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ACI World director general, Angela Gittens, reflects on the road to success in customer service excellence.

From digital services to tailored experiences, today’s passengers are more knowledgeable and have higher expectations of airports than ever before, meaning that the ones that are best able to meet customer expectations will have an advantage over their competitors.

Like just about every other business, airports must continually improve their service levels in order to thrive in an ever-dynamic environment.

The good news, however, is that airports large and small are making the commitment to provide an excellent customer experience. And ACI is committed to helping airports achieve their goal through a host of Airport Service Quality (ASQ) products and services.

ASQ is the only worldwide programme to survey passengers at the airport on their day of travel. Every year, the programme delivers some 600,000 individual surveys in 42 languages in 85 countries and, in 2017 to date, 46 new airports have joined the programme.

The new additions have grown the total number of ASQ participants to 344 airports, which between them account for 59.9% of global passenger traffic. Indeed, ASQ is present in 74% of the world’s top 100 busiest airports – up 4% since 2016.

This summer, ACI released two new ASQ tools to help airports measure, benchmark and promote customer service excellence: the Employee Survey for Customer Experience (ECE) and the ASQ Arrivals Survey.

Both tools are add-ons to the existing ASQ programme that focuses on the experience of departing passengers.

Like the ASQ Departures Survey, the ASQ Arrivals Survey gives airports the tools they need to improve their passenger service initiatives and the flexibility to adapt the programme through optional services, such as, analysis by terminal, comprehensive insight report and customised extra questions.

The ASQ Arrivals Survey provides the full picture needed to enhance service levels everywhere in the airport, delivering valuable insights on: disembarkation; immigration; baggage reclaim; customs; infrastructure and services; and, passenger profiles.

Once again, the Survey is one-of-a-kind, conducted just after the experience occurs. It is also our first to be delivered in tablet mode so it will be easier for the airport to process.

In addition, airports have learned that to provide customer experience excellence, the entire airport community must be involved. As such, ACI has developed the ECE and the ECE toolkit to support member airports in assessing and improving their engagement with all staff working in an airport.

The ECE is an annual internal diagnostic designed to: understand the level of commitment of airport staff to improving the customer experience; provide a global index; help airports prioritise areas of improvement and support the development of an action plan; and, allow airports to benchmark and share best practices with other participating airports.

Under the umbrella of engaging the entire airport community in customer service excellence, ACI hosted three Forums in 2017 (Haikou, Prague and Detroit) dedicated to ‘Cultivating a customer experience airport community’.

This year’s theme recognised that putting the passenger first is a shared priority among all aviation stakeholders, and ACI will give focus to the role of all members of the airport community in cultivating a culture of customer service excellence.

As evidence of the success airports are having in satisfying the needs of the travelling public, this year the programme celebrates the largest group of ASQ Award winners ever.

We will highlight the achievement at the ASQ Awards Ceremony during the Gala Dinner of the 27th ACI Africa/World Annual General Assembly, Conference and Exhibition. And we will also celebrate the nine airports that have been inducted into the ACI Director General’s Roll of Excellence in 2016 and 2017. The honour goes to those that have ranked in the top five airports by size or region for five of the last six years in the ASQ Survey.

The conference will also have a session entitled, ‘The road to success: learning from the world’s best airports in customer experience’, which will allow delegates to obtain vital lessons directly from winners of the ASQ Awards on how they have built and maintained an excellent customer experience.

To top this off, ACI will also hold a pre-conference customer experience workshop on Monday, October 16, which will feature three components: how and why airports should understand their customers; how they can engage with their community and stakeholders to deliver excellent customer service; and, how to enhance the customer experience through the use of technology.

With a workshop, session and awards ceremony, the 27th Africa/World Annual General Assembly, Conference and Exhibition promises to deliver the tools, strategies and encouragement needed to face passenger expectations, improve service levels and foster a competitive advantage in the years to come.

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