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Sydney Airport customer stewardship exemplar

Customer stewardship lands better outcomes for all

The Better Infrastructure Initiative have identified eight industry exemplars who represent what good customer stewardship looks like and how it is being practiced in Australia. Sydney Airport is one of those 2017 exemplars.

Sydney Airport has been a fully privatised ASX-listed company since 2002. It is Australia’s busiest airport, as well as one of the oldest in the world that is run commercially. In 2015, Sydney Airport introduced a new approach to its international Airline Services Agreements (ASA). The ASA further embedded Sydney Airport’s focus as a customer-led business, fostering collaboration with its airline partners to enhance the efficiency of operations and increase passenger satisfaction. The ASA aimed to create a better airport experience for airline customers and more than 100,000 passengers who travel through it every day.

Sydney Airport’s ASA is an excellent example of customer-centred design and innovation, which are encompassed in Principle 5. The ASA includes evidence of integrating customer needs and preferences into decision-making for infrastructure design and ongoing service delivery, and transparency. It also encompasses Principle 6 where there is evidence of systems, structures and processes for engaging proactively with stakeholders to understand concerns and balance with customer needs.

Customer collaboration

In an Australian first, Sydney Airport’s ASA committed to developing a service level framework that includes a set of customer-focused KPIs aimed at improving the quality and efficiency of operations to support the success of airline partners. Sydney Airport understood that when airline partners were successful with customers, it was also because they are providing services to the same people.

Sydney Airport has collaborated with its airline customers’ business needs; set up measurement parameters; establish a reporting mechanism. The KPIs track service outcomes related to enhancing passenger experience, improving operational outcomes and streamlining facilitation.

The KPI framework now generates objective and reliable data that guides Sydney Airport’s investment decisions for large infrastructure projects as well as operations. These include new solutions to improve safety, efficiency and passenger experience with baggage, check-in, security and border facilitation, and logistics. The process has engendered a renewed and heightened level of trust between Sydney Airport and its customers. The 2015 ASA reflected a change from an ‘inputs-based’ agreement to a new ‘outcomes-based’ framework focusing on providing better service levels and key performance reporting.

In another first, Sydney Airport invested in queue measurement technology to record processing and wait times at various passenger facilitation points. This investment has delivered benefits beyond monitoring performance standards. By enabling more dynamic resource allocation at outbound border processing and security screening, it has been instrumental in supporting more efficient operations. The airport also shares real-time queue wait-time data directly with passengers, empowering them to better plan their time in the airport and enhance their overall experience.

Overall the development and delivery of the service level framework and associated KPIs has resulted in a more collaborative environment where data is being used by a range of stakeholders across the airport community to deliver better outcomes for passengers.

Better data, better business

The development, measurement and reporting of KPIs that reflect the customers’ needs has resulted in deeper capability for data-driven decision-making that allows for more targeted investment to deliver efficiency and effectiveness. According to Sydney Airport, the focus on ‘outcomes’ through the KPI framework is “leading to a more collaborative approach to consulting with customers and has enabled us to develop shared solutions to issues that arise across the business”.

For example, following a decline in Sydney Airport’s customer satisfaction KPI for the comfort and quality of its gate lounges, it examined its qualitative feedback so that it could understand the issues that were lowering this score. The airport shared this feedback directly with airlines and consulted them so that the designs for new gate lounges at the T1 International terminal addressed known concerns of both airline staff and passengers. The designs now respond directly to this feedback and are being trialled before being introduced across the terminal.

The agreement lets Sydney Airport be innovative and flexible in its approach to delivering outcomes for airline customers. For example, it has been able to deliver improved efficiency in passenger processing at check-in and at the outbound border through automation, negating the need for more costly infrastructure expansions. This helps to keep prices lower for their airline customers.

The focus on outcomes has also let Sydney Airport apply a more structured approach to project delivery, helping it to identify capital efficiency opportunities through grouping projects that reduce overall management costs, and secure economies of scale in procuring materials and resources.

Most importantly, monitoring Sydney Airport’s performance against KPIs has provided significant insight into its business. Having this data has meant management and staff understand operations much better and can collaborate with airlines and ground handlers to target investment in infrastructure, systems, people and process improvements. All these are crucial in making a material difference to the experience of passengers. Armed with evidence of improving satisfaction scores across all key measurements of service quality, as well as improving outcomes for missed bag rates and queue wait times, Sydney Airport confirms that customer stewardship done well, is good for business and all stakeholders.

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Image courtesy of Sydney Airport.