Challenges and opportunities
Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) were given the opportunity to redesign and expand their presence in their flagship space - Heathrow London’s Terminal 3. VAA wanted to re-invigorate their customers’ service experiences pre- and post-flight, ensuring that they were as distinct and enjoyable as their inflight service experiences.
VAA’s in-house Service Design team asked Engine to help them envisage the future Terminal 3 experience for each class. They asked us to consider what experiences would entice customers to choose Virgin over other airlines and how these experiences could be provided and supported within the constraints of Terminal 3’s existing spaces and infrastructure.
Engine approached the challenge from the customer’s perspective, exploring the terminal space and drawing out real experiences and needs for Virgin’s passengers. We worked with the airport’s operators, the terminal’s architects and the VAA team to use the existing space and operations to the best effect and design unique, distinct and efficient experiences in the airport. We delivered a customer journey map which broke down the check-in process, with a detailed specification of a range of service concepts and customer experiences.
What we did
Engine began by assessing the existing customer experience within the terminal. We ran a programme of design research to gain insight into passengers’ behaviour and their underlying needs and drivers. This included shadowing passengers on their journeys through the airport and in-depth interviews with travellers of different types and classes.
The insights generated by the research were visualised into a customer journey map, highlighting key needs and issues at each step of the check-in journey. We then worked with the VAA team, the operators of Heathrow Airport and the terminal’s architect to understand the requirements, restrictions, and opportunities around the terminal’s existing operations and infrastructure. We added to the customer journey map with detailed process sketches to analyse each phase through their back-end systems. The map also served as a useful communication and reference tool throughout the project.
Engine then used the customer research in conjunction with VAA’s brand values to create a set of service principles to embody the brand values and to guide the creation of great customer experiences, ensuring they were both rewarding for the users and economical and efficient for VAA to deliver.
From the service principles, Engine and the VAA team generated a range of service concepts for both the Economy and Premium customer journeys. These included more support for Economy passengers, increasing their access to self-serve kiosks in the terminal and designing an efficient service flow around existing architecture, which prevented bottlenecks, doubling-back and provided separate luggage repacking areas. Similarly, Virgin staff members were stationed near the entrances to the terminal to provide a friendly welcome and help anyone looking lost or confused.
For Virgin’s Upper Class customer experience, Engine concentrated on making passengers’ journeys through the airport as special and effortless as possible. A unique Drive Through check-in facility was created, with porter services, pre-emptive baggage-weigh, a lounge area and exclusive Virgin security lane.
For each of the service concepts and supporting features and touchpoints, Engine worked to analyse, refine and align them with the back-end processes and environments that ensure the smooth and efficient operations of the terminal. We communicated this with clearly analysed service specifications, outlining the implementation and benefits of each concept and illustrated them though customer experience scenarios.
Engine delivered the detailed customer journey map and service specifications to guide VAA and their architects as they converted the available space into Virgin’s new flagship terminal.
The terminal opened at the beginning of 2008 and has since demonstrated improved performance and customer satisfaction levels. The new check-in experience led to a 75% reduction in check-in times and the Customer Service Index (CSI) for the customer experience within the terminal in general has increased by 30%.
In relation to the Upper Class wing:
- 100% of Drive Thru Check In users agree that it is quick and convenient
- 100% rated the friendliness of staff as excellent/good
- 97% rated the speed of service experienced as excellent/good
- 97% rated the overall level of service as excellent/good.
In relation to Economy check-in:
- 89% rated the overall level of service as excellent/good
- 90% rated the friendliness of staff as excellent/good
- 84% rated the self-service kiosks as excellent/good.
Source: Virgin’s T3 website
“Passengers are choosing to travel through our new terminal at Heathrow in their thousands. We are delighted with our early performance at T3, which is a credit to all the hard work put in every day by the Virgin Atlantic and BAA teams. The success of the new T3 is clear – big is not beautiful - and with an innovative new approach, which cuts journey time for all passengers and improves the customer experience, we definitely have a winning formula.”
Steve Ridgway, Chief Executive of Virgin Atlantic