02 August 2018

What Contact Centers Can Learn From the Best Airport Lounges

For many people, air travel is stressful. From long lines at security to crowded terminals to delayed or even cancelled flights, getting from point A to point B is becoming increasingly pressure-filled. And when you consider that according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the number of air travelers will increase from 4 billion in 2017 to 7.8 billion in 2036, it’s clear that flying isn’t going to become any less stressful in the near future.

Perhaps that’s why airport lounges are increasing in popularity. The very best of them offer travelers an opportunity to relax and unwind — or alternatively, be productive — in a luxurious, calm setting with world-class service. In other words, they offer a great CX — and it’s this great CX that keeps travelers coming back.

On the other hand, there are airport lounges that don’t get it right — where people have to wait for hours to get in, only to have to stand in line for a drink in a lounge that’s filled to capacity. These are the lounges where people are so frustrated with their experience, they post about it on social media.

Interestingly, you could compare contact centers to airport lounges.

Contact centers see a lot of traffic each day; plus, many interactions are initiated by consumers who are stressed, upset or concerned about something. And of course, the better a contact center is at delivering a good CX, the higher the chances of consumers becoming loyal brand customers. So although hospitality is a different industry, there are several things that contact centers can learn from the best airport lounges.

Leverage your brand standards and service values

As Nancy Knipp, SVP of Airport Lounge Development (ALD), explains in the Loyalty360 article “Airport Lounge Development Is All About Customer Experience, Customer Service” by Jim Tierney, ALD uses its brand standards and service values — including genuine hospitality and providing outstanding service — to deliver an exemplary CX. Similarly, in a contact center, you can use your own brand standards to differentiate yourself from the competition and your service values as a guide for delivering authentic service.

Hold regular operational and quality reviews

Just like an airport lounge has to function like a well-oiled machine, it’s critical to a good CX that every aspect of your contact center functions seamlessly, including your staff, processes and systems. By regularly reviewing your operations for inconsistencies and inefficiencies, you can pre-empt problems and even improve processes, which in turn results in higher performance. Let’s say a quality review in a lounge reveals that certain personnel aren’t upholding the brand’s service values due to a lack of managerial oversight. This may prompt the lounge to re-evaluate its managers’ workloads or processes. Likewise, in a contact center, there might be shadow agents who consistently drop the more challenging cases. With an increase in managerial oversight, they can be better monitored and supported — and consequently, improve their performance.

Incorporate feedback from customer surveys into your infrastructure and training

Customer surveys are integral to understanding your CX. For example, a lounge’s customer survey may reveal that many travelers find the lounge too crowded and noisy — and it’s detracting from their experience. The lounge may subsequently do a redesign to provide more spacious seating and even create different zones that cater to visitors’ varying needs. This redesign might even require an adaptation of personnel training to ensure that staff know how to guide visitors to an appropriate zone. Similarly, in a contact center, a customer survey might reveal that consumers are frustrated with being transferred too many times. As a result, you might want to integrate your system with your CRM to provide agents with context for each individual action. This would also require you to train your agents in the use of the integrated system so they can quickly and efficiently resolve issues and improve FCR.

Differentiate service to deliver an enhanced CX to more loyal, valuable or high-potential customers

Airport lounges have long offered an exclusive experience to first-class travelers and frequent flyers. Lufthansa actually goes as far as offering a First Class Terminal in Frankfurt, complete with valet parking, Michelin-starred chefs, sleeping rooms, showers and private work cabins. In a contact center setting, you can also deliver an enhanced CX to more loyal, valuable or high-potential customers, for example by routing them to more experienced agents or by offering them perks — such as a month’s free service or subscription — after the call.

Invest in continuously re-evaluating your CX

The best airport lounges keep reinventing themselves in order to deliver a superior traveler experience. They need to be aware of what travelers expect, whether that’s a luxury spa or organic menu options. In a contact center environment, it’s equally crucial to be aware of what your customers expect, both in terms of available channels and type of service. For example, your customers might want to be able to contact you via phone, text, email, and asynchronous messaging. In that case, it becomes critical to your CX to set up an omnichannel system.


Remember: For airport lounges and contact centers, CX isn’t just part of what they do — it’s everything they do. That’s why it can be worthwhile to spend some time studying best practices outside of your own industry to gain more insights that lead to actionable ideas and help you continuously improve your CX.

Authored bY

Mark Pendolino

Mark Pendolino is the Director of Marketing at PTP, overseeing the creation of customer experience content focused on helping organizations discover best practices for evolving the customer journey. Prior to PTP, Mark managed teams for companies such as Microsoft, Smartsheet, Fujitsu, and Parsons Brinckerhoff. Mark holds a master’s in Communication in Digital Media from the University of Washington, and a bachelor’s in Technical Communications from Metropolitan State University of Denver. In his downtime, Mark likes to thrash a bit on the drumkit and pretend he’s a rock star.


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