Customers travelling through airports assume a level of service, one which isn’t consciously paid for with a transaction or receipt, but one which is simply expected. No one books a family holiday to Spain with the thought that the price contributes towards their airport experience; it’s not the Fiat 500 or 5cm more leg room that you can remove. The standards of airport services, be they operational or partner led, are sub-consciously assumed by customers and have not been prioritized enough by PR teams in the past. This comes down to a lack of brand awareness for airports specifically, which is now, damaging the current reputation rebuild so many are attempting and starting from a blank canvas.
As airports have come under pressure from staff shortages and mis-managed quality training, they are attempting to regain trust in their customers whilst renovating their reputations, amidst a landscape of miseducation. Ensuring your customers understand the issues you are facing is crucial to the rebuild. However, there will of course be some hesitations towards highlighting all of the issues being faced but providing more information will certainly appease your customers in the long run and allow your future apology to be more credible than before. Working with a specialist reputation agency will allow you to review the issues across the sector and prepare a communication strategy with external facing branches.
With that in mind, before embarking on a wider strategy, airports should consider the steps they can take to mitigate against any reputational damage or challenging situations before they occur. Through sentiment monitoring and an experienced team of researchers, reviewing your previous issues as well as those likely to occur, is the first ‘air’port of call, this should take the form of a crisis management plan within which you can prepare statements and processes to alleviate and clarify certain scenarios. Planning in advance is a critical element for ensuring a smooth path to success, particularly within the current landscape where consumers don’t know the full extent of their delays. Once you have evaluated your risk potential and proactively prepared both your teams for response and your customers with understanding you can then begin to look into your goals and ambitions for the rebuild.
An apology may be your first objective, identifying your areas of fault however these need to be swiftly followed up with a clear action plan of how you will fix these in the future. Being proactive in this manner will allow you to set out a clear timeline of how and what to say. It will even allow you to speak out, before any of your competitors to show your acknowledgement of the situation and become a thought leader in the space of making a change for the better.
Working with a reputation team that can deliver media training is another crucial element of a rebuild, not only will it prepare your stakeholders with the right materials and responses when speaking with media, it will also educate spokespeople on the way in which body language can so quickly invite compassion and credibility (and how quickly you can lose it).
Airports, and airlines for that matter, can no longer operate behind closed doors and flash sales, the customer in 2022 wants more information and change to be made, not just promised.