The National Academies

ACRP 01-40 [Active]

Evaluating the Traveler's Perspective to Improve the Airport Customer Experience

  Project Data
Funds: $500,000
Staff Responsibility: Theresia H. Schatz
Research Agency: IOS Partners, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Patricia Ryan
Effective Date: 5/1/2019
Completion Date: 9/30/2020

Improving the airport customer experience is emerging as a high priority goal for domestic and international airport travelers as their needs and expectations evolve in response to changing conditions, new and innovative services, processes, and technologies. It is a key driver of customer satisfaction, airport reputation, revenue, and the overall ranking of an airport.
Throughout the customer journey, there are several opportunities to improve the customer experience along numerous touch points—from planning the trip to traveling to, through, and from the airport.  Yet, airports often have limited influence on many of these touch points. ACRP Report 157: Improving the Airport Customer Experience offers comprehensive guidance to help airports address many topics related to improving and maintaining customer experience. Also, ACRP Research Report 161: Guidelines for Improving Airport Services for International Customers identifies key elements of the international customer experience that can influence satisfaction. However, since customers’ expectations continue to evolve, and new technologies and social issues emerge, the traveler’s perspective can provide additional insight on ways to improve the customer experience.  
The objectives of this research are to (1) provide guidance for the airport operator from the perspective of the airport traveler through his/her entire journey to (a) address current and evolving experiences and expectations and (b) identify future customer service-related trends and developments; and (2) generate tools to help airport operators collaborate with airport tenants and other service providers to deliver a seamless customer experience. The audience for this research is the airport operator who has already prioritized the customer experience as an important airport function and is implementing programs to improve it.  
To create a seamless customer experience, the elements of this guidance should include: 
  • A description of how customer service needs and expectations by customer type have recently changed;
  • Considerations of travelers’ emotional, informational (e.g., language access plan), cultural, and physical needs and reactions;
  • Recommendations on airport training and hiring practices to ensure a knowledgeable workforce that will exceed standards of service, (e.g., advanced interpersonal skills, tenant/contractor coordination, service recovery);
  • Impacts of any regulatory requirements and changes (e.g., FAA Reauthorization, Act of 2018, etc.);
  • Best practices and methods from comparable industries;
  • New and innovative services, processes, and technologies;  
  • Strategies to manage the customer experience and expectations during disruptive events, (e.g., IROPS, technology outages and malfunctions, etc.); and
  • Consideration on how the customer experience changes based on where they are in the journey.  

The ACRP is seeking the insights of proposers on how best to achieve the research objectives. Proposers are asked to develop and include a detailed research plan for accomplishing the project objectives. Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time. Proposals must present the proposers' current thinking in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach to meeting the research objectives. The work proposed must be divided into tasks and proposers must describe the work proposed in each task in detail.
The research plan should include appropriate interim deliverables, for ACRP approval, that include at minimum:  
  1.    A detailed analysis and segmentation of today’s travelers by consumer behavioral attributes to set the framework of the final guidance document, (i.e., use the classification of customer list types such as those identified in ACRP Report 157 and ACRP Research Report 161 as a starting point);  
  2.    Creation of template journey maps according to customer segments that depict the needs and expectations of the traveler; present a multi-media representation of different journeys from the customer viewpoint;
  3.    A list of comparable industries included in the research process;
  4.    A focus group of potential end users of the draft guidance and tools for industry review;
  5.    An interim report that describes work done in early tasks with an updated work plan for remaining tasks and a detailed outline of the final guidance document and tools; and
  6.    An initial draft deliverable on customer behavior and potential solutions for early posting on the ACRP website, to be revised with the draft final deliverables.       
The research plan should include other appropriate checkpoints with the ACRP panel, including at a minimum (1) a kick-off teleconference meeting to be held within 1 month of the Notice to Proceed and (2) one face-to-face interim deliverable review meeting, as well as web-enabled teleconferences tied to the panel review and ACRP approval of other interim deliverables deemed appropriate. 
The final deliverables will include: (1) a guidance document that meets the research objectives; (2) a high-level summary for senior airport executives*; (3) a multi-media representation of different journeys from the customer viewpoint along with other tools for collaboration with airport tenants and other service providers to deliver a seamless customer experience; (4) a contractor’s final report that documents the methodology of their entire research effort, including any background information and the research team’s recommendation of research needs and priorities for additional related research; and (5) a stand-alone technical memorandum titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products.” (See Special Note J.)
*Graphic design to be provided by ACRP.
Note: Following receipt of the draft final deliverables, there should be 3 months for ACRP review and comments and for contractor preparation of the final deliverables.   For budgeting purposes, proposers should assume that ACRP will provide access to web-enabled teleconference services. ACRP will pay panel members’ travel costs for the face-to-face meeting. Proposers should assume that the meeting will be held in Washington, DC.
A. ACRP publications and other relevant industry-related resources should be consulted when conducting this research. It is expected that portions of these publications and or resources will be discussed or linked into the final publication as appropriate, including but not limited to: ACRP Report 157: Improving the Airport Customer Experience, ACRP Research Report 161: Guidelines for Improving Airport Services for International Customers, ACRP Synthesis 48: How Airports Measure Customer Service Performance, ACRP Synthesis 11-03/S06-06 “Airport Workforce Programs Supporting Employee Well-Being”, among others.
B.  Given the pace of change in this field, proposers are encouraged to propose an expedited timeline to complete the research.
C. Proposers should demonstrate understanding of current, relevant regulatory mandates and compliance requirements while identifying new approaches and tools to improve the customer experience and include research team members with multi-media expertise. 
D. Proposers should consider the research team attending 2019 ACI-NA / AAAE Airport Customer Experience Symposium.
STATUS: IOS Partners has been selected. Research is underway. 

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