Where passenger experience surveys fail

/ / Insights, Passenger Experience

Airports and airlines want to create experiences that make their customers stay longer, buy more and positively refer others. To achieve this, it is essential to know what passengers really want and need. But while regularly sending out basic surveys may help, this is not enough to make you really understand your passenger’s needs. Despite their advantages, surveys can be misleading or leave gaps in the insights that airlines and aiports need. Here is a list of ways in which surveys can fall short:

1. Non-response bias

One common problem with surveys is that response rates are low, and you hear mainly from those who are extremely satisfied or extremely bitter about their experience. This is not a representative sample. This bias is called a non-response bias, and occurs because there are distinct differences between the people who respond and those who don’t respond. This can result in misleading or inaccurate data. The higher the response rate of a survey the lower the risk of non-response bias. If not designed correctly, other kinds of biases may also occur. For example,  a five-point rating scale with 3 or more positive rating points will result in ‘false’ positives.

2. Only information from the current customers

All too often, companies only survey current customers. In this way, they find out why they are customers, but learn little or nothing about those who are not customers, and who have found greater value elsewhere. It is therefore extremely important to also collect data from past customers, and if possible even from people who have never been customer before. In this respect, it can also be interesting to hire an outside expert or consultant, as they are experienced and can compare services and standards between different organizations.

3. Difficult to determine what customers want for the future

Asking for feedback on the current services, will only yield feedback on the current way of operating. This is useful for process improvement, but not for future-oriented strategic development. Moreover, it is much easier to determine what customers want now, than what they will want in the future. Customers may not even know what is possible or what they will want in the future. Yet it is vital to determine this and anticipate those future wants and needs.

4. From data to action

While surveys can give you useful information, many organizations struggle with turning these results into action. The results won’t provide you with the next steps necessary to enhance customer experience. Nor will it be clear which issues should be tackled first. Also, the data will tell you what is wrong… but they don’t tell you why. And the why is extremely important in developing new strategies for enhancing passenger experience. When a customer gives you the lowest rating, there is not much you can do with this information, unless you understand the rationale behind this score. The same holds for great scores: you need to know why, so you can replicate the same experience with other customers. Therefore, you will need additional information to understand why your customers are rating you the way they are.

Because of these pitfalls, it is important to include qualitative customer research, like for example in-depth interviews, focus groups, and mystery passenger services, to complement the quantitative data obtained by surveys. These tools provide an integrative view of the customer experience and can uncover valuable insights where surveys fall short. To summarize, the best basis for an effective customer experience strategy is a combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches.

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