How might we use design research to uncover one of the biggest challenges in the service of airports?

This design research project included observational research as well as on site interviews to break down the check-in process at the Hamad International Airport in Qatar. A customer journey map is first created to understand the thoughts and feelings of travelers at the airport. One of the biggest pain-points is pointed out in the customer journey map and further broken down with a service blueprint that brings to light the several factors that can cause the pain point.

 

ETHNOGRAPHIC RESEARCH USING THE AEIOU FRAMEWORK

To learn more about a consumer's experience, I conducted observational research in six different (pre-defined) phases of the airport travel experience: parking, walking in (flight info), check-in, security, entertainment, boarding. 

 

I also conducted short on site interviews in these phases to understand traveler thoughts and get quotes from them. I structured my observational research using the AEIOU framework and also created simple floor plans of the airport for better understanding of the areas and features of the building.

 

Developing the customer journey map

Having categorized the information, I created a customer journey map to capture the typical traveler's experience through this map. I also used the quotes from people to create an 'emotion' section on the map, clarifying the travelers' true feelings through their journey.

 

The journey map here shows a typical vacationer's thoughts, feelings, interactions and actions through the airport. I used my observational research as well as data from additional on-site interviews. I focused on waiting times at the check-in counter for further research.

After working on the customer journey map, I decided to focus on the long waiting time that occurs at the check-in counter

After working on the customer journey map, I decided to focus on the long waiting time that occurs at the check-in counter

 

Further investigation through a service blueprint

While there are several pain points in the journey, I decided to focus on the long lines at the check-in counter. To further investigate and illustrate the reasons for these long lines, I created a blueprint of the check-in process at the airport. I spoke to employees of the airport to learn more about the process and the areas of potential breakdown that could be causing the long lines.

 

The blue print here shows the back end and front end processes and interactions that occur while a single check-in procedure is in progress. The customer experience during web check-in at home, web check-in at the airport kiosk as well as on-site check-in at the airport involve very different processes and interactions. Throughout this process, several areas of breakdown are highlighted.

The blueprint breaks down the process of check-in and points at potential breakdowns that could be causing the long waiting lines at check-in. I did one-on-one interviews with an airport staff member to learn about the back end of the check in process.

The blueprint breaks down the process of check-in and points at potential breakdowns that could be causing the long waiting lines at check-in. I did one-on-one interviews with an airport staff member to learn about the back end of the check in process.

 

What I Learned

  • Developing a deep understanding of the AEIOU framework in ethnographic research
  • Finding focus and direction in a broad research area
  • Onsite interviewing
  • Developing customer journey maps
  • Communicating information through clear data visualization