White paper 4 steps to a great passenger experience


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This specific airport-oriented white paper on passenger experience could prove useful in lots of industries, especially when it comes to facility management.

Probably wise to avoid short term profits and focus on long term customer experience improvements.

A whitepaper for airport operations directors

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White paper 4 steps to a great passenger experience

  1. 1. FOUR STEPS TO A GREAT PASSENGER EXPERIENCE (WITHOUT REBUILDING THE TERMINAL) A whitepaper for airport operations directors
  2. 2. Airports are increasingly a service oriented industry – the passenger experience is important Over the past decade, the passenger experience has become an important focus at airports all over the world. A range of external pressures has obliged airports of all kinds to think more carefully about service quality. These pressures include: • directcompetitionforpassengersandnetworkcarriers, eg between hubs or geographically close airports • the need to maximise non-aeronautical revenue • local community pressure, eg promoting the airport to attract local investment • government pressure (particularly for regulated airports) • media pressure (often negative). Need for revenue is driving airport change Probably the most important of these is the drive to maximise non-aeronautical revenue. Most commercial experts agree that improvements in the overall experience tend to improve spend per individual. It is clear that an airport with sufficient budget to build new terminals and create a completely new experience can dramatically improve its passenger satisfaction ratings (although it’s not guaranteed). But most airports are not in this situation. Operations directors are generally facing an uphill battle, having to work with existing facilities and find ways to maintain a sufficient level of service despite increasing traffic. All of this on an ever tighter budget. The happier passengers are, the more they spend Source: DKMA commercial research - 0.8 $ - 0.6 $ - 0.4 $ - 0.2 $ 0.2 $ 0.4 $ 0.6 $ 0.8 $ 1.0 $ -0.06 -0.04 -0.02 0.02 0.04 0.06 0.08 0.10 Increase in non-aeronautical revenue per enplaned passenger (USD) Increase in satisfaction score When satisfaction increases by 0.1 (on a 5 point scale), non- aeronautical revenue per enplaned passenger rises by 0.8 USD DKMA surveys back up this assertion. Our research suggests that on average, an improvement of 0.1 (on a 5 point scale) will lead to an increase in non-aeronautical revenue per enplaned passenger of 0.8 USD. To be successful, airports need to find new ways to get the most out of existing facilities and resources. It is rare to find airports which have been able to transform their experience using the existing facilities. This is due to a lack of understanding of what drives passenger satisfaction. The good news is that for most airports it is possible to significantly improve satisfaction levels without spending much money; by optimising service delivery. Getting the most out of your facilities 1
  3. 3. Why airports struggle to create a great passenger experience Many airports know when they have weaknesses but not how to fix the causes of poor performance A number of benchmark surveys and tools are now being used to compare and contrast airport performance. While these tools can swiftly place an airport compared to its peers, they rarely provide insight into how to improve the passenger experience. This can lead to the extremely frustrating scenario of increasing amounts of data showing flat, or worse, declining performance. Making a noticeable change is difficult Stakeholders, management groups and governments often underestimate how much of a step change is necessary for passengers as a group to notice. Over-hyped levels of expectation are often a recipe for disappointment. In practice it is not unusual for the benefits of a new facility to be dampened by design, penny pinching and implementation issues eg corridors too narrow, insufficient gate seating, drab colour schemes etc. The best airport experiences are based on evolution not revolution It is easy to overlook that the airports with the best passenger experiences are those which have worked intensely over a long period of time to instil excellence and continuously improve all aspects of the airport. High quality facilities are rarely created on a budget and require staff to operate and maintain them at the same high level. A common problem is staff picking up bad habits in an old facility and carrying them over into a brand new facility. 2 Common reasons why airports do not improve the passenger experience The most common reasons airports struggle to improve the passenger experience in existing facilities are: 1. facilities operating over or close to capacity 2. facilities designed for different purposes or aircraft 3. architectural preferences have damaged the ease of use of the facility 4. commercial projects have damaged the ease of use of the facility 5. airline preferences have damaged the ease of use/aesthetics of the facility 6. lack of investment over time leading to maintenance and décor issues 7. quality standards are too low across the airport 8. airport staff are unable to see or appreciate (and hence deal with) everyday problems 9. the airport management overly prioritises operational processes and ignores the passenger experience The first 3 items may well overshadow all other options. Building a new terminal / facility may be the only solution. However for the rest it may be possible to significantly improve the passenger experience without necessarily making large investments. Maximising satisfaction levels is not a question of simply working harder. It takes a step change in how you work.
  4. 4. 3 Think carefully about priorities A common issue seen around the world is airports which have focused on point 4 far more aggressively than 1, 2 and 3. The argument that shops and restaurants bring in much-needed revenue is a seductive one. However we believe that balance is crucial. Damaging the airport experience by overloading the terminal and the wayfinding with shops and restaurants is likely to damage medium to long term revenues as passengers nearly all prefer to first find their gate and only then shop or eat. This means: • Shop and restaurant revenues are reduced as the passengers are stressed and lost • Passengers may prefer to sit at the gate rather than risk getting lost • Passengers may consider using alternative airports in the future The terminal experience matters The world’s top airports such as ICN, SIN and HKG take great care to ensure that their shopping and restaurants do not hinder or obstruct the passenger’s journey to the gate. Lines of sight are carefully protected. These airports have also put a huge amount of effort into maintaining very high standards of cleanliness and Analysis and experience with hundreds of airports around the world has allowed us to identify five broad guidelines for a great airport experience, in order of importance. 1. Focus most on those aspects of the airport that all passengers experience. (Terminal cleanliness and tidiness, maintenance, space, natural light, décor / colour schemes etc) 2. Queues and processes need to be reasonable all the time, not perfect some of the time. Passengers only remember queues which are bad. 3. Passengers need to be able to sit down. Preferably at the gate, but if not then in comfort in the main terminal Understand what creates a great passenger experience tidiness which is noticed by all passengers visiting the airport and makes a very good impression. High standards of maintenance ensure that the facility remains in good condition. Ignore the terminal at your peril Airports with the world’s worst passenger experiences consistentlyfocusonprocessesandqueuestotheexclusion of all else. The mistake here is a lack of understanding of passenger psychology; passengers hate long queues or poorly organized queues and will always mark an airport down for them. However the opposite of a long queue is no queue. Passengers can’t love a queue that doesn’t exist because they don’t notice it; they just have more time to appreciate (or dislike) the terminal. Therefore, airports which focus exclusively on queues and processes but not the terminal, are doomed to have dissatisfied passengers whether their queues are good or bad. Similarly, staff may be an airport’s most important asset, but most airport staff do not have contact with many passengers. Those that do such as security and check-in, generally do not have sufficient time with each passenger to make a consistently great impression – although it is easy to make a bad one. area. Most passengers will not sit at a restaurant or café if they are not purchasing (even if they are theoretically permitted to do so). 4. Shops, restaurants and other distractions may bring in money, but they don’t create a great passenger experience unless guidelines 1 to 3 have been followed first. 5. It is very difficult, and rare for a great airport ambience to be defined by the staff. Staff are an important part of a great experience, but only define it on a few rare or individual occasions. Conversely, it can be possible for staff to define a negative passenger experience.
  5. 5. 4 The solution - optimising the passenger experience Make an honest assessment of your airport The most important part of improving the passenger experience is taking a fresh look at the passenger experience and prioritizing correctly. It is important to achieve excellence in many otherwise mundane activities. The airport needs to understand which aspects need improving and to what level. It often also means stripping out clutter to allow the facility to operate as it was meant to. This means assessing performance in a brutally honest way. It is very common that airport teams find it difficult to do this effectively. Firstly because people are reluctant to criticize colleagues (or management) and secondly because airport staff tend to get used to the status quo. What you see every day becomes the norm and goes unquestioned even if those habits or behaviour would be unacceptable elsewhere. To get around this it may be worthwhile to invite an external organisation to provide an assessment. Focusonpassengerswithproblems,notprioritypassengers Your airport teams need to relearn to see your airport as an occasional flier does, but with the insight of an airport professional. The key is to perform the basics at a very high standard and not to accept poor performance. Frequent fliers (although they are more vocal with criticism) have few problems navigating an airport and tend to spend a lot of time in lounges. Occasional fliers are the ones that tend to experience issues. It is vital to see the problems and issues from the perspective of someone seeing the airport for the first time and adjust accordingly. Basic problems should be fixed, not patched. For example if you have to station staff at decision points to help passengers, your signage is not working and should be changed. 2. Staff pride - giving staff purpose and incentivizing a customer focused frame of mind Create initiatives for lasting change We recommend a systematic approach and creating 4 initiatives. We believe these initiatives are in descending order of importance. By far the most important initiative is the fundamentals of the terminal itself. All passengers see the terminal and make an opinion of it. Therefore getting the basics right is the first step. Second is staff pride, making the staff proud of their airport and ensuring high standards. This includes not just frontline staff, but particularly cleaning and maintenance as their work is on show more than anyone else’s. Shop and restaurant staff are also very important. The processes and queues are obviously a major part of the experience, but only if they are bad… Finally, the first 3 initiatives will make your airport good, but to make it truly special or great, requires something of excellence. There needs to be something that sticks in the mind and gives the impression of uniqueness and quality. This might be shops, restaurants, orchestra, ponds, jungles, spas or a museum. Something has to be genuinely special to stick in the passengers’ minds. It is not a question of ticking a box, but creating a feeling of quality that can influence other aspects and pervade throughout the airport. A sense of place, of local culture can work, but again it must be special and consistent throughout the terminal. Tokenism is easily spotted and forgotten. 1. Terminal interior - light, cleanliness, condition, colours, clutter, consistency 3. Processes / queues - minimizing the negative impact of queues on the passenger experience 4. Touches of excellence - making the passenger experience special and personal
  6. 6. 5 Working smarter, not harder, by understanding the passenger experience There is no one answer to creating a great passenger experience or a great ambience. This is why many airports struggle to make a dramatic change in the passenger experience without building a new facility. There is a tendency to try to work ever harder at the existing business model, but this is unsustainable and tends not to show a great difference. To make a step change in performance, it is necessary to make a step change in approach. This means prioritising effectively, address the fundamental issues first and to a high level and see the airport as your customers do, create an outstanding experience for all different types of passenger, not just those that like to shop. Adopting this frame of mind helps operations directors achieve significant improvements in satisfaction levels without spending a lot of money. And reap the benefits of an increase in non-aeronautical revenue that results from an improved passenger experience. Key questions to answer To underlay these initiatives, some of the key questions that need to be answered are: Vital basics • Does the airport pay enough attention to detail? Everywhere? • Are maintenance and cleaning standards high enough to reach your desired level of service? • Has the airport become untidy and full of clutter? • Has the original design ethos of the airport got lost or confused over time? • Do you need to reassess your standards and management systems? Important • Are your staff operating at the right level for your facility? • Do your staff care enough to go the extra mile and fix problems? • Are there long queues at peak periods? Are passengers stressed? • Do queues exceed the marked areas? • Are the gate areas fit for purpose? • Is the wayfinding easy enough? • Is commercial damaging the passenger experience? The final flourish • Is there a good mix of retail and restaurants? • Are the shops and restaurants different from other airports? • What makes this airport special? For most airports it is possible to significantlyimprovesatisfactionlevels without spending a lot of money.
  7. 7. DKMA Riant-Coteau 9 1196 Gland Switzerland +41 22 354 07 54 www.dkma.com About DKMA DKMA helps over 300 airports around the world identify areas of underperfomance and get the most out of existing facilities; so they can maximise satisfaction levels. DKMA Airport assessments are 3 day visits to an airport to identify quick wins. They are meant for airport operations directors and terminal managers who want to learn what needs to be done to improve satisfaction levels quickly. For more information visit www.dkma.com SERVICE QUALITY ASSESSMENTS & AUDITS For operations directors & terminal managers who want to improve satisfaction levels quickly TRAINING & SERVICE QUALITY ADVISORY For airport leaders who want a detailed strategy for improving satisfaction levels PASSENGER RESEARCH For airports who want to simplify their market research & lower costs Helping airports maximise satisfaction levels