Benchmarking Service Quality At AUS

Dec. 31, 2012
ACI's Airport Service Quality (ASQ) program provides a toolbox for managing and enhancing the passenger experience

Customer service is playing a larger role in the management of airports. It is a core value for airports. Understanding and meeting customer needs and expectations are the key to operating and managing an airport successfully.

The new realities of doing business in the 21st century require airports to think holistically about the services provided to their customers. Customers have rising expectations about the services and standard of service that an airport should provide. They expect their experience to be as effortless and enjoyable as possible. 

The majority of travelers do not distinguish between who is responsible for the quality of services whether it is airlines, the Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection, concessionaires or other airport partners. Nowadays, air travel can be challenging for passengers. From parking vehicles and checking bags to clearing security, customers want a seamless travel experience. Airports around the world are working hard to improve facilitation and bring convenience to travelers. 

Airport Service Quality

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) is focused on customer satisfaction for passengers, business partners, and aviation department staff. Customer needs are identified through many tools such as the quarterly Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Survey of passengers, customer feedback via the department’s Customer Relationship Management System (CRMS), focus groups, meetings with business partners, and the annual Employee Survey.

Customer feedback is used by management as leading indicators of aviation department and business partners’ performance. AUS is always looking to improve on the existing processes and find ways to deliver on the changing needs of its customers.

To measure and benchmark service quality, AUS joined the Airport Service Quality (ASQ) passenger survey in 2006. Prior to that, the airport tried other tools but none of them were as effective as the ASQ program.

The ASQ program was introduced by Airports Council International (ACI) in 2006 to help airports improve and invest in the passenger experience. Since its introduction, the ASQ program has led to the development of industry best practices. The ASQ Survey is based on the results of more than 300,000 questionnaires completed by passengers at airports worldwide, and captures the passengers’ perception of the quality of more than 30 aspects of service.

A Comprehensive Survey

The ASQ Survey is the world’s leading airport customer satisfaction benchmarking program with over 200 airports in more than 50 countries surveying passengers every month of the year. All airports use the same questionnaire and follow the same methodology. To ensure comparable results, a detailed sample plan tailored to each airport's traffic is used. The wide range of ASQ participants allows each airport to select an appropriate benchmarking panel.

The ASQ passenger survey measures customer satisfaction on a range of service delivery parameters. Each survey covers key parameters of the passenger experience: check-in, security, getting to the gate, signage, cleanliness, and amenities. Passengers are surveyed on various elements and are asked to rank them on a scale of one to five.

This powerful tool helps identify best practices in quality customer service from the world’s top-performing airports.  Excelling in customer service is a result of continued effort and commitment to providing the best possible service. ASQ helps airports understand where to focus their financial and human resources.

The ASQ Survey results indicate the key factors that influence passengers. These factors relate to the core processes and basic needs of passengers such as cleanliness of the terminal, availability of washrooms, waiting times, courtesy and helpfulness of staff. 

The ASQ program is also vital to understanding airport customer service rankings relative to peer airports in order to prioritize resource investment. Analysis of this valuable information enables airports to clearly understand passenger needs and align service provision with customer expectations.

The Austin Experience

The ASQ survey has been the most important tool used by AUS to develop a clear focus and make data driven decisions on customer service. The airport exceeds its customers’ expectations on the critical few items that are most important to them. By dissecting and measuring each part of the passenger process, AUS is able to identify problems and performance gaps, which in turn facilitate improvement actions. Nonetheless AUS is always looking to improve on existing processes and find ways to deliver on the changing needs of its customers.

Every quarter, AUS’s survey results are shared with its business partners to foster a collaboration relationship amongst the various parties. The goal is to consistently overachieve against our passengers’ expectations and attempt to bring back the genuine pleasure of air travel, by impressing upon our business partners the need to do the best job possible serving the travelers. Part of our on-boarding for new employees, includes extensive training on customer service. The executive director personally conducts quarterly briefings on the results of the ASQ survey.

For the sixth consecutive year, AUS has earned a ranking in the top airports in both North America and the world for excellence in customer service. It has been ranked as one of the best airports in the world according to the Airport Service Quality Awards. The awards recognize the airports which have achieved the highest passenger satisfaction ratings. 

Additionally, AUS was recognized in 2011 in the first ACI’s Director General’s Roll of Excellence. The Director General’s Roll of Excellence recognizes airports that have ranked among the top five in Airport Service Quality (ASQ) for five consecutive years. Only 14 airports in the world received this recognition.

The ASQ program has been very valuable to AUS in terms of improving its customer service as well as improving the management approach to running the airport.

Other ASQ Program Modules

The ASQ program provides airports with a toolbox for managing a passenger experience. It consists of five modules, each of which can be utilized individually. The modules are: ASQ Survey, ASQ Assured, ASQ Performance, ASQ Retail, and ASQ Management.

The ASQ Assured certification module benchmarks an airport’s management approach to service quality against industry best practice. It is a quality management certification designed for airports as a framework to assist in driving continual improvement and identify areas of improvement. The certification recognizes the airport’s commitment to service quality and the systems and processes that are in place to constantly improve customer service. AUS was the third airport in the world to receive ASQ Assured certification.

ASQ Performance measures the levels of service delivered by an airport and puts those measures into context through comparison with other airports. It allows airport management to measure the service performance actually delivered by the airport and accurately pinpoint underperformance, bottlenecks, and over-performance. ASQ Performance measures passenger processing times using 16 key performance indicators such as “waiting time at check in”, “waiting time at security” and “delivery of first bag/last bag.” Measurements are conducted at peak hours using the same methodology at all airports.

ASQ Management provides support and advisory services for airports looking to improve their quality of service. Advisory projects range from supporting airports looking to achieve ASQ Assured Certification to assistance in changing airport culture and implementing best practice throughout the airport.

ASQ Retail measures passenger satisfaction with an airport's commercial services as well as its performance on key sales ratio and puts those measures into context through comparison with other airports. It helps managers improve commercial performance through a better understanding of their airport's retail/food & beverage offering's strengths and weaknesses, and a deeper knowledge of global airport shopper profiles.

About the Author

Ghizlane Badawi

Ghizlane Badawi, senior business process consultant, City of Austin Department of Aviation