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What is customer service? According to one presenter at the conference, who quoted Walt Disney “customer service excellence is achieved when you do something so well for the customer that they want to receive it again and bring their friends with them.”
Walt Disney’s wisdom was not lost at this year’s ACI Asia Pacific World Annual General Assembly in Seoul, Korea – which also saw the launch of our airport IT whitepaper, IT makes sense to share.
Creating an exceptional customer experience was seen as key to the aviation industry's success moving forward and a number of airport representatives and travel players from other sectors were on hand to discuss the increasing importance of providing a positive experience for travellers.
Seoul’s Incheon International Airport’s Kwang-Soo Lee likened managing an airport to being an orchestra conductor – in that an airport needs all players working in alignment for collaboration. Lee said that Incheon was built to bring the customer experience to the next level with the slogan ‘One spirit, one airport’.
Lee went on to mention that Incheon was created around values that all airports can share such as safety, speed and convenience. Establishing shared goals with employees, which includes hosting airport family days along with other incentives and setting high targets to improve departure and arrival times along with implementing a strong execution channel were also key factors in improving customer experience according to Lee. One point was clear and could be the reason behind Incheon’s consistently high ranking; airports need to incentivise and treat their employees well, as employees are one of the fundamental jewels in the crown for airports.
The conference also highlighted emerging airport trends. Customers are changing; they’ve become interactive with their travel experiences and are concerned with safety more than ever before. The evolution of the airport from a transport hub to being a centre of ‘Airtainment’ – where travellers can have a fun experience was also a topic of discussion.
DFS – a luxury goods retailer/duty free provider reiterated the importance of shopping as an essential part of the customer experience and a crucial success factor for airports. This notion echoed Head of Amadeus Airport IT John Jarrell’s recent presentation at the Passenger Terminal Conference in Barcelona, where he stated that ‘happy airports make more money’.
Of particular interest at the event was the discussion about the rise of cyber security threats and the challenges they raise for the airport industry. Technology is moving much faster than the regulations and laws in place to help the industry stave off such threats according to one of the guest speakers. It became clear at the conference that cooperation amongst airport and industry players is key to empower employees with training in anti-cyber-attack techniques. Customer experience was key here too; taking care of cyber security and keeping it under control ultimately leads to enhanced customer intimacy.
Collaboration, specifically ACDM (Airport Collaborative Decision Making) and the implications it has for the airport industry, was discussed by Eurocontrol and underlined the importance of bringing all players together which ultimately leads to improved customer experiences. Today about 11 airports are running on ACDM in Europe and airports in Singapore and the Middle East are also about to join the bandwagon. As a number of speakers noted, changing the culture in the aviation industry to one that embraces ACDM wholeheartedly is the hardest step, but this is gradually shifting.
Were you at the event? What were your takeaways?