Benchmarking Service Quality

A look at ACI’s initiative for helping airports invest in the passenger experience

The primary focus of Airports Council International’s (ACI) Airport Service Quality (ASQ) program is to identify and disseminate best practices in quality customer service from the world’s top-performing airports. Nancy Gautier, ACI World director of communications, says ASQ is driving two things specifically: cooperation among service providers; and cooperation among airports. Meanwhile, after recent recognition for ASQ Assured certification, AIRPORT BUSINESS speaks with Austin-Bergstrom International Airport executive director Jim Smith.

The ASQ program consists of four modules, each of which can be utilized individually. The first module, also the initial module when the program began four years ago, is the ASQ survey.
“Before that, we had been doing a passenger survey with the International Air Transport Association (IATA)…a joint airline/airport type of survey,” says Gautier.
When the contract for that survey ended in 2005, the ACI board decided to do something that was specifically airport oriented, relates Gautier.
“We wanted to do something designed for airports, by airports, and executed by airports,” says Gautier. “The program is confidential, and the information gathered is not shared publicly. All airports sign a confidentiality agreement; they can see other airport information … it is really a benchmarking tool; it was never meant to be an airport popularity survey.”
Know your passengers
More than 130 airports around the globe participate in the ASQ Survey module. All airports use the same questionnaire and follow the same methodology; ASQ’s highly detailed sample plan tailored to each airport’s traffic ensures comparable results, according to ACI.
The core of the survey is based on a questionnaire developed by ACI and expanded on during the past four years. The questionnaire has some 30 parameters, comments Gautier, and airports are required to complete the questionnaires at certain times of the day each quarter. If an airport skips a questionnaire, they can continue to participate in the program but they can’t be ranked among the other participating airports.
“It’s a program designed to help airports benchmark and metric themselves against similar like-sized airports,” remarks Gautier.
Airports utilize impartial third parties who are responsible for distributing and collecting the questionnaires, she says. The questionnaires are distributed at gates and completed by passengers upon arrival. “There is a very strict environment that is specified; an airport must execute the surveys in that particular context,” says Gautier.
The survey covers key parameters of the passenger experience: check-in, security, getting to the gate, signage, cleanliness, and amenities. Passengers rank on a scale of one to five what they think about a particular service element; they also rank the parameters by importance.
“That gives managers a cross-cut on service that is very telling,” says Gautier. “It helps weight the results and gives a fair estimation of the importance of a particular service to a particular customer.”
The survey module offers an array of deliverables available within weeks of the end of each calendar quarter. The deliverables include management summaries and interactive data mining and analysis tools as well as individually tailored reports, panels, and raw data.

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