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Al Maktoum College Senior Academic Calls for a Redefinition of Customer Experience

Dr. Alaa Garad, Director of Academic Programmes and Associate Professor at Al Maktoum College of Higher Education, Scotland, presented an exploratory, industry-led paper at the 26th Excellence in Service International Conference (EISIC) hosted by the University of West of Scotland in Glasgow during 31st August – 1st September 2023

Title: Redefining Holistic Customer Experience: A Case Study of Airports

Dr. Garad presented an exploratory study highlighting the importance of redefining the customer experience compared to traditional customer services. While customer service represents an interaction between a customer and a service provider at a specific time and place, such as over the phone or in a physical location like a restaurant or front office, customer experience encompasses how people perceive their overall relationship with the service provider. It delves into their emotions, thoughts, and actions resulting from this relationship.

Dr. Garad pointed out that service industries accounted for a significant portion of the UK’s economic output, 79% of Gross Value Added, and 83% of employment in January–March 2023. Similarly, three out of four jobs in the EU were in the service sector. This shift toward a service-oriented economy has been a long-term trend observed in the EU since the latter half of the 20th century. In 2021, employment in services made up 73% of total employment in the EU, compared to 65% in 2000. In contrast, employment in the industry, including construction, decreased from 27% in 2000 to 23% in 2021, and agriculture decreased from 9% to 4%. In terms of value-added, services contributed around 73% of total value added in 2021, with industry at 26% and agriculture at 2%.

Why Focus on Airports?

According to the Airport Council International (ACI) World Airport Traffic Forecasts 2022–2041, passenger traffic is projected to reach 19.3 billion in 2041. Additionally, airports are expected to handle nearly 200 million tons of air cargo and witness 153.8 million aircraft movements. Given these projections, airports recognise the imperative to enhance the customer experience to ensure sustainable growth and meet the evolving needs of travellers. Dr Garad emphasized that technology alone cannot resolve this issue, citing PwC research that indicated many global consumers believed service providers had lost touch with the human element of customer experience. Most customers prefer human interaction over automated machines, as Dr. Garad noted.

Role of Higher Education Institutions

Dr Garad underscored the crucial role of Higher Education Institutions in conducting applied and impactful research, collaborating with industries to solve problems, developing new courses and qualifications, participating in the development of new standards, and embracing and integrating service excellence into their operations (including admissions, responsiveness, and timelines for partnership development).

The conference featured 62 papers and renowned keynote speakers, including Professor John Oakland, Chairman of the Oakland Group; Professor Amanda McKay, Director of Quality at Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE); and Vince Desmond, Chief Executive of the Chartered Quality Institute.