Redesigning your frontline through all this change

If your business delivers some or all of its service within physical spaces and through your frontline colleagues, then right now you’re probably working hard to understand how to design a frontline operation to deliver the best possible experience for your colleagues and customers.

Even without the complication of Covid-19, it’s not easy to join-the-dots for customers, connecting the design of physical spaces and equipment, colleague roles and tasks, customer communications and business processes to create a great experience.

The adjustments to be made right now to keep people safe have a direct impact on how customers and colleagues interact and on your customers’ behaviour around each other. And as government guidelines change and commercial models adapt, your frontline operation will need to adjust too.

Some problems you may be trying to solve for your business:

  • How do we rapidly recruit and train staff on new service roles while ensuring they give our customers a great experience of our brand?
  • How do we help our frontline colleagues engage customers in the right ways despite the procedures we’ve put in place, the physical barriers we’ve put up and what we’re now asking customers to do?
  • Given its reasonable that operating procedures will continue to change for some time, how do we take a more agile (and less reactive) approach to respond and evolve the frontline experience?
  • While we continue to control the flow of customers and while serving individual customers is taking longer, how can we make the experience of waiting or pre-booking a slot as positive as it can be?
  • How can we encourage more customers to self-self in our environments and ensure they feel safe doing so?
  • How can we use existing or new technology to super-charge our colleagues, giving them real-time information and new transactions at their fingertips to benefit customers?
  • How can we engage managers on the ground in the importance of the experience, when they are focussing on safety and revenue?

Let’s help you get a plan to:

Design the best possible frontline experience while operating procedures continue to change.

What this will deliver:

  • Signal you’re safe and open for business to retain and recapture revenue quickly. At a time when customers are making decisions about whether to use a service, they’re looking for signals that’s it both safe and quick. Designing your frontline experience to signal that you’re open for business and safe will help to retain and recapture traffic and spend.
  • Minimise or mitigate the impact of the extra effort for customers to maximise customer-spend per visit. As customers need put in more effort to use your service safely, reward this effort with an experience that feels relaxing, not procedural.
  • CSAT and NPS halo effects. Make sure the goodwill you’ve enjoyed from customers during lock-down is translated into positive perceptions of your service and brand as we move into a new normal.
  • Deliver the best possible service and experience you can from the managers and frontline colleagues you have, particularly at a time when staffing levels may be unpredictable.

How Engine can help:

  • We design services and experiences in physical spaces, delivered by people and using technology. We know how to make all of this work together.
  • We understand how to kick-start projects and run online workshops that engage all of your business functions including, customer operations, frontline management, digital, IT, L&D and marketing.
  • We’re customer and colleague-driven in our approach to frontline experience design.
  • We’ve developed customer experience skills and ways of working within CX teams so that they can work effectively with implementation and operation teams quickly, creatively and with a shared focus on customers and frontline colleagues.
  • We’ve delivered projects just like this with leading brands in retail, travel, automotive, telecoms and media, financial services and hospitality, amongst others.

Technology alone won’t save air travel

As the aviation sector gets to grips with restarting operations and services, attention will soon turn to defining what the new normal will be for air travel.

This will mean understanding what restrictions and behaviours will thankfully disappear and which are here to stay requiring a reconfiguration of the passenger experience for the longer-term.

Technology is likely to play a significant role in helping to reconfigure by offering low touch solutions and greater automation across the passenger journey. However, simply installing these technologies is not going to be enough. Deploying them effectively will require a clear vision for the end-to-end passenger journey and a plan for the new capabilities needed.

Here, we outline the ways that designing a reconfigured passenger experience can de-risk investment in technology at a time when decisions need to be made quickly, and move you from restarting to reconfiguring your service and operations:

  • Rethink how to deliver self-service and offer greater service variety
  • Make the experience better for front-line staff too
  • Embrace new commercial models

Rethink how to deliver self-service and offer greater service variety

Encouraging the majority of passengers to regularly use self-service solutions like check-in and bag drop has long been the direction of travel for most airlines and airports. But since the pandemic many of the current self-serve solutions now present a risk of potential contamination and are likely to be underused by passengers as a result.

Before investing in new self-serve solutions, a good start point would be to re-think how the digital experience for check-in, ticketing, booking changes and seat selection, bag drop and security may need to change in order to make passengers more willing and able to self-serve throughout. In the shorter-term, finding ways to help passengers to avoid touching shared touchscreens in favour of using their own smart phone would be a good early step.

Explore moving more of core processes outside of the airport

As well as self-serve, moving some passenger processes outside of the airport and designing the experience to encourage passengers to use them will result in less congestion at the airport itself.

Offering passengers greater variety such as baggage pick-up from home or off-site locations where passengers can drop their bags and check-in before they fly, can be part of the mix of services that will change the ways more passengers choose to travel.

Prepare the groundwork for data enabled services and operations

Within the airport itself, we’re likely to see a shift from technologies that support broad security surveillance to those that enable more targeted monitoring of passengers. This will mean linking individual passports with biometric profiles and using AI to support security and operational teams as they keep airports safe.

Capturing biometric data continues to raise issues of privacy, which won’t be easy to overcome. As the nature of the threat has shifted again, the pandemic may prove to be a tipping point in the trade-off between privacy and safety.

The lack of a global standard for the end-to-end biometric journey has resulted in limited and non-standardised implementation across the sector. This has made it difficult for the operators and manufacturers to scale-up solutions. For example, Changi Airport in Singapore and Etihad Airways in the UAE have been quick to embrace automated tracking technologies, while US airports and airlines seem currently seem more reluctant to embrace biometrics as fully.

Despite this, airports and airlines need to prepare passengers as automation and biometrics become a core part of how we travel.

The theory being that greater levels of automation will see increased roll-out of better, more personalised check-in and bag drop products, e-gates at immigration, self-boarding gates and automated cleaning.

Reconfiguring operations and services to manage the virus (and future viruses) for the long-term demands a creative look at what these technologies can and could offer.

In the first instance this will mean designing services that encourage and allow more passengers to opt-in to register for biometric services to make their journey contact-less.

Designing a great opt-in service will mean ensuring that sign-up to it is simple and can be conducted remotely. It’ll also require designing the service flow once it’s being used so the information guides passengers through each step quickly and intuitively and ensures passenger error is kept to a minimum.

Make the experience better for front-line staff too

Recovery will not only be reliant on reconfiguring the passenger experience. The experience will need to be reconfigured for your frontline staff too.

You’ll need to think differently about the experience your staff have of working and identify the type of support they need day-to-day. Understanding this will better help define how technology can be used to help staff deliver the service and stay safe. As airports and airlines reconfigure, we see the need to design the following to ensure technology plays the role it needs to in the recovery:

Standardise service quality across airport partners

Passengers now and for the foreseeable future will be more sensitive while travelling and may have to deal with heightened levels of disruption and uncertainty. Those for whom air travel is already stressful, such as those travelling with small children, the elderly and those with a disability, will need more support and reassurance than ever before. They will look to anybody in the airport in uniform to help, regardless of their role.

As a passenger travelling pre-Covid there would often be a mismatch between the levels of service you would receive throughout your journey. Co-operation and collaboration across entities will need to be better than it has been before and will need to balance the operational requirements with the softer factors of customer service to ensure passengers are kept safe but also informed and that their practical and emotional needs can be looked after whilst they are travelling.

Improved collaboration should mean that training resources are pooled so all front-line staff can receive consistent training and ongoing coaching and a greater level of standardisation on the quality measures of service across all airport and airline touchpoints.

Designing training so it’s more bite-sized, omni-present and digital

Developing a shared approach to service training and service standards will provide a solid foundation to support the recovery effort. Pre-Covid, service training had begun to move from solely classroom based to being more digital and dynamic and this shift has been accelerated by the pandemic.

With the front-line having to work in a much more fluid environment, digital training solutions that offer the opportunity to slice training into bite-sized but more regular sessions, that can be delivered directly to staff’s personal devices or be completed remotely, are going to be more effective.

Designing and developing a new approach to delivering training content will help ensure staff feel more supported, better connected to the company and their teams and more engaged in creating a proud culture of service.

Design more useful ways to put operational data in the hands of the front-line

As well as digital training solutions, the development of dynamic digital service tools will enable staff to serve customers in the most effective way and have access to the latest information when they need it.

The opportunity will be to specify and then develop a digital product geared towards helping the service professionals working on the frontline. It should draw from the ‘on-the-day’ operational data but filter it through a well-considered user interface and data should be served up in a way that is useful and useable for supporting day-to-day service enquiries.

Digital product development should also extend to offering more comprehensive ways for passengers to help themselves . This should include a series of responsive digital tools such as live chat or chat bots, virtual help desks and location-based guides all from the safety of the passengers own device.

Embrace new commercial models

The impact on airport retail has been significant and it seems increasingly clear that airports need to embrace and explore different commercial models and offers to make them more fit-for-purpose and resilient.

Whereas the emphasis in the restart phase was on trialling physical retail and food and beverage offers, the reconfigure phase should convince many to make a bigger investment in digital retail propositions to supplement more traditional duty-free models of retail.

Establishing a digital retail offer

Like they would do outside of travel, passengers will want to browse products and services in advance of their arrival and pre-order items to ensure their availability. Increasingly passengers may also want to conduct their shopping at the airport or on the flight itself digitally and pick items up at a designated pick-up point en route. This will require a big shift towards establishing a much more integrated retail model that cuts across duty free, airline and airport retailers.

Having an integrated digital retail model alongside physical stores also presents greater opportunity for retailers to be able to offer greater product ranges, more stock and variation and not be limited by their shelf space.

Greater volumes in digital retail will also open up a new level of retail intelligence that will allow for the tailoring of offers and refreshing the mix of retail to reflect passenger demand.

Establishing a digital retail offer also opens up the potential of new revenue streams.

Some airports are already exploring and providing downloadable content. For example, Dubai Airports have already partnered with the media company OSN to provide free access to premium streaming content from Disney+ and HBO.

In conclusion

Technology will play a major role in reconfiguring how we all experience air travel by tackling discreet challenges presented by the pandemic but technology alone won’t be the silver bullet. What’s required is a coherent vision for specifying and deploying the technology underpinned by a clear vision for the reconfigured passenger journey.

This will help to develop the right requirements, de-risk investment, speed up implementation and support you to make a sustained change for the longer-term.

As part of Engine’s ‘Lead out of Lockdown’ webinar series, we will be exploring the changing demands being placed on services and how the customer and employee experience needs to change as organisations look to restart, reconfigure and reimagine for a post-covid world.

Turn your passenger experience back on

The travel and aviation sector have been more affected than most and restarting operations continues to be a mammoth task.

In our introductory piece Planning for a new era of air travel, we identified a series of critical questions for the sector to answer when restarting their operations and trying to attract customers back to flying. We proposed that designing the experience of travel was more important than ever to build confidence, ensure safe travel and align services to mandated policies and regulations.

In the restart phase the primary consideration has been on safety and implementing and operationalising new restrictions. It’s these restrictions that will create unintended consequences for passengers and it’s here where you should consider focusing your passenger experience efforts to help mitigate the fall-out.

We expand on four areas where designing the passenger experience and service can help you restart successfully:

  • Design in response to new restrictions and procedures
  • Designing the experiences with a view of the new normal
  • Designing the experiences of responsive services and always-on communication
  • Designing for collaboration using real-time data

Design in response to new restrictions and procedures

Many customers have safety concerns about travelling through airports as a result of the global pandemic. With rigorous testing procedures in place, limited facilities and social distancing measures in place, only those who feel they have to travel will be taking to the air.

The restrictions will mean having to design the experience for passengers around some very stringent safety measures.

During this period there should be a concerted effort to take the action required while mitigating the fall-out from the new restrictions to ease customers anxieties and communicate to the wider world that it’s safe and desirable to fly again.

Reduce the negative impact of the new restrictions

We have already seen airports restricting entry to terminal buildings to passengers with a ticket and restricting early arrival at the airport.

These rules, although well-intentioned, can create anxiety for passengers. Often, passengers will turn up with well-wishers who stay with them until they are checked-in and have dropped off their bags. For some, being waved off by well-wishes is an important part of the experience. For others, practical assistance is

Restricting entry in the Terminal building creates a challenge for landside operations teams to manage the arrivals of passengers more so than previously. Therefore, designing the experience of pre-arrival and arrival at the Terminal is far more critical than ever and should include ensuring that passengers are informed and don’t turn up early or with additional people, and if they do, provision is made outside the Terminal.

Actively design the cleanliness journey

Another anxiety for passengers will be how to keep as clean and self-contained as possible throughout the experience.

For airports and airlines, this has meant implementing an even more comprehensive 24/7 cleaning schedule and finding ways to limit contact with surfaces, for example, through the adoption of touchless technologies.

The perception of cleanliness is essential to ensuring passengers feel comfortable. Therefore, designing an experience that communicates cleanliness can help. This can be as simple as making cleaning staff more visible to passengers through the development of uniforms, visually communicating when surfaces were last cleaned and using scent and light at crucial points to reinforce the cleanliness of the space. Just as supermarkets pump the smell of the baking to the front of the store to provide ‘freshness and quality’ cues, then there should also be consideration of how to use the senses to relieve passengers’ anxieties.

Balance cost-saving and revenue-making with ‘doing the right thing’.

In the short term, airports and airlines will need to recoup some of their losses but also keep unnecessary operating costs to a minimum and there is a careful balance to strike between cost-efficiency with passenger safety.

As part of their restart plans, airports have begun placing PPE (personal protective equipment) vending machines that allow passengers to purchase masks and hand sanitiser throughout their journey through the facility. This serves the purpose of allowing passengers who have forgotten or broken their masks to purchase another.

In principle, PPE vending machines ‘tick the box’ of making masks and sanitizer available, but cost should also not be a barrier to safety. If passengers cannot afford or are not in a position to purchase, then a discretionary alternative should be provided via some other means. Meaning front-line teams need to be equipped and empowered to decide when to distribute one.

With social distancing measures in place, it may also mean airports and airlines need to rethink how to reorganise space in the airport. This could mean reallocating space previously designated for business class passengers to optional private areas for economy passengers to access on a pay-as-you-go basis to escape the crowds.

Designing the experience with a view of the new normal

As well as dealing with the practical fall-out of the restrictions there is also the need to think differently about certain aspects of the airport and airline experience that give some indication of what might stay once things return to some degree of normal.

Developing workarounds for self-service

Although self-service solutions, including check-in and bag drop, can be the answer to limiting contact with other people, they still often require passengers to touch heavily used surfaces, particularly screens.

In the short term, adopting self-serve solutions that are minimal touch or better still, allow a passenger to use their mobile phone as the primary interface between the self-serve kiosk should be explored.

Also, the experience of the self-serve areas and how they should operate will need to be worked through as it’s like they will need to be reconfigured with built-in capacity and need a greater level of staffing. With social distancing in place, access and management of the area and the passenger-flow will need to be carefully designed and then managed.

Now is a great time to try new retail propositions and formats

Retailers are now having to put measures in place to adopt new guidelines, including pre-packaged food offers and making contactless payment standard.

In light of this, there has never been a greater opportunity to begin to trial different formats of retail. The current restrictions have presented a chance to test new retail experiences that more closely mirror what passengers are used to using outside of the airport.

This testing can include establishing a system that allows passengers to pre-order more targeted food and beverage offers. For example, flying as a young family often means having to opt for the quickest, unhealthiest food option. However, the current restrictions could now enforce more tailored pre-packaged food options that better cater to the needs of families and are more suitable for eating in the airport or in-flight.

Exploring the interplay between the physical and digital also presents opportunities to cater to the restricted dine-in experiences. For example, food delivery service, Deliveroo, has recently launched a new feature called ‘Table Service’ that allows customers to eat-in but order and pay via their smartphone.

Design the experience of responsive services and ‘always on’ communication

Communication throughout the experience as a new standard

One thing that has characterised people’s lives during lockdown is the need to stay up to date with the latest information. In the restart phase, passengers will need up to date information more than ever before.

Airports will have to diligently keep their information up to date and compliant with changing regulations and make the best use of digital channels to push information to passengers before, during and after they travel.

The distinct challenge here is that information is changing at such a rate it can be challenging to keep up, but passengers will look to their airline and the airport to act as an aggregator and source of authority. Airports and airlines must become more agile and collaborative with their messaging.

So, developing a passenger-centred communications strategy to keep information up-to-date, consistent and communicating with the right ‘tone of voice’ and through digital channels should be a primary consideration for getting the passenger experience right.

While restarting, airports and airlines may need to communicate the results of COVID-19 testing, to stagger boarding, to route passengers to avoid congestion or to outline local rules and restrictions on landing.

There will be the need to continue delivering information to passengers as they are travelling through the airports and onboard. All of this emphasises the importance of capturing passengers’ phone numbers so that communications can be personalised.

Establish new staff roles and prepare for new service situations

As well as digital information, front-line staff will play a critical role as a source of guidance, information and authority for passengers.

Equipping staff with additional service training will help them to communicate more effectively to passengers and deal with new service situations they may not have been dealt with before. For example, politely dispersing a large crowd to ensure social distancing or helping passengers understand the latest guidance on testing.

In addition, there is a subtle consideration of how to protect front-line staff with the appropriate PPE while ensuring they remain accessible to passengers.

Some airlines have already created specialist health and safety roles on the front-line. For example, Emirates Airline has introduced an onboard Cleaning Assistant and Etihad Airways and Abu Dhabi Airport have introduced Wellness Ambassadors to support passengers throughout their journey on the ground and in the air.

Designing for collaboration using real-time data

Working collaboratively and effectively across partners has never been more critical and central to this will be the use of real-time data.

Good collaboration as a standard

In the restart phase, this will mean repurposing the array of monitoring technologies that are already readily used within airports to monitor and manage passenger flow, density and throughput to help manage the safety of passengers and ensure social distancing is maintained. This data can flag overly congested areas that need managing and allow for the front-line to be deployed to the areas where they are needed most. Thermal cameras are already being used to monitor passengers and identify those showing higher than normal temperatures so they can be identified and tested.

There’s an opportunity to design new ways to make data more accessible and usable to those working on the front-line to keep everybody safe while maintaining the best possible experience for passengers.

In conclusion

In today’s compromised world, it would be a mistake to think the experience your passengers have of your facility, airline or service is a ‘nice-to-have’.

Restarting air travel will continue to be a challenge until the pandemic subsides significantly. Until then, those that can balance new restrictions with an understanding of how to ensure passengers’ welfare will be best placed to recover.

As part of Engine’s ‘Lead out of Lockdown’ webinar series, we will be exploring the changing demands being placed on services and how the customer and employee experience needs to change as organisations look to restart, reconfigure and reimagine for a post-covid world.

Planning for a new era of air travel

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the aviation sector and commercial travel to an unprecedented halt. It’s still unclear if and when passengers will return to pre-Covid-19 numbers. What we do know is that the road to recovery will take time.

Without anything directly comparable in its impact and scale to Covid-19, we can look to the restoration of the sector post 9/11. It took three years for passenger volumes to return to levels comparable with the 2001 summer peak. The challenge of Covid-19 will require even higher levels of international standardisation and co-operation.

The sector is feeling its way towards recovery through evolving advice from governments and regulators. Very soon, airports and airlines will have to convince passengers that it’s safe and desirable to return. To do so requires thinking differently about how to make the whole experience of flying bearable in the short-term and fit-for-purpose and resilient in the longer term.

For many, the rebuilding effort has already started with restructured, leaner businesses tackling an array of challenges simultaneously, including:

  • How to operate while adhering to new hygiene and social distancing guidelines?
  • How to manage passenger adherence to new guidelines on the ground and in the air?
  • How to stem the sharp fall in revenue?
  • How to rebuild passengers’ confidence to travel again?
  • How to invest in the right systems and technologies to enable new ways of operating and ensure these are adopted?
    Planning the recovery and understanding how to weigh-up the immediate priorities alongside longer-term investments can be complicated. In the first instance, you need to establish where you are and what your focus should be. Restarting a service that’s been impossible to operate during the lockdown is the focus for some businesses. In others, the urgency is to reconfigure the service so that it works within a continually changing operating environment. For some companies, there’s a more fundamental challenge and opportunity to reimagine a service and commercial model completely.

Restart your service

Making the best of a difficult situation
The immediate focus has rightly been on responding to the impact of the lockdown; dealing with the loss in revenue, restructuring operations to save cost and the repatriation of passengers. As flights restart and airports reopen, the new urgency is to get passengers flying again and airports and airlines profitable and stable.

With this backdrop, it’s tempting to think that the design and development of the passenger experience is not a priority. Designing a post-Covid passenger and frontline colleague experience is central to the recovery of the sector.

Passengers have changed. Right now, the industry has to understand how passengers have changed, think differently and balance the need for procedural compliance with the new emotional landscape for passengers. Passengers will only be convinced to come back if they feel safe and can see that airlines and airports have recognised their new anxieties. The need for passengers to feel informed, pass through the airport without friction and feel safe and relaxed in-flight are more crucial than ever. Airports need to design-in new steps and interventions, such as taking passengers’ temperatures and managing quarantine regulations, in ways that don’t create additional anxiety and feel positive overall. All this needs careful consideration and to be designed with passengers in mind.

Key questions to answer when restarting your service for passengers include:

  • How do we respond to passengers’ new attitudes and needs around safety, segregation and comfort when flying?
  • How do we encourage and manage compliance with new rules and procedures?
  • How do we communicate to customers throughout their journey so they adhere to the latest regulations but can still enjoy their flight?
  • How do we deal with exceptions, for example, those with invisible disabilities who may not be able to comply?
  • How do we avoid large groups of people gathering in confined spaces such as check-in, immigration, security, boarding gates or on the aircraft?
  • How do we reduce or remove physical contact between people and between people and surfaces?
  • How do we create consistency and standards across all our aviation and non-aviation sector partners, so the journey for passengers is as frictionless and intuitive as possible?
  • How do we phase our frontline teams back to work and keep them safe so they can serve customers to the best of their ability without anxiety?
    Resolving these questions and maintaining traction will require airports and airlines to adopt new ways of working.
  • Aviation businesses need a greater understanding of how passengers’ needs and attitudes are changing to inform service and experience design.
  • Product and service development and operational teams need to work even more closely to develop new processes and experiences that are compliant and great for passengers.
  • More active communication with passengers and the airport community to ensure the passenger experience is joined-up.
  • Airports have a role to play for their tenants, helping these businesses operate safely and profitably while collaborating to provide a great experience.
  • Increased agility is needed to implement quickly in response to the ever-evolving operating environment.
  • Improved collaboration and knowledge sharing across partners and competitors are required so all can learn from the best responses to the crisis.

Reconfigure your service

Identifying changes that are here to stay
A successful recovery will in part come from identifying which of the changes made during the early response to Covid-19 are here to stay and will become the new normal for air travel. Determining this brings focus for new products, services and capabilities and will inform how we’ll need to begin to re-educate passengers on how to be in, move through and enjoy airports and flying again.

For all the disruption Covid-19 has brought, it has accelerated (rather than radically changed) many of the longer-term trends the industry has recognised but often been slow to address.

For instance, safety, efficiency and customer service have long been the cornerstones for airlines, but now health and wellbeing are here to stay too. Already, Etihad has launched their Wellness Ambassadors to look after passengers’ health while onboard, and we can expect more customers to look to airlines that have credentials in this area.

Also likely is greater integration of smartphone technology as an enabler of a contactless end-to-end experience. Smartphones, coupled with higher uptake of biometric passports, may be the tipping point for the mass adoption of these technologies across regions. If this happens, airline and airport operational teams will benefit from even more real-time passenger data, with the potential to remove even more friction from the passenger experience.

Reconfiguring requires tuning-in to the most significant and valuable operational and behavioural changes so far and investing in them. The contenders will likely be those that balance the requirements of the industry with the needs of passengers.

Key questions to answer when reconfiguring your service for passengers include:

  • What are the proof-points for passengers that demonstrate they are safe, the journey is clean and is compliant with regulations?
  • What control and level of choice do passengers now want when travelling? How has this changed, and what do we need to do to cater to these new needs?
  • What’s needed to ensure staff can engage and support passengers?
  • Which touchpoints and interactions should we redesign first, and how?
  • What are the barriers inadvertently created for some passengers accessing ‘Covid resistant’ services, and how can we remove them?
    What additional levels of service do our most anxious passengers need now?
  • Is there a VIP experience in a Covid-resistant operating environment? If so, what does it look like, what are the risks and how should it be marketed?
    Organisations that successfully reshape their service will need to evolve. To reconfigure their services, organisations will need to:
  • Identify the changes that are here to stay and find solutions within the area of overlap between passenger needs and industry requirements.
  • Revise their end-to-end passenger experience strategy to guide the development of a frictionless, joined-up journey for passenger.
  • Re-evaluate planned initiatives and create a balanced portfolio of projects towards a single view of the reconfigured state.
    Invest sensibly in technologies and manage the change for passengers and staff.
  • Improve stakeholder collaboration to bring a single, shared plan to fruition.
  • Shorten product development cycles and use this as an opportunity to work with partners, stakeholders and customers to test solutions and get the delivery right.

Reimagine your service

Challenging the model
The English language proverb, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ seems particularly apt. With significant disruption comes the opportunity to think differently and reimagine the products and services you provide.

As borders reopen and the industry restores passengers’ confidence, aero revenue will return. Yet, the more exciting opportunity is to challenge long-standing models of non-aero income that haven’t seen a radical change in the last 80 years of commercial aviation.

Duty-Free shopping is ready for disruption. As online shopping overtakes shopping in physical stores, and passengers enjoy increased choice, personalisation and higher levels of convenience, the retail offer at airports and onboard looks outmoded.

An enhanced retail experience, coupled with increased adoption of tracking and biometric technology, give us opportunities to serve customers with information and services wherever they are in the airport and at any point in their home-to-home journey.

Key questions to answer when reimagining your service for passengers include:

  • What are the prevalent retail behaviours of passengers, and how might these inform new shopping experiences while travelling?
  • What does it mean for passengers to have choice, convenience and personalisation when it comes to shopping while travelling?
  • What are the opportunities to bring products and services to passengers no matter where they are and what they might need?
  • How do we blend physical and virtual services to provide an experience unique to air travel?
    To reimagine services organisations need to:
  • Challenge assumptions to create a view of the future, unbound of the organisation’s historical retail model.
  • Establish a clear and compelling vision for passenger services.
  • Define a future operating model and target passenger experience from which to work backwards.
  • Work with all stakeholders to get buy-in and collaborate to realise the vision.
  • Find experts and visionaries outside the organisation that can challenge assumptions about how people shop, eat and drink and inspire with examples of what today’s technology can enable.
  • Understand the potential of future technologies and how these will shape behaviours and ways of operating.
    The challenges are significant. Yet the unprecedented disruption to the industry from Covid-19 can and should be seen as an opportunity to envision a new era of air travel.

Success requires organising operational, commercial and product development efforts around a unified vision and plan, with the single focus of providing passengers with a safe and pleasurable experience again.

Considering three phases or workstreams will give you focus and ensure the right people in your organisation are working on the right things.

  1. Do what’s needed to restart your service safely.
  2. Reconfigure your service and the passenger experience to design-in new operating requirements and design for the new emotional landscape for passengers and frontline staff.
  3. Disrupt historical models of non-aero revenue to reimagine your service and commercial model.
    As part of Engine’s ‘Lead out of Lockdown’ webinar series, we’ll be delving into each phase in more detail to explore how to answer some of the key questions and what others are beginning to do to get back on track.

Six ways to improve customer experience in aviation

In recent years there have been great improvements in passenger experience in the aviation industry, however, customers are still looking for that smooth and easy travel experience, where they feel valued and important

Specific customer needs are overlooked

Most of the aviation experiences are designed to cater for the business or first class passenger first and foremost. Aviation companies are not designing equally for all customers. Whilst it is true that not all customers have an equal level of short-term value – many that are being deprioritised have great lifetime value.

Fragmented experiences

Many customers report have disjointed experiences. This means even the customers that receive significant attention have disjointed experiences. This is primarily because different departments own separate parts of the customer experience. For example, the sales department will oversee ticketing, whilst another will design the in-flight experience, not to mention the plethora of partners and other service providers involved. As a result passenger experiences are fragmented and inconsistent.

There is an opportunity for third parties to bridge these gaps. One example could be collecting and aggregating the most important passenger travel information into one app, or helping customers unwind in independent lounges, or by helping customers successfully claim compensation for delayed or cancelled flights. However, there is no reason why customers should not rely on their airline for most (if not all) of these services.

What we recommend

Here are five areas that we believe will drive a positive impact for the customer, and which we recommend our aviation clients to explore when they commit to improving passenger experience:

1. Place your focus across the journey

The customers’ journey actually begins before they arrive at the airport, and continues after their flight has landed. You need to find ways to engage with the customer before and after they directly interact with you. Help customers prepare for their time at the airport when they are at home, and give customers a meaningful airline experiences outside of the aircraft. Too many companies fail to cater for the specific needs of their customers outside of the traditional tent pole journey touch points. In the face of increased competition and a need to differentiate this is a missed opportunity.

2. Build relationships with your customers

Build relationships with your customers that go beyond Frequent Flyer Programmes. Focus on meeting specific customer needs and forge a bond with them throughout the whole journey. When you invest in meeting customer needs that go beyond mere transactions – you place the emphasis on their lifetime value with you, and the true value they bring to the business. The end goal is for you to become their preferred lifetime flying partner and a business they trust to deliver consistent levels of quality customer service.

3. Act as one

All of the points highlighted above are only possible when stakeholders work as one.

People working in aviation are aware of the various stakeholders involved in orchestrating a passenger’s travel experience e.g. airline, airport, handler, caterer, police, customs, immigration, retailers, etc. However, most customers don’t know where the responsibility of one begins and ends. They effectively morph into one in the mind of the customer. When something goes wrong customers don’t want to waste their time tracking down the responsible party, what they need is the problem solved. Creating such customer-facing boundaries between companies, pushing customers through a responsibility chain is exhausting, and a zero sum gain for the companies involved. Successful aviation companies acknowledge the importance of establishing solid partnerships.

4. View yourself as a hospitality company

Indicators around safety and operational excellence have a strong weight (as they should) in the aviation industry. However, it’s important to focus on the customers’ experience. Aviation companies must not see themselves as logistics or engineering companies alone, but as hospitality ones instead. If you shift the focus towards welcoming, entertaining and supporting passengers (i.e. guests) – the service provision is transformed. You are an experience provider, not just a mode of transport.

5. Create a sense of place

Customers often connect through countries they will never visit, so the airport is sometimes the only glimpse they get of it. Airports are also the gateway to a customer’s final destination, framing the initial first impression customers will have of it. Airlines are similarly under pressure to create a great representation of the experience of a country.

The opportunity and challenge is to find ways of fulfilling customers’ wanderlust by designing aviation experiences that delight and fully represent the hospitality, culture and sensibilities of a destination. Moreover, these experiences should build customer anticipation about their destination, and help them reminisce about a place they were in. Doing this will create customer loyalty and associate your company with positive emotive experiences.

6. Give power to the customer

Design aviation experiences in such a way that customers can decide to engage with you to the degree they want to. At one end of the spectrum, there are customers who are travelling with a mindset of comfort & pampering and therefore engage strongly with service providers. On the other end of the same spectrum are travellers that are looking for smooth frill-free travel, who do not wish to be bothered. Be sure to think about both types of customers when orchestrating experiences for your customers, leveraging human and not just digital touchpoints.

Design experiences keeping specific customer needs in mind, and partner with your stakeholders to successfully deliver them so that you can be competitive and reap the lifetime value of your customers.

Click here to see some of our Aviation case studies.

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