Know What They Want

Know What They Want

“For technology executives to become business executives, they need to understand customer expectations”

Part 7 of CXO Priorities | THE CUSTOMER

As Australia's premier commercial airport, Sydney Airport facilitates the travel of 31 million passengers every year. It takes the collective actions and processes of some 500 businesses and organizations to meet the needs of the airport users at this dynamic economic hub. The airport is also one of Sydney's major employers, directly providing an estimated 75,580 full- and part-time jobs, and an annual contribution to NSW's Gross State Product estimated to be $16.5 billion. As such its business stakeholders, says Sydney Airport Corporation Limited CIO David Luong, consider provision of world-class technology-enabled solutions and service a business imperative.

Luong says Sydney Airport Corporation simply couldn't operate an efficient, safe and secure airport delivering world-class first and last impressions to transiting travellers without having a deep and continually updated understanding of customers' changing needs and expectations.

"In order to be continually focused on understanding customer needs and how the airport can provide effective and innovative service offerings to 'delight' our customers, we expend a high proportion of our effort on engaging and consulting with existing and potential new customers on their needs and finding ways we can satisfy or exceed those needs," Luong says. "This high level of customer focus is promulgated from the CEO through to all levels of our employees. We encourage managers and employees to be involved in cross-functional and cross-industry workgroups to enhance ways in which to satisfy our customer needs and expectations. These workgroups range from airport-based operational and project consultation sessions through to cross-companies workgroups servicing industry bodies such as Airport Council International (ACI) and International Air Transport Association (IATA).

"Often it is the case that innovative customer services offerings are discovered through profound empathy for and caring observations of the customers' needs. Within the last 20 months, Sydney Airport launched two innovative services in its relentless pursuit of delighting its customers," Luong says.

The two new services are a Live Flight update service via SMS allowing travellers and service providers to receive instant flight information updates by simply texting the flight number to 199-00-747; and provision of a wireless system to enable one of the airport's premier domestic airline customers to update the contents of its digital in-flight entertainment video systems while its aircraft are within the airport's aprons and aerobridges.

"Such relentless focus on understanding and delivering on customer expectations and delighting their needs contributes to the positive reputation of the airport," Luong says.

In August 2007, Sydney Airport was named the best airport in the Australia/Pacific region by the Skytrax passenger survey, while in September it was named in the top 10 airports in the world (with a ranking of seventh - up three places from 2006) by the Conde Nast Traveller Reader's Awards.

Of course delighting the customer is impossible without an intimate understanding of that customer. Sometimes, CIOs concede, that can best be gained by stepping outside the IT role for a time. During the course of his career, NineMSN COO Nick Spooner has worked in several major organizations both in the UK and Australia, and in a range of executive and non-executive roles bridging both technology and commercial aspects of the business. He thinks CIOs looking to delight the customer do best when they have such broad experience to draw on.

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