Baggage carousel at Kuala Lumpur International Airport; Baggage carousel at Kuala Lumpur International Airport;

Customer experience is vital for airports

In an increasingly competitive market, I think that airports that give passengers the best experience will win out over their rivals.

Today, passengers can choose where to fly from and airports like Heathrow and Schiphol are competing against each other. With similar prices and destinations, it’s increasingly coming down to the customers’ experience.

Make catching a flight seamless, and people will come back to your airport. But give them a stressful start to their holiday, and they’re likely to look elsewhere next time. This is what airports like Changi in Singapore realise, and it’s why they’re focussed on providing excellent service.

So how do you give passengers experience? You do absolutely everything you can to make the process less stressful – from the beginning of the journey to the airport to the moment the plane takes off.

First of all you need a pleasant airport environment. That’s also important as airport operators look to maximise income from retail, because passengers will spend more if they’re relaxed and comfortable.

However, great customer experience isn’t just about expensive new terminal buildings. Processes behind the scenes are just as important and well-organised logistics can make a world of difference.

You can get improvements from fairly minor changes. For example, scheduling waste collections during quiet periods ensures refuse trucks don’t get in the way of passengers arriving at the airport or block their views of signage.

The availability of trolleys is another simple thing to tackle, although it’s often overlooked. As a passenger, you want trolleys there when you need them and cleared away when you don’t.

How many times do you find the top or bottom of an escalator blocked by a trolley someone’s dumped there because they haven’t known what to do with it? Improving the process you use to distribute and clear away trolleys can fix this sort of thing.

Yet process is something that’s often overlooked during the design stage. Designing in consolidation centres, for example, enables operators to fit more retail space into the airport by freeing up space that was previously needed for storage.

Consolidation centres also enable retail staff to spend less time fetching and carrying and more time concentrating on customers. And because you can use electric vehicles to distribute goods from the consolidation centres, they’re good for the airport environment too.

So as airports around the world find themselves increasingly constrained, I’m sure that improving their processes will help them become more efficient and offer a better experience for passengers.