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The modern airport visitor: How do you engage them?

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On average, more than 8 million people fly every day, and each of those passengers have passed through an airport to do so. As this sector is reaching new records and unprecedented heights, we asked Andrew Harrison, Chief Executive Advisor of GMCAC, at GAD Asia to share his philosophy on the modern airport visitor and the importance of customer centricity at airports.

Tell us about the modern airport visitor. How do you engage them?

I think the first way of engaging our modern visitor at an airport is recognising that they’re not modern. Passengers have been visiting airports for decades and using them as a facility to travel through. I think the big shift has been to how we engage in a much better way with a passenger to give them more control over the choices and decisions they make in the airport while they travel and give them a sense of convenience. Technology offers a very important way of solving some of these challenges.

And before we get to that stage though, we must understand who our specific customer is because each airport, each region, and each type of airport has different customer profiles. We would typically do a consumer survey in one of the large consumer firms to understand what passengers would like to do with their time, what type of services they would like, what level of efficiency they would like to see in the airport, and of course, ask for areas of improvement. Once that’s understood, then we have a much better way of engaging with the passengers

Why is customer centricity important to you?

Because it recognises that there is more than just one customer. You look at your entire business and you realise that there are stakeholders who have the role of customers as well.

We take a customer centric approach even to some of the regulatory authorities because essentially, these are our facilities and we have to manage their stay and experience while they execute their jobs in our facilities. So the customer centric approach means that you’re able to look at different customers in different ways and respond to their varying needs. So it is important.

At the end of the day, what drives the success of any business is the way in which customers make use of what you have to offer them.

Do you think this customer-centric approach is catching on?

I think it’s catching on but I think it’s just been there for a long time. I think the phrase “catching on” is really talking about a greater awareness. Not only that, but a sense that people have more choices available to them today than they’ve had at any other time in history. For one, because of technology. Two, because the rate of air travel particularly in our industry has grown phenomenally and people are exploring more and more parts of the world. As a result of that, people have choices. So if the focus isn’t on the customer then you may not be on the list of choices that they may be considering.

What is your advice for other airport CEOs who might be looking to change?

Please give me some time to share your learnings and share mine with you so that together we can collaborate and learn together because not a single one of us has all the answers. That’s the beauty of our industry. We can collaborate and we can learn from each other whether on an equivalent level, the CEO level, or below the CEO level, or even above the CEO level. There are massive opportunities for learning and we must exercise each and every one of them. That’s why a forum like GAD is very important, because it gives us an opportunity to engage with a wide spectrum of airport stakeholders, whether from development, finance, operations, investment, or the media! It’s quite an important forum for me, and that’s why I’m here today.

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