The business criticality of the passenger experience
I was recently reading a research report published by Airports Council International (ACI) on passenger satisfaction, and it made me think that train stations, bus stations/shelters, and the journeys themselves could all do with a similarly in-depth audit and best-practice summary…
In the meantime, what can we learn from the research already conducted on airports?
ACI’s report shows that the comfort of waiting areas at airport gates is a crucial overall driver of customer satisfaction, with obvious elements having a direct impact on comfort including:
- availability of seats
- Wi-Fi access
- electrical socket access
- and clean washrooms.
It also highlighted more intangible variables that impact customer satisfaction, such as:
- air quality
- amount of light
- level of crowding
- ambient noise
- ambient temperature.
Architectural features should also be considered, as things like the terminal envelope, space for seating areas, walking paths, floor surfaces and ornamentation all played a role in the passenger’s perception and experience of the airport environment.
The report states that the “most successful airports in providing comfort in waiting areas provide soothing environments such as smaller lounges and quiet zones”. Indeed, it seems the keys are to create a space that helps all passengers feel relaxed and comfortable, to set and reset accurate expectations with clear and concise communications, and to influence passenger perception in a way that is favourable.
I noticed when switching from Apple to Microsoft, for instance, that although my Mac took longer to load, loading times felt shorter because animations were used to reassure me that something was happening in the background – a reassurance that I didn’t get from my Microsoft computer.
When considering passenger experience, the key service attributes that Dublin airport is exploring are similar to the ACI’s and include:
- feeling safe and secure
- ease of finding one’s way around
- placement and clarity of information screens
- required walking distances
- ease of making connections
- courtesy and helpfulness of staff
- eating and shopping facilities and their value for money
- quality of internet access
- availability and cleanliness of washrooms
- comfort of waiting areas
- and cleanliness of the airport terminal.
The airport assesses these factors continually, and adapts its priorities for improvement over time as required; a basic practice that all transport organisations could benefit from.
Dublin airport also has a Disability Users Group who have ongoing contact throughout the year and meet annually to make sure that facilities and services are accessible and inclusive. As an outcome of these meetings, Dublin airport has introduced such interventions as:
- tactile flooring
- use of iconography and pictograms
- familiarisation tours
- relief rooms for assistance dogs
- and sensory pods.
These aren’t just niceties; the fact of the matter is that passenger experience is business critical…
- It has a direct impact on customer satisfaction, loyalty and repeat business. A positive passenger experience can encourage customers to return and even recommend your services to others.
- It can affect your company’s reputation and brand image. Negative reviews or experiences shared on social media platforms can spread quickly, causing damage to your brand’s image and reducing customer trust.
- It can open up untapped markets. By taking steps to ensure your services and passenger experience are inclusive, accessible and welcoming to a wide variety of customers, you can attract new ones who may have previously felt excluded or ignored.
- It can lead to operational improvements. A focus on passenger experience can also help reduce waiting times, improve communication, and shape more efficient processes. All of which can ultimately benefit your bottom line.
If you’re interested in starting your passenger experience journey, or could do with some support on your pre-existing passenger experience plan, feel free to get in touch. I’m always happy to chew over any challenges with you.