When most people think about the airport experience they think of long lines, self-check in machines that never work, grumpy staff, disgruntled passengers, and underwhelming food at overwhelming prices. Yet Changi Airport continues to defy traditional expectations of the ‘airport experience.’ Earlier this year, the airport reclaimed its position as the best airport in the world for the sixth year running. How does Changi Airport continue to wow new visitors and impress returning ones?

The Changi Experience

To start, Changi Airport boasts beautiful, pristine facilities as well as fast, free Wi-Fi. If you're looking to be entertained, there are two 24-hour theatres that are free to visitors and multiple game centres placed around the terminals. For those with longer layover times, Changi Airport offers free Heritage Tours to highlights such as Chinatown, Little India, Kampong Glam and Merlion Park. If the variety of food, shopping and movie theatres isn’t enough to keep you sated, the airport hosts a butterfly garden, a rooftop swimming pool, cactus and sunflower gardens.

Sunflower Garden
Sunflower garden at Changi Airport (source: www.changiairport.com)

With all of these facilities, it isn’t hard to imagine why Changi continues to dominate the airport industry. Yet the Changi experience would not be complete without a simple, yet essential element: the human touch.

Creating meaningful connections

Changi Airport’s customer-centric approach is what differentiates this airport from other clean, modern and aesthetically pleasing airports. Lee Seow Hiang, CEO of the Changi Airport Group, attributes the airport's success to his staff, acknowledging “every one of whom is passionate about delivering the most memorable airport experience to our passengers” and that the team are consistently “putting passengers at the heart of all we do.”

How can an airport ensure customers always come first and create memorable experiences?

1. Personalized Social Media Engagement

Each review on Changi Airport’s Facebook page is responded to by a staff member. These replies go beyond the stock-standard “thank you” message, with staff responding directly to content mentioned by the customer. Another personal touch comes at the end of the reply, where the staff member signs off with their first name.

A quick look at Changi Airport’s Instagram page reflects their dedication and success in using social media as a tool for engagement. Daily posts of beautiful content, and Instagram stories keep over 171,000 thousand fans around the world updated. Loyal fans and frequent visitors can take part in competitions run through the Instagram account.

The airport’s #changiairport tag features in almost 300,000 posts, with most of the content generated by visitors.

2. Thoughtful Gestures

A recurring theme in reviews, news articles and blogs about Changi Airport is the warm, welcoming disposition of the staff. It is clear that the team at Changi constantly strives to go above and beyond through exceptional customer service through their actions.

One review on the Changi Airport Facebook page detailed how a Service Operations Executive staff member went out of their way to help an elderly couple locate their flight gate. The staff member also secured complimentary check-in so they did not have to worry about lifting luggage into overhead cabins.

It is these small, but thoughtful gestures that create a unique ‘Changi Experience’ for each individual that visits the airport.

3. Real-time Feedback

As a child, I frequently travelled through Changi Airport. My clearest memory of these stopovers is of the touch-screen survey that I completed upon exiting the pristine bathroom. I remember thinking, “Wow, this airport really cares about my opinion on the cleanliness of a toilet? This can’t be a priority for the airport.” Yet Changi Airport’s Instant Feedback System (IFS) has become an invaluable, multi-purpose tool that contributes to the Changi Experience. Since its deployment in 2013, the real-time feedback system has expanded to allow guests to also rate counter staff, immigration officers, and retailers, in addition to the cleanliness of facilities.

The IFS is integrated with an E-inspection system that allows maintenance staff to report faults to contractors using smart phones.

This focus on real-time, actionable, insights has led to increased productivity due to the quick identification of target/problem areas, and improved service standards through the identification of  workers who have room for improvement.

In a similar vein, Local Measure’s newest product, Pulse, is a real-time feedback tool that allows businesses to trigger a customer feedback request at specific moments. Pulse provides the customer with the opportunity to submit a single 5-point rating that represents their current level of satisfaction, and additional details and comments. This allows issues such as cleanliness or missing room items to be resolved immediately by staff on the ground.

Changi Airport’s customer-centric approach, along with its wonderful features truly differentiates it from other airports. In particular, the staff-customer interactions encapsulate all that it means to provide meaningful and memorable experiences. Through the collection and actioning of real-time feedback, surprise and delight moments, and active engagement on social media, the team ensure that visitors feel heard and appreciated.