Our business is all about making a traveller’s journey more pleasant, and ensuring their experience at the airport is a good one. While of course the traditional things that make a bar or restaurant great – whether that’s charming service, a relaxing environment or exceptionally good food – are essentials that must never be ignored, new technologies are opening up a wealth of possibilities when it comes to pleasing our customers.
Social networking has gone from being the preserve of teenagers and geeks only a few short years ago, to become an essential part of most people’s lives. Concession companies and airport operators are responding to this trend, but our approach must be coordinated. Passengers do not want to be bombarded with information or spammed with irrelevance. Our challenge is to work with airlines, airport operators and other parties who are concerned with how passengers spend time at airports so that we provide seamless access to the information they need in one, easy-to-use format.
Any foray we make into the realm of social media needs to be carefully considered. We must have clear objectives so we understand why we are doing it, and we also need to know whatever initiatives we introduce will deliver a significant and measureable return on investment.
If we are to capitalise on these new ways of creating dialogue with our customers, we have to ensure we have structures and systems in place to respond to what they say in a timely and appropriate manner. We have an opportunity to communicate with our customers in ‘real time’ – an activity that requires particularly skilful management, especially for a company such as SSP with operations in 30 countries.
But enter the conversation we must. People take far more notice of what their friends have to say than the marketing messages of corporate and the power is shifting. It’s vital that we start to engage with communities right now.
A helping hand
New technology can be used on a very practical level to make passing time while waiting for a flight easier or more pleasant. For example, technology is a central focus of our new offers at London City Airport, (scheduled to open later this summer), and we will have staff on duty at the terminal who are equipped with handheld devices that allow passengers to book a table or even order food at our City Bar and Grill.
The launch of PowerKiss wire-free mobile phone charging at airports across Europe is another innovation that’s having a big impact on the passenger experience. PowerKiss allows visitors to our bars and cafés to top up their phone batteries without having to ‘plug in’. Passengers simply collect a charging ‘ring’ from the counter, and can then charge their phone by laying it onto PowerKiss enabled tables.
The service is already up and running at Helsinki, Frankfurt and six airports across Norway, including Oslo, and it will be rolled out to an additional 30 airports, including Charles De Gaulle, Stockholm-Arlanda, Malaga, Geneva International and Zurich airports over the coming months.
We know from our consumer research that people’s attitudes to the time they spend at the airport are changing, and they now see that time as a useful opportunity to chat to friends online or catch up on work. By providing facilities such as phone charging, or Wi-Fi connectivity (now expected as standard at an airport), we can help passengers spend their time more productively and more enjoyably.
This is great for our customers, and – as they now no longer have to dash away to make that important business call and are likely to stay for an extra cup of coffee or another glass of wine – it’s a great opportunity for us too.