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Evaluating the Traveler's Perspective to Improve the Airport Customer Experience (2021)

Chapter: Chapter 7 - Application of Findings

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 7 - Application of Findings." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Evaluating the Traveler's Perspective to Improve the Airport Customer Experience. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26222.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 7 - Application of Findings." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Evaluating the Traveler's Perspective to Improve the Airport Customer Experience. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26222.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 7 - Application of Findings." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Evaluating the Traveler's Perspective to Improve the Airport Customer Experience. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26222.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 7 - Application of Findings." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Evaluating the Traveler's Perspective to Improve the Airport Customer Experience. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26222.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 7 - Application of Findings." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Evaluating the Traveler's Perspective to Improve the Airport Customer Experience. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26222.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 7 - Application of Findings." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Evaluating the Traveler's Perspective to Improve the Airport Customer Experience. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26222.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 7 - Application of Findings." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Evaluating the Traveler's Perspective to Improve the Airport Customer Experience. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26222.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 7 - Application of Findings." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Evaluating the Traveler's Perspective to Improve the Airport Customer Experience. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26222.
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152 Application of Findings 7.1 Overview Previous chapters have outlined the traveler’s perspective along with providing guidelines for improving airport customer experiences, which airports may tailor according to their needs. Implementation practices depend on available resources such as budget, staffing and volunteers, time, and each airport’s unique environment. Knowing the targeted passenger segments and the desired outcomes can enable airports to identify the most relevant research findings. It is difficult to identify the potential costs of implementation because every airport is different in terms of infrastructure, capital improvement projects, and available staffing and budget to support needed changes. Additionally, regional costs for construction and personnel differ widely. Implementation will usually be staged in phases starting with the elements that can most improve the traveler’s perceptions, are easiest to implement, and will have the greatest impact on the customer experience or the greatest return on investment. Figure 80 summarizes the key concepts, tools, and methodologies introduced in this Guidebook and provides a roadmap for implementation to enhance the customer experience. 7.2 Key Practices for Implementation Airports are evolving. Novel features and designs are incorporated into terminals to enlarge and enhance the airport experience; changes are also happening regarding how airports manage and utilize people, processes, and technology to meet business needs and customers’ growing demands. There are several key practices related to the overall customer experience that are increasingly embraced by airports. The following subsections present these key practices that should be considered as part of implementing customer experience plans and programs. 7.2.1 Test Big and Small Ideas Before Implementing Them Testing a concept before implementing it can help avoid wasting capital investment (by test- ing on a smaller scale) and reduce the risk that the concept will not contribute to enhancing the customer experience. 7.2.2 Enhance Collaboration with Business Partners and Stakeholders Closer collaboration among the airport, its business partners, and stakeholders is needed to deliver the personalized and seamless experience desired by today’s travelers. Research suggests that most travelers do not distinguish between responsible parties for the quality of C H A P T E R 7

Figure 80. Roadmap for implementation.

154 Evaluating the Traveler’s Perspective to Improve the Airport Customer Experience services—whether it is airlines, the TSA, CBP, concessionaires, or airport management. Creat- ing a seamless experience, therefore, requires the airport to work more closely with its business partners. The following discusses opportunities to enhance collaboration between the airport and its business partners and stakeholders: • Improve communication: – Create a committee composed of representatives from key business partners and stakeholders and hold regularly scheduled (ideally monthly) meetings. Most airports hold monthly or quar- terly meetings with their business partners to address ongoing issues. However, a joint meet- ing with key business partners and relevant stakeholders can help break up silos among key players. Regular meetings help improve communication, identify issues that cascade down the chain, and generate innovative ideas and solutions to identified problems. – Share information received from comment cards, surveys, focus groups, website commen- tary, observations by employees and volunteers, social media, and other customer feedback with all business partners. Issues that are identified need to be shared with a “no-fault” mentality and a focus on creating a positive environment for changes needed within the airport team, concession tenants, subcontractors, and/or business partners. – Airports should use regularly scheduled meetings, electronic communication, or regular reports to share information on upcoming projects, construction disruptions, and changes in staff assignments that affect tenants, business partners, and/or subcontractors. (Image source: Schiphol.nl) [ ]

Application of Findings 155   • Provide incentives to improve performance: – Include business partners in quarterly and annual rewards and recognition programs and be receptive to their suggestions and comments. – Provide amenities and services in response to needs expressed by the staff of business partners, such as break rooms. – Schedule cultural events and activities to improve teamwork and collaboration among business partners. • Initiate joint data collection. Utilize joint surveys or focus groups to collect data from trav- elers about their experience throughout the journey to identify possible solutions and/or opportunities for collaboration to enhance the experience at various journey points. This may include, for example, a survey on which mode of communication travelers most prefer (airport app, airline app, text messaging, emails, and so forth) to determine joint solutions to address identified needs (such as an agnostic platform to share real-time information related to the app). • Collaborate on initiatives to enhance the customer experience. Use existing meetings or schedule new meetings with airline representatives to discuss initiatives for improving ser- vices (such as wheelchair service, queuing, and so forth) and providing more accurate and consistent information to travelers. • Initiate unified customer service standards and joint training. In order for the traveler to have a seamless customer experience, customer interfacing must be standardized, i.e., all staff at the airport should work under a set of unified standards of customer service. Collaborating on joint training initiatives creates an opportunity for the traveler to receive a standardized level of customer service. • Include all airport employees and volunteers in engagement surveys. Including employees and volunteers in addition to staff employed directly by the airport in employee engagement surveys will provide a holistic picture of the airport work environment and support planning and programming to meet identified needs. (Image source: Northstar, Peel Halton, & GTAA, 2019) 7.2.3 Move Toward More Integrated Use of Data Airports are increasingly expected to consider and use multiple sources of data—data on equipment, facilities, systems, employees, and customers (see Figure 81). Although data might be collected, analyzed, and acted on by different departments, the emerging trend is toward synthesizing these various sources of data to allow departments to share data insights (for instance, through a centralized data management system). Integrating insights from different

156 Evaluating the Traveler’s Perspective to Improve the Airport Customer Experience data sources enables different departments to collaborate, maximize efforts, and jointly enhance the customer experience. This integration also allows airports to see how changes in one domain can influence changes in others. Thus, an integrated data system can allow airports to recognize the best ways to utilize current data in decision making, identify areas in need of future data collection efforts, and be instrumental in solving complicated customer experience issues. In the post-COVID-19 environment, using a data-driven approach can help the airport bet- ter implement and adhere to the guidelines provided by analyzing passenger arrivals, queuing times, processing times, and so forth. More airports are recognizing the importance of data by identifying key personnel to cham- pion these efforts. However, how the data system is owned and managed will ultimately depend on the needs and capacity of individual airports. No matter where an organization is in its data collection effort, the key is to start with what is available and build from there. 7.2.4 A Stronger Focus on People More Systematic Alignment of Talent Management Practices to Support Customer Experience Goals To enhance both the employee and the customer experience, the entire talent management system needs to be viewed more holistically, and various people practices (e.g., recruitment, selection, training, and performance management) need to be more closely aligned to meet organizational objectives. The mission, vision, and values of the airport should be emphasized throughout the talent management process to create a unique brand while customer experience is likely to become more prominent in airport objectives and strategic goals. When properly aligned, various talent management practices tend to reinforce each other in supporting customer experience goals. For instance, customer experience training can provide employees the necessary knowledge and skills, performance evaluations can motivate employees to display the desired customer service behaviors on the job, and succession planning can ensure that leaders with a strong customer focus move up the ladder. Figure 82 illustrates the systematic alignment of various talent management practices to support customer experience goals. Since time and effort are needed to systematically enhance the whole talent management system, air- ports are encouraged to start by addressing and aligning a few selected components to enhance organizational outcomes. Figure 81. Various airport data sources.

Application of Findings 157   Championing the Talent Management Effort at Higher Levels of the Organization Proper alignment of various talent management practices can drive and reinforce desired changes within the organization. The alignment and management efforts often need to come from the top, and as a result, more airports are expected to elevate the role of human resources, appointing executive-level personnel to lead these efforts. The executive championing the talent management effort will need to stay informed of current challenges and customer concerns, see the big picture, and exert influence in action implementation and change efforts. 7.2.5 More Culturally Competent Airports To move toward being a more culturally competent airport • Prepare for the needs of diverse passengers. Airports that think about what future pas- sengers will look like, and what their needs will be, will have a competitive advantage in preparation for the emerging business needs and will be in a better position to increase their business growth and profitability. Successful organizations tend to approach culture from a broad perspective. In addition to meeting the needs of customers of diverse nationalities, airports should consider the needs of customers of different ages and genders, customers from various geographic locations, customers who have diverse occupations, and customers with a variety of health conditions. Airports that attend to the expectations of each of these segments differently are also likely to adopt more innovative solutions with the help of technology and a higher level of cultural competence. Plans may be staged as the passenger traffic changes and new goals are established to meet their needs. • Increase staff diversity. To better understand, prepare for, and meet the needs of diverse passengers, airports should also strive for more diversity and inclusion among their employees. Serving the growing diversity of customer segments requires a continued emphasis on hiring a diverse workforce. Leaders in the aviation and airport industries have recently restated the importance of working on the diversity gap at the workplace, and this trend will continue to provide airports with business competitiveness in the future (Saraogi, 2019). Figure 82. An example of how various talent management practices can systematically enhance customer experience.

158 Evaluating the Traveler’s Perspective to Improve the Airport Customer Experience • Focus on cultural competency. The increase in diversity in the airport workforce and cus- tomer segments may lead to different points of view and may bring challenges in interper- sonal interactions among co-workers and between workers and customers (see Figure 83). Airports are already one of the most globalized workplaces, and the increased emphasis on customer experience requires airport employees to be culturally competent in order to effec- tively interact with diverse others. Many airports are already providing their staff training in cultural awareness and cultural competence, and this trend is expected to intensify. Cultural competency is forecasted by the Institute for the Future to be one of the most important 10 skills needed for the future, and this is especially true in the airport industry. 7.2.6 More Customer-Centered Designs to Enhance Customer Experience Identification and Presentation of the Airport’s Unique Features Incorporating localized or personalized components into the airport environment to show- case its uniqueness is not a new trend, but this trend is expected to intensify in the future (Ali & Kim, 2016). With the expansion in the functionality of airports and increased competition among nearby locations, airports will continue to be driven by a need to brand themselves with unique identities to better bond with their customers. Airport designs that reflect the culture of the region can create a sense of uniqueness, make the airport experience more memorable and meaningful, and elicit higher levels of customer delight. Unique features can also enable an airport to communicate its identity as an organization and its values, fostering stronger connec- tions with its customers. Changes in the Servicescape to Enhance Customer Perceptions, Behaviors, and Emotions Emotions are key drivers of behavior and have been shown to influence customer information processing, behavior responses, and satisfaction (Hume & Mort, 2010). To improve travelers’ experience at the airport, airports need to take a more human-centered approach and consider the influence of the social and physical environment on customer emotions and behaviors in airport design and operations. Research has repeatedly confirmed the critical role of various areas of the airport servicescape in enhancing travelers’ positive emotions and satisfaction (Moon & Yoon, 2015; Ali & Kim, 2016; Bogicevic et al., 2016). Layout, comfort, signage, architecture, color, shape, patterns, and styles of design have all been linked to eliciting positive emotions among travelers (Jeon & Kim, 2012). Similarly, travelers have responded with positive emotions when they perceived an air- port to be safe (e.g., visible safety signs, fire equipment, and hazard detectors). More recently, the number, appearance, and behavior of other travelers and service personnel (i.e., social factors) have been found to evoke both positive and negative emotions among passengers (Ali & Kim, 2016; Jeon & Kim, 2012; Moon & Yoon, 2015). Figure 83. Moving toward more culturally competent airports.

Application of Findings 159   Table 14 summarizes the guidelines presented throughout this report related to the airport servicescape and the rationale for each guideline in terms of improving the behaviors, percep- tion, or experience of the traveling public. Airports throughout the world are engaged in trying to understand the motivation and per- spectives of their travelers. The customer journey, beginning before arrival at the airport and ending at arrival at a final destination, involves many organizations—the airport operator, air- port business partners and service providers, federal agencies, and the airport community. Any experience inside or outside the airport operator’s control may diminish the positive experi- ence of the customer traveling through the airport to his/her destination. Understanding the traveler’s needs throughout the airport allows the airport to identify how to best address them internally or in collaboration with its business partners. As U.S. airports strive to redesign the airport experience through terminal expansion, archi- tectural renovation, and amenity improvements, taking a customer-centered approach and rethinking the airport experience through the customers’ perspective will enhance the overall customer experience. Increase nature settings in the airport terminal. Use dim warm light in airport areas (e.g., customs, TSA) where interpersonal conflicts and negotiations could take place. Adopt multiple approaches to help passengers navigate the terminal building. Traditional maps, interactive virtual maps, and in-person directional help should be made available in the terminal. Use warm color lightings and accent lights in retail stores to attract attention and encourage buying behaviors. Create a perception of more personal space in passenger waiting areas by putting physical barriers, such as small tables, other furniture, and props (e.g., plants, signs, and charging stations) in between individual seats. Enhance passengers’ sense of attachment to the airport terminal by providing signage and resources in different languages and easy access to multilingual, cross-culturally competent staff. Enhance passenger areas with artwork, clocks, charging stations, and water fountains. People tend to perceive that less time has passed when in nature settings versus urban settings. Research found that green elements in the environment reduce the likelihood of individuals engaging in aggressive behaviors (Poon et al., 2016). Studies found that using dim warm light could facilitate conflict resolution and relieve negative emotions or anxiety (Kombeiz, Steidle, & Dietl, 2017). Spatial ability to navigate a physical environment varies greatly across individuals depending on their age, gender, cognitive ability, familiarity with the building, etc. (Allison & Redhead, 2017; Nowak et al., 2015). For instance, wayfinding abilities decline as people age. It could be more challenging for elderly passengers to learn the terminal layout than it is for younger adults (Muffato, Meneghetti, & DeBeni, 2016). Multiple sources of navigation help should be made available to passengers. In-person directional help is more effective for elderly passengers, passengers with disabilities, or those with poor spatial orientation skills. Interactive maps that allow passengers to actively explore the terminal building virtually could be more attractive to younger or more tech-savvy travelers. Retail space lighting sets the atmosphere of the retail environment and affects customers’ perception of the retail image (Tantanatewin & Inkarojrit, 2016). Space with warm colors (e.g., yellow, cream) sends a welcoming message to customers and increases the likelihood of them walking in and picking up merchandise. Space with cooler colors (e.g., purple, blue) tends to have the opposite effect. People’s perception of crowdedness in their immediate area has a bigger effect on their stress levels than actual crowdedness (Evans & Wener, 2007). Providing barriers between individual areas will allow passengers to feel that they have more personal space and will make them feel more relaxed and secure. People tend to feel more attached to places in which they feel a sense of belonging (Scannell & Gifford, 2017). International travelers will feel a stronger sense of belonging when they have easy access to resources in their language. People are less stressed in environments that feature positive elements, such as artwork, clocks, and phones (Andrade et al., 2017). These positive elements can be included in the airport design, with charging stations replacing phones. Specific servicescape guideline Rationale Table 14. Specific guidelines for enhancing customer experience through changes in the servicescape.

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Today’s airports have become much more than transportation hubs. They are increasingly becoming places where people dine, shop, relax, work, and interact. This expanded role comes with challenges as airports try to understand and address the needs of their diverse customer base.

The TRB Airport Cooperative Research Program's ACRP Research Report 231: Evaluating the Traveler's Perspective to Improve the Airport Customer Experience presents information and tools to better understand the traveler’s perspective of the airport journey and how airports might respond to the evolving needs of their travelers.

Supplemental materials to the report include an executive summary, a multimedia tool that provides visuals to support the findings, and Appendices C through F (which include a social media and media analysis toolkit, a review of creative benchmarking, a sample data summary table for creative benchmarking, and a listing of social media and media analysis resources and guides).

In July 2021, an errata was issued for ACRP Research Report 231.

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