Customers Rule - Even During Capital Improvement Programs

Perfecto M. Solis

The airport community universally agrees that customer service excellence is a critical component of an airport's success. We further concur that exceptional customer service can generate revenue not only from air travelers, but also from those sending off or greeting passengers. 

Individual facilities work hard to exceed customers' expectations and become a preferred airport. Should operators have to give up that hard-earned customer loyalty during capital improvement programs? Not if they think smart, plan well and remember that customers rule. It is possible to deliver stellar customer service and maintain efficient, active operations in the midst of complex capital improvement projects.

Customer service satisfaction should be at the core of every airport business plan. A progressive and well-rated airport will use customer service metrics across all its customer touchpoints - from amenities such as restrooms, seating and charging stations for mobile devices, to revenue-generating operations such as concessions and parking. The goal throughout a capital improvement program is to mitigate as much as possible any decline in customer service satisfaction during construction.

Perfecto M. Solis 
Perfecto M. Solis is senior vice president, Americas, of Parsons' Aviation Division. Among his 25 years of industry experience, he previously served as vice president of Airport Development and Engineering for Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Keys to Success

Two primary customer satisfaction categories require close attention when implementing a large-scale construction program within an active operating environment: airport awareness and customer needs.

Airport awareness consists of many dimensions and is best understood through the development of a business model that identifies elements unique to an individual airport.
Recognizing the types of customers the airport serves and determining their required travel patterns within the airport are of paramount importance. For example: If an airport's traffic includes a high percentage of connecting passengers, a successful capital improvement program will ensure safe, expeditious passage between gates in an environment that is not only clean, but also reasonably attractive.

In addition to airport awareness, the ability to discern customer needs is equally important if an airport is to holistically maintain exemplary customer service during a large capital program. The airport environment typically includes transfer, domestic, international, business and transit passengers - each requiring a different type of customer experience. Passengers departing on the airside, for instance, may be looking for food amenities prior to boarding, whereas many arriving passengers will be primarily focused on finding restroom facilities. Connecting passengers may need the services of a business center between flights. Customers arriving on the landside to pick up or drop off passengers will likely be interested in quick food and beverage amenities while waiting on the non-secure side of the terminal.

Knowing what customers want will better position any capital improvement program for superior customer service, which in turn will make for a successful project. 

It's Our Responsibility

As an industry, we need to invest in the modernization of aging airport facilities in order to meet increasing travel demands. Of course we scrutinize budget, schedule and cost; but attention to the customer experience is just as important to the success of any capital improvement program. 

Traditionally, airports have not held customer service to the same high standards during construction that they maintain throughout more typical operating periods. Now, however, airports are extending the customer-centric philosophy of service excellence to onsite construction projects, requiring all facets of the airport organization to embrace the theory of exceptional customer service. In my opinion, this is the only way for an airport to truly position itself for success in our very competitive and low-margin market.  


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