Airports have only recently tested the social media waters. For the amount of time the average traveler actually spends in transit, airport operators are just beginning to realize the benefits of employing revenue generation initiatives,'destination marketing' techniques and other methods to engage passengers before they enplane and after they deplane aircraft. To that end, social media is a major boon to customer engagement.
In a previous post titled, "Social Media Comes In For A Landing At Airports," I highlighted a handful of international and regional airports that in my opinion were doing an exceptional job in engaging with travelers via social networks. From the AirMall at the Pittsburgh International Airport achieving the highest sales per passenger to Yeager Airport in Charleston, West Virginia utilizing Facebook and Twitter to assist in crisis management, airports are learning best practices from airlines and hotels who have blended social media into their daily marketing and CRM tactical routines.
Robert CookAccording to Robert Cook, co-founder and managing director of AirGate Solutions, an airport consultancy agency - while he believes that Airport ROI is a good metric for airports, "in order to extend the opportunity of engaging with passengers as customers, we must focus on them as part of the metric."
Up till now, Cook's 'Airports on Twitter' rankings have focused on the ratio of the number of Twitter followers to total passenger count per airport. "By ranking airports according to relative size," Cook says, "this may better represent the airport's effort to engage with customers" through Twitter's microblogging platform.
However based on only relying on "followers" versus those the airport is "following," is only examining half of the equation. For instance, while Orlando has 2,634 followers, they in turn are following "zero" potential customers. This indicates this airport is more concerned about broadcasting news to its audience than they are in conducting two-way conversations with them.
Manchester Airport in the UK, on the other hand is actually following more potential customers than it has followers. This shows a concerted effort by this airport operator to not only disseminate news and updates but also its willingness to engage in a dialogue with these folks.
So while these rankings provide a snapshot of how well an airport is received by the general public in relationship to the number of passengers that traffic its terminals, what I think is hitting closer to the mark regarding engagement is Cook's current initiative.
AirGate Solutions is currently developing a new measurement paradigm which they have labeled "Passenger Experience Index"(PEI). "This Index will consider new opportunities of customer engagement that social media and new technologies bring to the equation," notes Cook.
In the process of constructing the Index for release as a Beta program for several airports, the objective of the new metric according to Cook is to focus on "new opportunities to increase value to passengers while increasing revenue for the airport."
The components of the PEI are multi-faceted where location-based services and geolocation are added to the mix alongside real-time retail offers, itineraries, flight delay opportunities, opt-in services - at both the departing airport as well as the destination airport. Communities of passengers could be established across the entire travel experience from parking to terminal to gate to flight to deplanement.
"Revenue opportunities, such as retail offers, then become extensible from 'simple geo-located based' offers to 'route' and 'destination-specific' opportunities," says Cook. Weighing each component will be determined as to how they present "value points" to the passenger as a customer.
With airports spending more time in developing programs and initiatives that affect customer engagement, the better our travel experience will become in the future. in stead of just being viewed as 'passengers en route', airports are learning through social media and today's advanced technology that they serve as an important venue to assist in the our journeys versus just being a conduit for folks to get from Point A to Point B.