Customer experience can be
difficult to define, but easy to recognize when it’s missing.
It's become the holy grail
that companies seek as a way to stand out from their competition. And for good
In its March survey
report, Experience is Everything: Here’s How To Get It Right,
PwC found 73% of global respondents say a positive experience is among the key
drivers that influence their brand loyalties.
And they’re willing to
back that up with dollars - consumers would pay as much as 16% more for better
But how is that defined?
Nearly 80% of PwC's respondents indicate speed, convenience, knowledgeable help
and friendly service are the most important elements of a positive customer
This month we are
exploring the topic of customer experience from a variety of angles.
For part three we take a
look inside airport terminals, where a variety of innovative work is being done
to improve and ease the process of air travel.
As chief experience officer for Los
Angeles World Airports, one of Barbara Yamamoto’s jobs is to understand the
problems and frustrations passengers face as they travel through Los Angeles
But with about seven million travelers
passing through the LAX terminals every month, gathering that feedback can be
About a year ago, Yamamoto implemented
a new tool to understand what passengers are saying - and feeling - about their
experience in the airport.
Called Metis, the artificial
intelligence-backed data analytics system from Richey International analyzes
text to assess both what is being said and the emotion behind it.
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In the past year, the system has
analyzed input from about 16,000 LAX travelers shared in response to open-ended
survey questions and public posts on Facebook, Yelp and Google.
“It’s giving us a really holistic,
efficient way of listening to our guests,” Yamamoto says.
“Survey data gives analytics, the number,
but it doesn’t give us that emotional connection or the understanding behind
the number. Metis blends the two to support decisions that can really make a difference
for the guest experience.”
The Metis system pulls out elements of
every comment or post and relates it to one of five categories such as food and
beverage, logistics and Transportation Security Administration. Then it
classifies each one as positive, negative or neutral. The process begins with
humans doing that classification, but gradually through machine learning, Metis
is able to classify on its own, enabling scale and efficiency.
“I think this is the most pure form of
listening to the voice of the customer,” says Kyle Richey, founder and chief
product officer at Richey International.
“This goes so far beyond net promoter
score. NPS only measures satisfaction. We’re going into the emotional level –
does it make you happy or does it frustrate. This is where the battleground for
customer experience is today. It’s in their emotions."
To add context to the analysis, the
Metis system is also analyzing public domain comments from other airports LAX
has identified as its competitors.
“Because sometimes when you only view
yourself, it becomes a bubble,” Richey says.
Baggage handling is at the core of the
customer experience in air travel.
As SITA’s baggage portfolio director, Peter Drummond, puts it, “You can have the best experience in the world flying
with an airline, but if you arrive to your destination and your bag isn’t there,
all of that has gone to waste.”
The outlook is improving: While
passenger numbers rose to more than four billion in 2017, the rate of
mishandled bags dropped to 5.57 per 1,000 passengers, the lowest level ever
recorded, according to SITA.
But there is still work to be done,
both to improve the customer experience and to save the airlines money. SITA
estimates delayed, damaged and lost bags cost airlines about $2.3 billion in
compensation, transport and other costs in 2017.
“Most travelers have no idea what
happens to their bag when it goes behind that black curtain,” Drummond says.
“It’s quite a complicated process,
there are multiple system involved. And matching up those systems and the data
from those systems to be able to track that bag is not an easy task."
On June 1, IATA Resolution 753 went
into effect, requiring member airlines to track bags at four points: at
check-in, loading onto the aircraft, transfer and arrival.
SITA’s BagJourney is one solutions
that addresses these requirements, collecting tracking data at each point and sharing
it with the relevant airline, airport or ground handling staff.
You can have the best experience in the world flying with an airline, but if you arrive to your destination and your bag isn’t there, all of that has gone to waste
Peter Drummond - SITA
The next step is bringing more
airlines onboard with integrating that tracking data into their mobile apps so
passengers can check their bag’s status in real time.
“In the last five-plus years, now everyone has
a smartphone, and they get so much data on there, and they expect to have
information about their bags on there as well. That’s been a key driver in
this,” Drummond says.
“And of course social media that comes
with that – if someone has a bag mishandled, people will post on their Twitter
feed about a bad experience, and that can go viral very quickly.”
says 71% of airlines plan to provide real-time bag tracking information
to passengers by 2020.
next evolution will be the widespread adoption of RFID tags for tracking,
already being used by airlines such as Delta and airports such as Hong Kong
“RFID has been around for decades, but
we believe as a data-capture solution it is the most effective, most efficient
and gives you the best read rate for the lowest cost,” Drummond says.
He says AI and
machine learning will also enhance baggage processing, providing insights into
the data that will allow more proactive responses.
“In most situations, if you know where
that bag is and you have accurate inventory as to where it has been, you should
be able to locate it faster and be able to repatriate it to that customer
faster. Or in some cases, you can reroute that bag to get to the passenger’s end
destination before the passenger knows of the mishandling,” Drummond says.
"That’s the baggage utopia that we
want to get to with this tracking data.”
Traveler traffic management
The time spent in a long security line
- and uncertainty as to how long it will take to get through - can be one of
the most stressful parts of an air passenger’s journey.
Now a type of laser known as lidar may
provide a solution to track real-time passenger flow through an airport,
improving facility operations and empowering travelers with information to plan
In early July, Iinside, which provides
indoor location-based analytics for the travel market, announced a partnership
with Quanergy Systems, a provider of lidar sensors.
According to Sam Kamel, president and
CEO of Iinside, it is implementing the laser tracking at McCarran
International Airport in Las Vegas, with the main airports in Miami and San Jose
Lidar is an invisible laser that has a
150-foot range and spins 20 times per second.
The company says it’s more accurate
than Bluetooth- or Wi-Fi-based indoor location technology and better at
safeguarding passenger identities than stereoscopic cameras. And because it
requires fewer sensors than required for camera-based solutions, installation
is less expensive.
“The beam spins, it bounces off a
person 20 times in a second, and it creates what we see in our visual viewer as
a dot,” Kamel says.
“And that dot moves through, sits
there, stops, goes through security. We look at hundreds of thousands of these
objects. It’s totally anonymous and three-dimensional, and we turn that into
That analyses gives airport managers a
real-time view into what is happening throughout their facility.
“We provide all sorts of dashboards
and metrics so they can see cues and wait times and analyze those moments that
were particularly bad to determine what they could do differently,” Kamel says.
“For example, they can say to TSA, 'We
have real data, and we’re not getting better on Mondays. We noticed you’re not
fully staffed, or you haven’t opened the lane early enough.' Those are the kinds
of discussions we can focus.”
Kamel says it is partnering with
SITA to explore opportunities to help the TSA measure the effectiveness of its
operations across the largest 40 to 50 airports in the United States.
To provide assistance directly to travelers,
Iinside is developing partnerships with consumer-facing companies such as Tripit,
which now provides in-app alerts to users about security wait times based on Iinside’s
historical and real-time data.
says additional partnerships, possibly with online travel agencies and ride-sharing
services, may develop in the future.
Food on the
An empty stomach can sour an otherwise
pleasant flying experience, but short connection times can limit passengers' ability to seek and wait for food at airport concession stands and restaurants.
To alleviate that stress, American
Airlines integrated Grab mobile food ordering into its app in 2016.
“We are really trying to improve our customer’s
experience,” says Andrea Koos, manager of corporate communications for American
“We understand travel can be stressful
and difficult, and this is another option we can provide to our customers to make
that travel journey a little easier.”
Grab uses location services to show
users the restaurants in their terminal. They place their order and pay in the
app and then receive walking directions to the food outlet where they can pick
up the order without waiting.
It’s currently operating in 27
airports, 21 in the United States and six in the United Kingdom. In addition to
the American Airlines app, Grab is integrated in apps for Dallas-Fort Worth International
Airport and Heathrow Airport, and it is accessible as a standalone app.
“In a digital environment, it breaks
down the physical barriers of the terminal, brings awareness to all of the food
locations and puts choice back in the customers’ hands,” says Jeff Livney,
chief experience officer for Grab.
“I can search by type of food. I can
find the six gluten-free or Kosher items that fit my needs or the one thing I
know my kid will eat. That kind of personalization is something we think is
And similar to other on-demand
products, users have the opportunity to rate each order, and that information is
shared with both the concession operators and the airport.
Livney says Grab is expanding into airports in continental Europe and Canada and expects to be integrated into more apps soon.
Long lines to board planes and to go
through customs upon arrival are becoming a thing of the past at airports
around the world. Facial recognition using biometric technology is improving
and expediting that part of the traveler experience.
Find out what is happening with
biometric identification efforts in our article, Unlocking travel security, part 3: Biometric ID.