Do you know who Mehran Karimi Nasseri is? Maybe you’ve never heard the name? He is an Iranian refugee who lived in the departure lounge of Terminal One in Charles de Gaulle Airport from 1988 until 2006. From 1988 until 2006! Basically, he got stuck between “not having entered France illegally” and “not being able to enter France because he had no papers.” Interesting way to spend 17 years… had his suitcases with him, read a lot, studied economics. Probably ate a lot of airport food.
I had read a little blurb about him years ago when the Tom Hanks movie came out (“The Terminal”) and we got to imagine what it would be like to live in an airport. However, I really thought about it when I recently had a flight out of Denver cancelled and spent just one night around the gates—from about 9:00pm until my 6:30am flight the next morning.
So, I went on a little Customer Experience (CX) observational walk—pretty cool what one can see in 30 minutes. A number of items stood out that had a direct impact on me as a customer inside this airport:
People miss flights, even end up spending the night sometimes—and they close all the stores and places to eat… Really? I understand that probably not much business gets driven through, but shouldn’t at least one place be open?
The ticket agents work hard… and typically have a lot of patience.
Interesting to just listen to the airline personnel at the gates. I listened to about 15 of them at various Delta gates in the terminal and constantly heard a strong effort to be professional and helpful no matter what attitude the customer brought to them. I heard them all: nice, mean, quiet, angry, very angry… the agents did the best they could trying to weave through a complicated system of airlines, connections, and missed flights.
The seats are dirty.
I constantly see hard working cleaning personnel going around, doing their best to pick up, clean up, and put back in order, but with so many people moving and sitting and eating and packing, it’s just hard to get everything clean. The airport could do it… if they wanted… by adding more people and prioritizing, but then there are budgetary restraints. However, I also notice that while sitting in the seat I am typing from right now, the nearest trash can is over 100 feet away. Why?
If you’ve travelled much at all, this is painfully obvious. There are a few terminals that have great access to charging areas and outlet stations, but there aren’t many here. In today’s device-driven world, where everything seems to need charged, we need power. Big mistake on the airport’s part not to get this in place. Additionally, some of the outlet locations are marked and some of them aren’t; wouldn’t take much to ID where the outlets are, would it?
Again, in today’s digital world and with people just standing around waiting most of the time, there is nothing digitally interactive here? No games to play while waiting at the gate, no cool contextual items I can interact with by using my phone… nothing. I find it absolutely fascinating that there’s a captive audience here—hundreds and hundreds—and nothing interactive. Wasted opportunity.
The lights stay on bright all night.
Even when no flights are coming in or going out. Even when people are trying to sleep. Bright, searing lights overhead. If you, as a company, had a chance to: 1) make customers happier by doing something; and 2) cost you less when doing it… wouldn’t you do it? I’m not saying to make it dark; safety is an issue; but at least dim the lights a bit.
The “your bag is too big” measure.
You know the metal boxes that are at every-single gate, the one that tells you your carry on bag can’t be larger than the size of the box? I didn’t see one used. At all. And, on just one flight alone—as I was watching specifically for this—I saw 42 bags that were bigger than the metal box and not once did I see a gate agent say anything. Yeah, I counted. One could assume they were checked down the runway, but none of them had the gate check tag on them. I can guarantee you that customers on that flight had issues with finding room for their bags.
No tables for people to interact.
Obviously many chairs, but why no tables? Why not encourage people to interact with each other by having some cool tables… maybe a partnership with Hasbro, Milton-Bradley, or LEGO? Heck, even a deck of cards? On a usability note, there are parentseverywhere with young ones who would love to have their kids playing around on the tables rather than crawling around on the floors.
Well, 30 minutes over.
Just want to encourage you to take the time to go and observe your organization’s experiences; whenever we do this for firms it always uncovers something not seen before. It is a skill that one can develop over time and can really lead to some interesting thoughts and ideas, particularly if you have people of different mindsets and viewpoints tag along. Look for the physical, behavioural, digital, and organizational and see where you can make an impact.
This Blog was originally posted here.