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Fun, data and airport experience

Thu 31 Oct 2019 | Erich Gerber

Ecosystems of data sharing are the secret to getting customer experience off the ground, writes Tibco’s Erich Gerber

Today, we are all obsessed by the customer experience and the effects that it has on businesses and other organisations. And quite rightly: The sensation you have when you interact with a brand in person or online has a direct impact on how much money and time you are willing to invest in its products and services.

It’s for this reason that Net Promoter Scores (NPS) have become such valuable currency: They provide a powerful indicator of our emotional investment and how likely we are to recommend them.

I was thinking about this recently when I was in what must be a candidate for the world’s most modern airport, Changi in Singapore.

On its website, Changi claims with good reason to be “a destination in itself” and employs the tagline “more than an airport.”

Why is it more than an airport? Well, how many airports have you visited that have a butterfly garden, spas, hotels, playgrounds, walkways in the clouds, a hedge maze, a waterfall, giant slides and superb restaurants?

Changi was built to make visiting an airport a pleasure rather than a chore, a way to bookend a stay that enhances rather than detracts from the overall travel experience. It’s far away from the stresses, plastic seats and lukewarm coffee that most airports offer.

Go the extra yard and try to reimagine an experience where the rewards are tangible and visceral.

I’m thinking about Italy and the Aeroporti di Roma where CIO Emiliano Sorrenti leads a team that analyses passenger flow, visualising the movement of people and objects through heat maps and bubble maps.

That data was used to support the building of a huge, 90,000 square-metre boarding area with a food street and shopping gallery that provide an indoors analogue to the marvellous Italian capital. It’s easy and pleasurable to move about and smart boarding gates mean travellers are not held up or frustrated.

The airport is over 100 years old but such has been the transformation to creating seamless, joined-up experiences, that airline rating company Skytrax made Rome its Most Improved Airport for 2018.

Nailing the customer experience isn’t easy. In the case of an airport experience, there are multiple groups involved, from the travel agency to the carrier and the airport operator. But partnerships can enable end-to-end experiences that feel frictionless and can delight the user.

This is the future of business and organisations: Ecosystems of partners and even rivals coming together and sharing data and systems in a responsible, secure way to provide integrated offerings.

By combining different datasets, using historic and real-time information, applying customer analytics, machine learning, sentiment analysis, clustering, affinity analysis and propensity analysis and so on, we can find opportunities to anticipate the needs of audiences, create better targeted marketing, drive customer loyalty and even have customers evangelise on our behalves.

Already, we’re seeing insurers partnering with health clubs to extend their reach and create more customer touchpoints and sources of data.

We’re also seeing mobile network operators providing bonuses for loyal customers, such as discounted concert tickets and VIP queue-jumping.

But we’re only scratching the surface of what will be possible and it’s a certainty that new and engaging business models will emerge.

How long before we see self-driving cars that are free to use so long as the sponsor can capture data from the customer? Or a streaming video company that provides sharp discounts in exchange for detailed reviews that will drive others to watch a movie?

If we are data-centric and start thinking about what would make a great customer experience, the rest will follow.

Organisations who build their business on the provision of low-cost services, will always be around. But it’s very hard to pair low margins with fun – and it is also not really innovative.

The more promising path to success is for companies to maximise cross-selling and upselling opportunities. That will involve a fostering culture of data science and thinking creatively about how to build new revenue-earning models.

It’s anything but business as usual and it will take us to places that we can’t even fully comprehend today. But, as we know, “Life is a journey, not a destination!”

Experts featured:

Erich Gerber

TIBCO Software

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