Head of Enterprise Sales, Ben Wheeler, reflects on a recent airport experience. As you may be heading home from half-term holidays, perhaps consider how customer experience should affect every business decision.
A couple of points to note upfront;
- I am purposefully not naming the airline I travelled with, or the airport used as this is a set of macro level observations and recommendations for the airline industry, rather than a moan about airport and airline performance in this specific case.
- I don’t fly regularly but have travelled from this airport on many occasions, most recently just before the pandemic.
The customer experience
Check in hall - queuing from outside the building at 03:25 for a 05:55 flight. About 40 minutes winding around the building to reach bag drop.
Security - again queuing from outside the bag scan hall. About 40 mins to reach the scanning machines.
Departure hall - completely rammed with people shuffling aimlessly about as no seating anywhere and gate number (for any flights) not declared until about 20 minutes before final call.
In addition, and not surprisingly, the concessions were very busy with the most popular (like Starbucks) nursing a circa 30 minute queue, reaching almost back to the security hall.
In-flight catering - shortages of all food and drink despite being first flight of the day.
So why did this happen?
Is it shortage of staff, as widely reported recently, or simply over capacity at the airports as airlines relentlessly push for profits via the top line? I didn’t see any unmanned kiosks or security scanners so is staff shortage a convenient deflection argument? More passengers will result in more revenue but the impact on customer experience is colossal. Just like elephants, we don’t forget a poor customer experience.
Concentrate on customer experience above everything else. What I saw this morning was massive overcrowding which, using the laws of supply and demand, indicates an opportunity for the industry as a whole to increase prices. I’m suggesting increasing prices not a little but a lot, in the order of 4x or even more to make the numbers work.
Price increase might seem like a counter intuitive next step, but customer experience should drive every action and this time that experience was simply not okay.
So, with higher prices passenger numbers will decline, eventually to a level where airport infrastructure is able to cope with the throughput. The result, demonstrable gains in positive customer experience including:
- Fewer people checking in and going through security would reduce check in time back to something more reasonable
- Remove the need to queue to get into a departure hall in the middle of the night and 2.5 hours before a very early flight.
- Flights at less antisocial times because cheapest slots are no longer a cost objective.
- Somewhere to sit whilst in the departure lounge, oh and maybe even a coffee at be 5am.
For the airlines, a significant price increase would give a lot more margin to play with, allowing the opportunity to focus on customer experience. Reversing the race to the bottom on seat prices, in attempt to improve top line revenue and the associated destruction of customer experience, would seem to me the correct business decision - even before considering bottom line cost improvements related to less aircraft and crew, support staff, third party contractors, fuel and airport charges.
Yes, a significant price rise would mean fewer people would fly or choose to fly less frequently - me included. Is that a bad thing? Certainly not for the environment.
Remember our behaviour at the beginning of the pandemic, toilet rolls and rubbish bins full of rotten food in unopened packages. I for one think that as a society we could do with a little help with the choices we make a lot of the time, and significantly rising flight costs will challenge us all to ask ‘should I do this?’. More choice is not always best for the human race, as Roger Walters positioned really powerfully in his album ‘Amused to Death’.
I challenge the airline industry to put customer experience first following the more profitable economic strategy presented above. The goal should be to make people love their flight experience and as an industry my recent experience puts you way off the mark.
Well here at MIRACL, we are totally driven by offering a website login experience that delivers the best user experience, period. All that the user is troubled with is setting, and then using, a four digit pin to login. Oh, and under the covers the cryptography allows for single step, PSD2 compliant MFA, ditching secondary devices, tokens and authenticator apps. Love your customers by giving them ‘love their login’ customer experience and more customers will come and then return to your online businesses without needing to start the journey just after midnight and find yourself queuing outside a terminal building at 03:30.