How airport technology boosts customer satisfaction
Up to 70% of air passengers carry a smartphone or tablet with them, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone to hear that mobile sets to play an increasingly vital role in airport technology for improving customer experience and customer satisfaction levels.
Instead of seeing mobile as an opportunity for advertising, app sales or other direct revenue generation, airport operators are coming to realise that the efficiencies and cost savings of mobile technology have a far greater impact on their bottom line.
Improving customer experience takes many forms: from deluxe departure lounges to mobile device charging stations and faster progress through the airport. The concept of the ‘destination airport’ is growing in power as operators look for ways to differentiate themselves from other nearby airports.
Here at e3, we’ve considered some key mobile opportunities we think airports should look to explore:
(1) Make free Wi-Fi easy to access
Free Wi-Fi is the minimum expectation of many airport users. But if an airport’s free wi-fi is patchy, requires ID information before you can log in, or is simply stuffed with too many advertisements, the poor customer experience outweighs any benefit of the Wi-Fi facility. A recent Skyscanner survey highlights that despite 96% of European travellers believing that airports should provide free wi-fi, just two of the biggest are offering the service.
(2) Self-service now starts at home
Self-service is a huge time saver and efficiency boost for airports. At United’s $170 million Terminal B at Boston Logan International Airport, passengers can check themselves in, weigh and tag their own luggage, drop their bags at a luggage point, print their own boarding passes, scan them at the boarding gate and board the plane without assistance.
Some airports are going one step further in the bid to save time for passengers by moving baggage tagging away from the airport and to the home. Last year, Alaska Airlines became the first US airline to introduce this service, allowing passengers to print their tags at home and place in a plastic bag tag holder, which can either be picked up at the airport or posted.
Border control is also a key opportunity for mobile self-serve. In the US. mobile passport control is currently being trialled, with a view to rolling out to the 20 busiest airports by the end of 2016. And Brisbane airport have just launched digital departure cards allowing passengers to enter personal info via a mobile app prior to arrival at the airport - generating a QR code, which is scanned at dedicated kiosks.
Growing numbers of passengers, particularly Millennials, are demonstrating their preference for the immediacy of self-service. So give them what they want – or rather, let them help themselves to it. One key point to note here: this is not an excuse to cut the number of agents available at the airport. Instead, self-service frees agents to deliver a better experience for passengers who need or choose human interaction.
(3) Wayfinding and contextual information
Even experienced travellers can be disoriented by the time they reach the third airport of their journey. And for first-time flyers or customers with special needs, an app that provides relevant wayfinding information helping passengers move around the terminal and locate conveniences and facilities can be indispensable.
At Helsinki Airport, passengers are tracked by iBeacons sensing smartphone Wi-Fi, from the moment the passenger enters the car park to the moment they pass through the boarding gate. A mobile app tells connected airport users what facilities are available at their current location in the terminal; it could also deliver contextual advertising and promotional offers based on your location and proximity to retailers and service providers. In addition to this, iBeacons also provide real-time passenger flow management capabilities.
(4) Equip agents with technology
Mobile devices don’t have to be in the passengers’ hands to make an impact on customer experience. Delta Air Lines gives its staff handheld devices to keep them connected to up-to-date information. The airline also plans to roll out several innovations including information for flight attendants on passengers who have special needs or might warrant special treatment — from minors travelling unaccompanied - to a traveller who’s upset because his original flight was cancelled.
These technologies are just a high level view of what’s happening right now in airport innovation. As the travel industry places a high emphasis on customer satisfaction, we should expect to see increasing adoption of mobile tech in airports globally in 2015.