Posted on: 10 May 2018
The smile that says it all
Ville Levaniemi, founder and executive VP new business, HappyOrNot, reveals how he is helping to make airports happier places – one Smiley face at a time.
Since launching in 2009, HappyOrNot has seen impressive growth, can you tell us more about these smiley face terminals and why they have been such a success within the airport sector?
The aim of HappyOrNot terminals is to provide businesses and organisations with a service that helps them improve their operations, reduce customer and employee turnover, and enhance their business overall. The focus is on making the customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) a company-wide Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that everyone is accountable for – from the CEO to junior staff.
Since launching, we have helped more than 4,000 organisations by enabling a 24/7 overview on how they are performing via CX and EX, providing them with credible data to fine-tune operations and encourage positive reinforcement.
The airport sector is a great example of how the passenger feedback derived from HappyOrNot terminals can be used to provide consistently good and friendly personal service, develop and fine-tune operations and help airport staff react immediately to unexpected events.
How can smaller, regional airports in particular benefit from your service and the feedback it generates?
Smaller airports will have the same staffing and resourcing challenges as their larger counterparts, but with a limited amount of money to spend, so they need to be as efficient as possible without jeopardising the passenger experience.
Our airport clients can attest to the effect of the staffing combinations, such as adding the “service superstars” to the security lines during the known difficult times (as shown through the feedback data), while also optimising their resources based on the general situation at the airport.
We currently have about 200 airport clients (and services within airports). We consider each as an individual and our scalable service concept and product can fulfil their unique needs.
What are the primary differences between Smiley Touch and Smiley Terminal and is one more suited to a certain environment than the other?
In short, the Smiley Touch offers deeper insights, via two follow-up options (initial question > follow-up selection of causes > open feedback text-type), into the causes of negative feedback, requiring only a few extra moments of a respondent’s time.
There are many factors that will define the Smiley product of choice for our customers (people flow, layout of the service location, estimated end-customers’ time available to respond, etc.). It simply comes down to the use case and the challenges faced by each client, but many of our clients use both (as well as Web Smileys), depending on the point-of-experience.
How are the results from pushing a button logged and analysed and how can you ensure data isn’t skewed by a child or angry passenger pushing the same button on multiple occasions?
The system has algorithms to identify the intentional misuse attempts (such as repeated button presses in quick succession) and filters out all repeated presses after the first from the analytic data provided to the client. For validation purposes though, we do maintain the suspected manipulation behaviour in our system in the event it is requested or needed.
What areas of the airport sector do you think need improvement when it comes to providing good customer service?
Each case is different, but if we focus on experience points, the way airports normally start with HappyOrNot is by implementing terminals at security checkpoints and cleaning operations (bathrooms), then they extend the service usage to arrivals, check-in, baggage services, etc. Our service is also used to measure performance in airport parking, lounges, food & beverage, duty-free, and even Wi-Fi zones.
What is very promising though, is that there hasn’t been a single airport operator that isn’t interested in discussing the opportunities and taking co-operations further, which tells us that the travel experience across the board is very likely to improve over the coming years.
How can an airport use your technology to improve their level of customer service in real time?
By deploying HappyOrNot at all important points-of-experience to continuously measure their services and improve the customer experience. The analysed feedback data can be used for short- and long-term monitoring, while the Real Time Alerts (an automated email alert that’s triggered when satisfaction dips below a preset value) give airport management added security and the intelligence to address any issues immediately.
Additionally, having 24/7 trending data from each day provides valuable knowledge that can be used for predictive planning (think hourly and seasonal peaks). What’s more, the effect of employees understanding their own performance, and management using it as a tool for positive reinforcement, encourages staff to take more responsibility of the positive impact they can make to the passenger experience – and this should not be underestimated.
Do you think the low-fare revolution has affected passengers’ impressions of what good customer service is within the aviation industry?
I believe so. The development in Europe has been interesting: first there were cases of low-cost carriers that almost intentionally made it a bit more stressful to travel to justify the low cost, make them credible, and boost the brand of ‘low cost’.
Then, serious competition started. For the challengers it was easy to differentiate by promising to provide better ticketing, a good on-board experience, or provide free Wi-Fi. During this time, the older, more traditional carriers needed to shape up, cut overhead costs, and become more efficient due to the pressure of low-cost competitors.
However, all in all, I believe that once a traveller has committed to the travel, it’s the duty of the airport to ensure that the services they provide are of an acceptable standard, as a minimum, so as to give the traveller a good experience. Bad service as a part of the brand (and “public justification” of the bad service) just doesn’t fly anymore.
According to your market analysis, what are the happiest and unhappiest parts of the airport experience?
If we look at the main points of experience, such as security check, baggage claims, bathrooms and check-in, the area with the lowest passenger satisfaction benchmark in 2017 was baggage claims at 68.2%. For the first quarter of 2018, this area is following the same ranking, but has in fact already improved by nearly one percentage point to 69.1%. In contrast, the highest ranked area is security, which currently holds a satisfaction benchmark of 86.9% (up two percentage points from the 2017 value).