With 28 customer satisfaction awards to its credit since the Airport Service Quality survey began in 2002, Halifax Stanfield International Airport (YHZ) in Nova Scotia has a keen sense of the assessment tool's value in improving visitor satisfaction.

"We get passenger feedback from different sources, but the survey is our no one channel of feedback," says Peter Spurway, vice president of Communications, Concessions Development & Airport Experience at Halifax International Airport Authority. "Because of the numbers of people polled and the way it is done, it is the most comprehensive and scientific way to find out what concerns our passengers most. It is extremely valuable to us."

For Spurway, the core benchmarking section is the prime component of the survey's various elements. It includes 34 satisfaction rankings that measure passenger satisfaction in nearly every corner of the airport - from the availability of washrooms and baggage carts to the courtesy of security staff and ease of making air and ground connections.

factsfigures

Project: Airport Service Quality Surveys

Location: Halifax (Novia Scotia) Stanfield Int'l Airport

Timeline: Ongoing participation since 2002

Program of: Airports Council Int'l

Research & Advisory Services: DKMA

Benefits: Direct customer feedback; benchmark comparisons with other survey participants

Award Talley: 16 first place, 8 second place, 4 third place

Related Initiative: Airport-wide employee training focused on service-oriented attitudes

Training Consultant: GroupAtWork

Airport personnel administer the survey once a month and submit completed passengerquestionnaires to DKMA, the research and advisory services company that manages the program for Airports Council International. In addition to receiving quarterly summaries, reports and raw data about its own performance, YHZ receives results about more than 240 airports worldwide that participate in the program, including 30 from the United States and 15 in Canada.

Airports Council International began running the program in 2006, notes Cheryl Marcell, director of Communications and Events for ACI World.

Survey Says …

From 2003 to 2009, YHZ amassed seven consecutive overall first place rankings for airports worldwide with under 5 million annual passengers. It ranked third this year, and second in 2011.

Spurway considers participating in the survey a "long-term commitment to service quality." He also uses it to track major trends - a helpful tool when the airport authority develops its one-year business plan, five-year strategic plan, 10-year capital plan and 20-year master plan. "If we do our planning well, it all fits together," notes Spurway.

Years ago, for example, YHZ received relatively poor parking scores, largely due to its lack of covered facilities to shield passengers and their vehicles from inclement weather. After digesting the survey feedback, the airport authority added a 2,300-stall indoor parkade with 400 ground-floor stalls for rental car agencies. The 18-month construction project also added a completely enclosed pedestrian connection between the parkade and terminal.

More recently, the authority is dedicating capital for washrooms upgrades this year and next. Plans to expand the parkade and U.S. pre-clearance hold room that was built in 2006 are also underway. As an interim move, the authority put a Tim Hortons shop in the holdroom to take some of the pressure off the restaurant there and to better serve customers.

Other Service Strategies

Beyond wringing all it can out of Airport Service Quality survey results, the airport authority uses several programs to identify potential service problems and devise solutions to fix them. The Airport Terminal Ambiance Working Group, for instance, is an interdepartmental team that examines YHZ through the eyes of passengers and makes changes to improve their experience.

Members of the group travel through different parts of the airport, taking photos, videotaping operations and observing personnel and systems in an effort to develop better practices. "We've even had people go out to the highway and drive onto the airport property," Spurway notes. "Our objective is to have your blood pressure go down when you take Exit 6 onto the airport."

This year, the "group of seven," as Spurway refers to it, launched a training program called The Stanfield Way. All 5,400+ employees throughout the airport will eventually participate in the program by taking half-day service training sessions presented by Alison McEachern, director of GroupAtWork. The curriculum will focus on five personal attributes the airport authority wants employees to exhibit every day at work: happiness, helpfulness, courtesy, caring and kindness.

"Regardless of your job at the airport, you share a common purpose," explains Spurway. "Our job is to create a wonderful experience for our passengers and visitors. The notion of The Stanfield Way will be ‘this is the way we are'."

The program even extends to personnel not employed by the authority such as security and customs workers, who can dramatically affect customers' perception of the airport. Both the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority and the Canadian Border Services Agency have responded enthusiastically about attending the training, reports Spurway.

"We work actively with those two groups to make (their functions) as pleasant as possible for our passengers," says Spurway. "It all comes back to The Stanfield Way. It is entirely possible to apply the laws of the land in a pleasant way."