Mapping the customer journey at Heathrow - It's about emotion, not process

Profile picture for user ddpreez By Derek du Preez October 17, 2016
Heathrow’s digital content manager explains how the airport is attempting to improve the customer experience using Adobe Marketing Cloud.

Heathrow is Europe’s busiest airport, with more than 75 million passengers using the hub to travel to and from hundreds of destinations each year.

Managing this experience for each individual customer can be challenge, particularly as Heathrow as an ‘experience’ means working with a number of retail outlets, restaurants, transport providers and airlines.

Each customer is likely to come into contact with a number of these organisations throughout their customer journey.

However, this hasn’t put off Heathrow’s digital content manager Benito De Rosa from giving it a go, who is using Adobe’s Marketing Cloud to map the customer journey and create a positive ‘emotional experience’ for passengers. Speaking at Adobe Symposium in London this week, De Rosa said:

One of the things we are trying to find out from our customers is, what does Heathrow stand for? Who are we? What is our DNA? So we advanced on a mission to find out our passengers’ very own stories. Through our summer campaign, based around our anniversary of being 70 years young, we gathered about 8,000 stories. And what we found was that Heathrow meant different things to do different people.

Through our customers’ experience we are beginning to understand our own DNA. Rather than being marketing messaging - ‘this is what we stand for, this is what we think we stand for’ - we are letting our customers drive the message.

One of the things is that we want people to choose Heathrow for their airport of choice. But we need to understand who those people are. And we have done a lot of work on the actual journey mapping. This is looking at the journey through the customer’s eyes, putting ourselves in their shoes, looking at it through their lens.

Different personas

The Heathrow airport website sits at the centre of this mapping project, with the site attracting 20 million unique visitors each year. It is also collecting data from a number of other touchpoints, such as email, its mobile application, travel bookings, Wi-Fi logins, and purchases from airport retailers.

However, despite access to a variety of data, across a number of touchpoints, creating a persona can be a complex task. De Rosa explained

Through journey mapping, it’s not about what people are doing. It’s about how they’re feeling. There are so many different people that travel through Heathrow. Yes it might be the same person, but that person might be on a business trip one day, but a leisure trip the next. So we’ve looked very, very closely at our segments and we’ve simplified it down to six.

What’s interesting is that 23% are UK leisure, so someone that starts in the UK and comes back. And in each one of the segments we are looking at personas - so John who lives in Chiswick, has a couple of boys, but this week is going on a business trip. We will take that persona and take that whole experience. You might have someone booking the flight for you, you might be looking at the best way to get to the airport - and we will take you the whole way through, right from the decision to actually getting on the plane. And look at all the different touchpoints.

And it’s at those touchpoints we find out the pains and the gains. Then we look at how we can turn a pain into a gain, or how we can build on the actual gain.

It’s not about process

But De Rosa said that this isn’t about ‘process mapping’. He said that this is about “the emotional side of things”, and is most certainly not about driving out efficiency in the organisation. Instead it’s about delivering the best experience possible at each touchpoint.

For example, De Rosa explained that passengers often get confused about what option of transport they need to use to get to the airport - and that Heathrow needs to get better at not just delivering all the options, but how it can deliver personalised options to passengers. For instance, informing passengers on the day of their travel if they would be better off driving or getting the train.

Ultimately, De Rosa argues, the customers are going to be happiest if they can control the experience at Heathrow as much as possible. He said:

We’ve also learned a lot of things about the customers themselves. The customers are at their happiest when they are in control. Some of the things you do at the airport - you have to go through security, for example - but let’s make that experience a lot better for you. Let’s do some preparation, let’s get you the information you need before you need to travel - information about laptops, about shoes on or off.

It’s difficult for the customer to know what to do. If the customer can get that control back and they know what they’re doing, it makes for a happier passenger.

Not alone

De Rosa said that he knows that Heathrow can’t undergo this project on its own. The airport itself has approximately 5,000 employees, but when you take into account all of the other companies that operate out of the airport or service the airport itself, this number rises to 75,000. He said:

As part of our journey mapping process we’ve got those people in, and they’re the people that see the passenger every single day. So they can really see the passenger from their perspective. So although we’ve got backing from the top, it’s actually a bottom up initiative, that really allows us to see it through their eyes.

And it is working with Adobe to pull of this data together and to trial ‘experiences’ that work for customers. De Rosa said that the Adobe Marketing Cloud is a cost effective way of finding out what works and what doesn’t, diving Heathrow the confidence to launch new initiatives. He said:

It’s a very efficient, cost effective way of doing things, with instantaneous results. For us, gone are the days of expensive prototypes. Yes we still take it through the usability testing once it’s reached that confidence level, but it’s important that we keep challenging ourselves and trying things out. But what that means is that users are defining the content on the website. The whole thing is about customer-centric journeys.

We will launch things that will put you back in control. For example, one of the things is we will be launching a food and beverage app. Most people that travel through the airport are time poor, so you can order your food - a personalised experience, whatever your tastes are - and it will be ready and waiting for you when you get to your restaurant of choice.

And if you’re really strapped for time we can give you a takeaway as well. We want to expand that and work with the airlines to see if we can actually get food delivered on board the aircraft.