Faik Fahmi, president director of Indonesian airport operator, Angkasa Pura 1, explains why customer service excellence is a priority at Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport.
Why do you take the provision of good customer service so seriously?
Because Ngurah Rai International Airport is the first and last impressions most people have of Bali, and we want that experience to be an exceptional one. We know that a number of individual interactions shape our views of an airport, so it is very important for us to provide a seamless and outstanding journey experience for all our passengers.
We believe that good customer service is a combination of many factors that include the airport’s premises, technology, processes and people. The physical design of Ngurah Rai International Airport [DPS] showcases Bali’s unique heritage and creates a distinct sense of place and ambience for passengers. We know that having the right people can make all the difference, so we’re careful to recruit only the best and most talented staff and continuously train and educate them about the latest aviation and hospitality trends.
Can you give us some general examples of what you consider to be good customer service?
In general, we believe that good customer service is providing a remarkable service that exceeds the expectations of both our passengers and stakeholders, and that this applies to everyone, and at all times.
I think it is important to note that we also look at good customer service from the aspect of how we react to and handle the unexpected, like the Mount Agung volcanic eruptions, which when it last happened forced the airport to close and the flight cancellations led to many passengers being stranded at the airport for hours or even days. We responded by activating our emergency operations command centre and deploying our airport hospitality resources to look after the stranded passengers, providing them with transparent information, while at the same time taking care of their needs. I believe that the ability to offer such high levels of service even during the toughest times show why Bali has excelled in ACI’s Airport Service Quality (ASQ) programme for the last three years.
What are the potential benefits to your airport of ensuring an excellent customer experience?
The benefits include enhancing the airport’s growing reputation for customer service excellence and our reputation as one of the leading airport operators in Indonesia – both of which might encourage customers to come back to Bali either for another holiday or a stopover before reaching their final destination – as well as a rise in non-aeronautical revenues, as happy passengers spend more in airport shops and F&B outlets.
Has the opening of any new facilities or the enhancement of existing ones helped boost customer satisfaction levels?
Yes, our ASQ satisfaction levels have risen since the refurbishment and modernisation of the facilities in Bali. One of the latest initiatives is the installation of smart security facilities such as the new E-gates in International Arrivals and the new auto tray return system at security in International Departures. Both have greatly reduced queuing times in the terminal and allowed departing passengers to spend more time in the concessions area before boarding their flights, generating more non-aviation related income for the airport.
How big a role does new technology play in creating a good airport experience for passengers and is this likely to grow in the future?
The rapid development of technology has allowed airports to become leaner and more operationally efficient and put passengers more in control of their journey through our facilities. However, at the same time, technology has changed the behaviour of passengers, who are now more demanding and critical than ever before.
In the future, we believe that technology will allow airport operators to enhance customer satisfaction levels as it will shorten processing times, and provide passengers with a better, more personalised experience.
Technology will help airports improve the predictability of every day operations and better understand their passengers’ demographics and characteristics. As we are already seeing today, it will also will better facilitate direct communication between airports and their customers.
I also believe that technology will help airports operate in a more environmentally friendly and sustainable manner as it will significantly reduce the need for paperwork. Technology could also provide a renewable energy source that may halve our energy consumption and improve passenger comfort levels.
What customer service initiatives in Bali are you most proud of today?
From a big picture perspective, I am most proud of our ability to blend Balinese culture with top notch customer service. The Balinese ambience is omni-present through what visitors can see (the airport’s architecture); touch (handicrafts); smell (incense sticks); and taste (traditional culinary offerings).
After that, I think I am most proud of our airport ambassador programme, where we recruited and trained up four young and talented individuals to help passengers in the terminal. They are hospitality trained and have an expert knowledge of Bali airport and the airport industry, and I truly believe that their presence has helped us implement a number of new customer service excellence initiatives at DPS, and most importantly, promote Bali as a destination to passengers and the general public.
As we strive to improve, ACI’s ASQ surveys have become a reliable tool for us to benchmark our customer service performance against other airports. We also regularly monitor customer feedback ourselves, and these survey results motivate us to do even better.
When it comes to customer excellence, how valuable a tool is ACI’s ASQ benchmarking programme?
It is hugely important for us. The ASQ benchmarking programme provides us with comprehensive data that we can use to analyse any opportunities to enhance and improve our customer service offering in Bali and at the 12 other Indonesian airports within our network.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned from taking part in ACI’s ASQ programme?
Possibly the biggest lessons we’ve learned from taking part in the ASQ programme is that we cannot judge customer experience from our assumptions alone, and that it’s important to benchmark ourselves against other airports in the region. People have a range of service experiences in their daily lives and individual interactions shape their overall definition of an outstanding service experience. ACI’s ASQ surveys are actually carried out while passengers are at the airport and not at some time in the future, so they genuinely reflect people’s feelings on the day, and therefore are more accurate in helping us to identify areas where we might need to make service improvements. The ASQ programme has also opened our minds to the fact that good is not enough, when better is expected.
What do you believe the world’s airports could do better to improve the airport experience for passengers?
As one airport community, we need to improve collaboration among the many different stakeholders present at an airport, ranging from the airlines, ground handlers and government agencies to ensure the successful delivery of customer service at our airports because, at the end of the day, it’s in all our best interests.
In addition to investing in technology and new facilities, we should also remember the importance of the human touch and the vital role staff still play in providing a memorable airport experience for passengers.
Finally, we must continue to build on and make maximum use of our engagement with passengers as we can’t assume that each traveller has a similar understanding about the complexity of the aviation industry and the services we promise. And we have plenty of opportunities to do this through corporate social responsibility programmes, educative programmes, external gathering and/or through social media.