the very point he was making. Businesses often approach customer experience efforts with Technology, Data, Department or Process.
The reality is, people most remember a customer experience by the interaction (either between two humans or between a human and inanimate object), emotion and outcome, with outcome being the most important. “People will forget the things you do, and people will forget the things you say. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
The audience was also reminded to consider how the brain functions. Good or bad experiences are firstly determined by emotion, and customers do not always think or behave logically. People remember an experience by the way they felt at the start, climax (or special moments), and the end, the last feeling they walk away with.
Rai gave the audience much to contemplate on but in particular, he offered a new blueprint for the future of Customer Experience comprised of three pillars: Purpose, People and Product; focusing in particular on Purpose and People.
Rai also made an interesting observation and noted that airports’ purpose of being and mission statements inspire and motivate. However, the statements often focus only on the airport itself, with just 10% surveyed mentioning their staff. The customer service landscape has changed dramatically over the years but the human resource paradigm has not. If staff are expected to provide better customer experience, then those with the highest amount of face time with customers need to be given more and better training.
With respect to People, Rai highlighted three areas to focus on: Culture, Metrics and Going the Extra Mile. He said “… remember HEARTware not hardware. Customers don’t really care how fast you process them, they want to remember how they were treated and how they felt”.
Customers want to be able to tell stories of their experience. Inspiration mattered, what’s in it for the customer? Businesses (and airports) need to find or create opportunities for better customer experience. “Everything that cannot be digitized and automated will become extremely valuable.”