Exceptional customer experience is a strategic goal for Finavia
Using technology, data analysis, Finnish design and family-friendly features, Finavia is determined to secure a flawless passenger experience at Helsinki Airport, details Timo Järvelä, Vice President of Passenger Experience and Processes.
Providing a seamless travel experience for passengers is currently a high-priority goal for all airports. Many technologies and IT systems are being implemented throughout terminals – and behind the scenes – in order to secure operational efficiency and reduce delays. However, there are other available approaches to improving passenger experience.
Helsinki Airport – operated by Finavia – has incorporated the Finnish nature and culture within the terminal, alongside facilities that cater for families and pets, to further improve the passenger’s journey as much as possible. International Airport Review spoke to Timo Järvelä – Vice President Passenger Experience and Processes at Finavia - to learn how passenger satisfaction is managed at Helsinki.
Can you give us an example of how the passenger experience is “at the core of everything” you do?
At Finavia, we care deeply about our customers. That is why serving passengers is at the heart of our strategy. Our aim is ambitious because we want to provide world-class services at our airports.
Exceptional customer experience is one of Finavia’s strategic goals for 2020. In addition, it is one of five key programmes that we have. Our aim is to develop a uniform customer experience with all airport operators. At the beginning of 2020, we launched a new concept – Finavia Experience Academy – which aims to uniform customer experience. The training is open for all operators at Finavia’s airports around Finland. The key idea is to understand what kind of meaning individual tasks have on customer experience. The goal is that all our airports offer the same, uniform and positive customer experience.
Timo Järvelä will be attending Airport IT & Security in Munich in October 2020, where passenger experience and available technologies will be discussed further. Join over 400 aviation professionals for peer-to-peer networking and workshops.
We have divided customer experience into four pillars. For a passenger, ‘Gift of Time’ is a feeling that there is enough time to do all the necessary things at the airport. Whether you want to eat, shop or relax before or between the flights, our goal is that you don’t have to hurry.
In order to provide this, we try to give all the important information that an individual requires. When it comes to feeling confident, is it important that a passenger knows when and where to go next. That is why everyone working at the airport should know how to help and guide passengers. We also have digital channels available to all passengers entering our airport, on several different languages, to provide guidance and assistance.
Alongside this, we try to offer a Finnish experience through sense of place and customer service. We want passengers to see a glimpse of Finland while they travel through our airports, even if only for a short time. Whether it’s a place at the airport or employee-customer encounter, we wish that the passenger experiences something real and unique. We want passengers to know that we are here for them.
How do you manage the passenger experience in the terminal at Helsinki Airport?
We follow the four pillars both at the terminal and behind the scenes. Helsinki Airport is built under one roof, and the ongoing development programme is also done by using the one-roof concept. This means that passengers don’t have to move from one building to another, which makes it easier to navigate the terminal. Because we operate under one roof, the distances can be quite long. That is why it is important to inform passengers about the distances, routes and services available. We also try to position restaurants and cafés, shops and services so that a passenger doesn’t have to look for them. Instead they become a natural part of the passenger journey.
We also offer customers a variety of things to do at Helsinki Airport. Restaurants and cafés offer both Finnish and international cuisine. We want to make sure that people with different diets can easily enjoy food and beverage services at the airport and that the restaurants are easily accessible.
When it comes to travelling with children, there are many things an airport can do to make travelling easier. Usually children are excited to be at the airport and the place itself offers a lot to explore. In addition, we have play areas for the children as well as a year-round Christmas cabin. Helsinki Airport also has facilities and processes to help families travel. During holiday seasons we have family friendly programmes with guests such as Santa Claus and the Moomins.
Even dogs are not forgotten at Helsinki Airport. We opened two new pet relief areas in December 2019 as flying with animals is becoming a lot more common. Pets and service dogs travel with their owners, and more rescue dogs are brought to Finland from abroad. The new pet toilets have been designed with dogs in mind, but other pets are also welcome.
Some passengers choose to relax during their time at Helsinki Airport. Whether a flight is delayed, or there is an overnight layover, a passenger may find themselves having to sleep at the airport. The situation is hardly ideal, but we believe that there are ways to stay comfortable and get a few hours of much-needed rest when this happens. In 2017, Helsinki Airport was named the best European airport to sleep. Of course, relaxing doesn’t have to mean sleeping. In 2019, we opened Aukio which is an immersive experience where passengers can experience Finnish nature with 360° LED screens, soundscapes and an interactive wall. It is widely known that nature has calming effect on everyone and this is one way to bring nature into the terminal. The forest-themed West Pier begins with Aukio, and is full of wooden structures, detail and places to relax.
Finnish experience, one of the pillars of customer experience, is performed through atmosphere, design and service. We favour Finnish design and thus have invested in classic furniture and design, but the experience is much more than the elements you can see. We think that every passenger should be encountered and served as an individual.
Airport IT & Security will offer various approaches to passenger experience, including new technologies, data workshops and artificial intelligence. Have you reserved your ticket yet? Timo Järvelä has!
On the other hand, how do you manage the passenger experience from behind the scenes?
There are many jobs and tasks at Helsinki Airport that are done behind the scenes. When these things are managed successfully, everything operates seamlessly.
Most operations and processes are crucial for a good customer experience even though the passengers rarely notice them. One on them is ‘snowhow’, which is the foundation for aircraft remaining in schedule year-round. The last time Helsinki Airport was closed due to snow was in 2003 when we had to close the airport for an hour.
Another massive task that happens behind the scenes is IT, which is used in everything from air traffic control to information screens and baggage claim belts. Something that passengers don’t usually pay much attention to is the aircraft parking planning. In order to enable the Gift of Time, we plan the parking of every aircraft individually. All these things have a huge impact on customer experience.
To what extent do you rely on technology to secure a positive passenger experience?
Digitalisation is visible to passengers in many situations, but we emphasise that digitalisation is much more than just automated passport control or bag drop. Passengers are guaranteed effortless travel when the digital background processes of the airport are running smoothly.
Analytics allow us to improve our understanding of passenger wishes and movements. In addition, it enables us to operate our airports in a way that is as smart, efficient and profitable as possible.
The airport’s digital solutions ensure that premises are used effectively, congestion does not occur and that customers are served by an adequate number of Finavia and partner staff. An understanding of large masses of passengers and their wishes is essential in order to make sure a visit to Helsinki Airport is as smooth as possible.
On the other hand, how much do you encourage staff to help benefit the traveller’s journey?
One of the elements of Finnish Experience, is that every passenger is treated as an individual. We encourage all our staff, and the staff of other companies operating at Helsinki Airport, to help and guide passengers whenever they need support. We understand that travelling, navigating inside terminals and processes related to travelling can be stressful and that is why we aim to make the Helsinki Airport experience as smooth and as pleasant as possible. It is a daily occurrence for our staff, from directors to operational crew, to grab a misplaced trolley or help a passenger forward.
What do you see to be most valued by the passenger? How has this changed in the last few years?
All our airport operations aim to smooth and reliable travelling which continues to be most valued by the passengers. Most passengers want to have a relaxed and freshened feeling at the airport. We are building the passenger experience on those requirements, in order to provide exceptional and memorable services outlining Finnish nature. We also have excellent restaurants at the airport with individual kitchens serving dishes made on site from fresh ingredients. All in all, we have a wide variety of services for our passengers
What will Helsinki Airport need to develop / change to be able to continue delivering a high-quality passenger experience in the future?
The Helsinki Airport Development Programme (which began in 2013) will continue for the next three years. The expansion of terminal 2 will significantly increase the facilities available for check in, security control and baggage drop, and enhance current arrangements for parking and public transport. The expansion will be opened in phrases in 2022. The expansion will also house a multimodal travel centre that will present us with opportunities to develop enhanced connections between the airport and other modes of transport. The new parking garage will open during 2020; catering for passengers’ modern parking needs and providing parking areas close to the airport.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity for debates, panel discussions, product demonstrations and case studies – Airport IT & Security will be running 19-21 October 2020 in Munich, partnered by Munich Airport. Book your ticket now!