Great Customer Experience Grounded by Lack of Power

Modern Marketers spend a lot of time traveling to help us do all of that Modern Marketing. Unless you’re based in the Quad Cities and you’re spending your time shuttling between Davenport and Moline, then you are likely spending time in airports. Lots of airports.

We all know what it is like to be a customer, but when you focus on the airport experience it really shows you what is important in providing a great customer experience.

The stress levels are very high during travel, and while we may be able to choose our preferred airline, we often do not have any choice in airports. There are lots of things to bemoan about the overall air travel experience, like parking, security lines, baggage fees, but I’m not concerned with any of those things. I’m more interested in what happens once you get to the gate.

Understand Your Customers’ Needs

The first step in providing a good customer experience is understanding your customers’ needs.

Next time you are sitting at the gate and waiting for a plane, look around at the other passengers. Nearly every person is looking at their smartphone. When you consider that almost 80% of US adults with a mobile phone has a smartphone, then this is not a shocking thing to see.

And every single one of those people is getting on a plane for an hour or two or five. It seems like many of them would be interested in topping off their phone charge before stepping into a tube of metal hurtling through the air.

There are varying degrees of understanding your customers' needs, but at a most level if you work for the airport or an airline, then you know everyone has a smartphone that probably needs to be charged. Even that guy in seat 11B who won't end his call already and put his phone in airplane mode.

What Kind of Experience Do You Create?

At most airport gates a handful of those people looking at their phones are tucked away in a corner. You've seen them tethered to an outlet that was placed conveniently behind a pole so only the night cleaning crew could access it to plug in their vacuums. Some airports seem to have no outlets at all.

I understand that airports are complex structures and it's not that easy to open the walls and install a whole bunch of outlets to make the experience better for the customers. Oh wait. We are not the primary customers of the airport. The airlines are. And the food places. And the other shops. The airport wouldn't exist if passengers didn't fly through them, but we don't pay the bills. That means that our customer experience may not be paramount to their success.

Even so, there are airports that install charging stations. Some are in the arms of chairs or on poles. Some gates even have tables installed with many outlets for charging computers and phones. Many of these larger stations are branded by the airlines or even installed by advertising companies to present messages to a captive audience. And yes, the airlines are definitely concerned with our experience. 

Can You Maintain That Experience?

Your mileage may vary in your ability to find a place to charge your phone at your local airport, or more importantly at your layover airport. I was on a recent trip and I saw two large charging tables with five or six seats on each side. One of them had no empty seats, nor empty outlets. The other was completely empty. I sat down at the empty one and turned on my laptop.

It was empty because none of the outlets worked. I had plenty of power in my laptop and I used that to charge my phone. While I was working there I watched about 50 people come over, plug their phone in, and look puzzled when it didn't start charging. I told many of them there was no power in any of the outlets. They shook their heads and moved on. I guess they were expecting to be able to charge their phone between flights.

Some of the chairs are wired at my local airport, and while the power outlets sometimes work, the USB plugs almost never do. It seems like these ports were not designed for heavy use, but they install them anyway. 

You need to make sure that when you are providing a great customer experience that you can maintain that experience to a high level. It is so much worse to disappoint a customer by offering something that doesn't work, as opposed to not offering it at all. 

Now that I've finally charged my phone, is there wi-fi in this airport? 

This post originally appeared on the Modern Marketing blog.

Jeffrey L Cohen

Jeffrey L Cohen