Airport World editor, Joe Bates, reflects on how the aviation industry’s attitudes towards customer service and the airport experience have changed over the years.
Never ending journey
Arguably one of the easiest ways of showing how airport attitudes towards customer service have changed over the years is the fact that today an ever-increasing number of gateways now refer to visitors as their ‘guests’ rather than passengers or customers.
It is felt that embracing the word more commonly associated with the hospitality and entertainment industries – Disney has used the word guest for decades – implies a higher level of service, accountability, and attention to the wants and needs of visitors.
And the word can help change the mindset of staff for the better, too, as Butterfly Consulting’s Joanne Paternoster told Airport World in late 2017: “We think of guests differently than customers and that can lead to hosting them better as well. If we change the way we speak, we will change the way we think and the way we act, and ultimately that will influence how we genuinely connect emotionally with others.”
Indeed, such has been the transformation in customer service delivery over the last 10 to 15 years that an even greater number of airports now employ staff 100% dedicated to ensuring that visitors enjoy a smooth, safe and enjoyable journey through their facilities.
These range from staff working at Information Desks and airport ambassadors who roam the terminals actively looking for passengers to help, to senior managers whose role is solely to look at ways of increasing customer satisfaction levels and ensuring a better airport experience for all.
The commitment has led to the introduction of job titles such as ‘customer experience manager’; ‘chief experience officer’ and ‘service standards officer’ at airports as they strive to do better in terms of the facilities and services they offer and reduce the hassle of travel.
And as we all know, happy passengers tend to spend more money in airport shops and F&B outlets than unhappy ones, so there are also economic rewards for those airports that go the extra mile in terms of customer service. The point was echoed by ACI World’s business development and customer care (ASQ) manager, Sevda Fevzi, when moderating a customer experience panel discussion at the recent SMART Airports & Regions Conference in El Paso, Texas.
You can read more about her panel’s discussions – speakers included Los Angeles World Airports’ chief experience officer, Barbara Yamamoto, and San Antonio International Airport’s chief customer experience officer, Karen Ellis – and the SMART Airports & Regions Conference, in the next edition of Airport World.
However, in the ‘customer service’ themed section of this issue we have features about the benefits of joining ACI World’s ASQ Arrivals programme; the enabling power of IT; the ambience enhancing ability of fragrances; and accommodating passengers with reduced mobility.
Our special report also contains articles about Bali airport’s ASQ success; the use of smiley HappyorNot kiosks at airports; a snapshot of some retail/F&B initiatives in Australia; and the importance of not forgetting the key role staff still play in the airport experience.
Elsewhere in the magazine we catch up with some of the latest passenger facilitation initiatives and F&B trends; learn more about how GA gateways can become economic development engines for their surrounding communities; and we share details of a new White Paper by KONE.
Our main airport feature is on Munich, where president and CEO, Dr Michael Kerkloh, candidly discusses the growth and development of his airport and its international business interests.
We also hear from ACI World director general, Angela Gittens, who talks about the benefits of the new Airport Customer Experience Accreditation programme; cover human resources in our regular ‘People matters’ column; and discover the latest industry news on our World Business Partner pages. Another cracking issue, I hope you agree!