Gatwick airport is undergoing a major reconstruction project. Rather than unsightly wooden barriers, Gatwick has used the space to engage with travelers using new barcode technology.
On various construction locations, Gatwick has posted supersized Barcode signs such as the one pictured below, with messages for users to scan the bar code on their cell phones and see audio-visual information on how the airport is being rebuilt.
An application available for smart phones (iPhone and Android phones) will take users of the smart phone can access the Gatwick Discovery Tour. Currently available in the Tour is a video shows how the new shuttle route between the North and South Terminals was built, and opened a month ahead of schedule.
A press release from Gatwick Airport describes the planned roll out of more bar codes and refreshed information as the construction progresses.
One of the short comings of this effort to connect with Gatwick travelers is the dependence on smart phones (iPhones and Android phones). Smart phones represent about 18% of the market and that includes Blackberry models as well. The application that allows a smart phone to read the bar code does not work on Blackberry phones, the standard for business travelers.
The app that reads the bar code is written by a company called StickyBits. A FAQ on the StickyBit website promises a Blackberry app to read the Bar codes but that promise was 8 months ago and the users are critical Sitckybits’ lack of responsiveness.
From a customer satisfaction perspective, Gatwick is trying to engage with its travelers in a novel and unique way to provide them with information about the improvements coming to the airport and the current status. This is a new ‘service’ the airport is trying to offer to its users to ease the pain of the constructions and improve customer satisfaction with the airport.
On the negative side, the engagement is only available to a small subset of travelers, those WITH smart phones that are not Blackberries. Blackberries are mostly used by business travelers as large companies insist on Blackberry usage due to its higher level of security.
So, effectively, Gatwick is missing out on the opportunity to engage with many of its business travelers and non smart phone users. Had Gatwick chosen QR codes (see example)instead of barcodes, they might have had a better chance to engage with their travelers as smart phones, including Blackberries can read QR Codes as can cell phones with built in camera.
According to the Gatwick Airport press release:
‘The Gatwick Discovery Tour forms part of an overall strategy by the airport to use social media tools to keep passengers up-to-date with what is going on at the airport, give them a mechanism to feedback on their experiences and improve the overall information flow around the airport.
As part of this, operations and customer services staff are undergoing training in the use of Twitter with the aim of making it a 24 hour real-time customer services tool, and Gatwick is planning to unveil further ways in which passengers can interact with the airport over the next two months.’ See a recent blog post on Gatwick airport’s use of Twitter.
It will be interesting to see if other airports adopt a similar program of communicating with consumers and whether they choose Barcodes or QR codes for one of their communication methods.
If you are aware of any airports using interesting techniques to improve customer satisfaction with their travelers, log them in the comments section below.