The changing airport personas
Ekelem Airhihen, a trained mediator, chartered accountant, certified finance and IT consultant, certified in policy and public leadership, and an airport customer experience specialist, has an MBA from the Lagos Business School. He is a member, ACI Airport Non-aeronautical Revenue Activities Committee; and is certified in design and implementation of KPI for airports. He can be reached on email@example.com and +2348023125396 (WhatsApp only)
March 27, 2023257 views0 comments
Though the taste of the pudding is in the eating, as a popular saying goes; yet a lot of skill and effort goes into its preparation. This can be applied to the passenger facilitation process. Beyond new and beautiful terminals and other airport infrastructure, the feelings or emotions of the travellers as they come into the airport and pass through are fundamental to the future revenue earning capacity of an airport.
One key to rendering great customer service is to be conscious of the fact that people do not just want to be processed. They do have a longing to feel connected. To meet this need the operators of an airport need to take a 360-degree look around their airport and its community. Look at the possible linkage between rail, road and sea. Look at the cultural and even religious themes around the airport. These help create the kind of connectedness customers seek when they are harnessed and incorporated into the customer experience. Towards the last quarter of the year in Nigeria for instance, religious activities are rife with people coming into Lagos for various worship experiences. Airline managers have talked about passengers seeking to have a feel of more than one worship experience when they arrive in Lagos. I still remember the passion with which a taxi driver got me to visit Nehru’s Place and Bahai Faith Centre in New Delhi, India a few years ago.
To be able to call up an emotional connection requires the same passion from those who provide the service. They need to, as it were, “walk in the shoes of the passenger” to appreciate their needs. A requirement for being able to do so is to appreciate the personas of the airport passengers. Being able to walk in the shoes of the passenger assists airport staff – from front line staff to top managers – develop empathy and gain a new level of insight that will help improve and raise the customer experience.
It does appear obvious that the pandemic has made irreversible changes to the aviation experience. On the path of customer experience there have been many positive changes. These changes have leveraged technology to create a more seamless passenger experience. Some technologies have advanced at a more rapid pace than anticipated such that not only are there touchless experiences in the airport environment, regulations are also being reconsidered as we see in the carriage of liquids, aerosols and gels. Areas of touchless experience are: check -in, security processing, boarding and customs/immigration.
Beyond technology there have been advances in the way airports communicate and collaborate with their stakeholders that positively impacts on the customer experience.
A new travel normal has also emerged post Covid-19. This has thrown up the need to take another look at the airport passenger, rank their priorities while watching and recording their attitudes and behaviours as they travel by air. This will lead the airport to rework the set of personas of the passengers in their quest to understand their customers. They can now add more qualitative attributes along socio-demographic, psychographic and behavioural data collected on the passengers. In so doing the airport gains a fuller perspective of a typical “fictional” passenger. Their personality and values are made to come to life so that products and services can be customised to improve the travel experience of the passenger as well as the customer experience.
In developing personas three key questions will need to be answered namely: Who are the key segments of the airport? How does the airport empathise with them? How can the airport understand their needs?
To gain an understanding of key segments will require collating and analysing existing data. Demographic information collected will help identify the nature of the travellers. Business partners, airport, census bureau are possible sources of information in this regard that will provide what is needed for the next step of creating preliminary segmentation of passengers.
Empathising with customers will again require data gathering to better understand the needs and motivations of customers. Stakeholder workshops, customer interviews among others are tools that help identify expectations common to specific groups of customers. So, based on needs and desires expressed by passengers, unique personas can then be developed.
Now to “walk in the shoes of the passenger” will help appreciate the needs of the passengers. This calls for mapping the journey of the passenger – usually from curb to gate. The aim is to create a journey map which identifies key touch points and then develops targeted interventions to address identified pain points.
One salient point to be kept in mind is that passenger personas are not static. They need to be continuously tracked by airports. The Airports Council International, which is the voice of the world’s airports, has had a list of personas such as Friendly vacationer, Airport Enthusiast, Sunlounge Tourist, Value Seeker, Time Keeper and Workman.
Some other research produced Covid era personas and now after the pandemic, there have been post-Covid personas.
Airports in Africa will need to leverage on these research findings to develop the personas peculiar to each airport as appreciating these passenger personas is key to improved customer experience and growing airport revenues sustainably.
business a.m. commits to publishing a diversity of views, opinions and comments. It, therefore, welcomes your reaction to this and any of our articles via email: firstname.lastname@example.org