Taking Flight With Big Data – How’s Your Trip?

It doesn’t take a genius to know the importance of information. That said, a genius did weigh in on the issue.

Albert Einstein once said, “Intelligence is not the ability to store information, but to know where to find it.”

Far be it for me to edit an Einstein quote, so I’ll just add to it.

Here’s my take – intelligence is not only the ability to find information, but it is also the ability to use that information effectively.

When it comes to using information in customer experience design, I believe there are seven key steps:

1) decide what problems leaders are seeking to solve on behalf of customers
2) determine what information leaders can and should collect in pursuit of a solution
3) synthesize a bevy of information inputs into a manageable form
4) analyze information so that it is intelligible and actionable
5) craft solutions based on that customer intelligence
6) measure the effectiveness of solutions
7) refine solutions by leveraging continuous feedback data

Not much to ask of a leader, right?

I can assure you, as daunting as the tasks may seem, there are leaders following these steps and producing huge wins for their customers and for the organizations they steward.

As you will recall, we are in the 2nd of a 3-part series highlighting, of all things, an airport. (If you missed last week’s post, you can find it here). That airport is CVG (Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport), a place where leaders have partnered in innovative ways to use technology to collect passenger data for the improvement of the overall traveler experience.

Big data

Let’s start our exploration of data use by examining how leaders at CVG survey customers to garner big data on traveler perceptions of their experiences in the airport environment.

In a fantasy world, business owners and leaders could get into the minds of those they serve. They could know exactly what customers are thinking and feeling about their products and services. This fantasy has led a lot of businesses to ineffectively over survey customers.

Opinion overload

If you’re like me, you are being asked your opinion about virtually everything. Public restrooms have “rate our cleanliness” kiosks or iPads at the entry, websites have pop-ups, my dentist sends me a mobile survey on my ride home from a cleaning, etc.

The interest in consumer perception is intense and omnipresent. Unfortunately, for most businesses, the survey process is also highly disregarded or ignored by consumers.

International research studies suggest completion rates of less than 0.04%. Customers, in essence, ask themselves, “What’s in it for me to complete this survey?” and they conclude, “Nothing. They are boring and take too long to complete.”

A reason to complete surveys

To give customers/passengers a reason to complete surveys, CVG partnered with Wyzerr a company that uses gamification and game theory to give a prospective respondent a reason to play through a survey (across its client base Wyzerr reports an average response rate of over 70% using its “proprietary playful short forms”).

CVG boosts the what’s in it for me reason to complete the airport survey by requiring users to take a survey BEFORE logging into free Wi-Fi.

This approach has not only amped up the survey responses (on average CVG collects about 20,000 responses a week), but it has also produced insights that have shaped actions which have affected everything from marketing to tactical experience design.

For example, before Wyzerr, CVG thought most of its out-of-town customer base came from North of Cincinnati but based on the data most come from Lexington and Louisville.


While I could offer a number of other examples of the technologies CVG uses to capture and use big data, I will end this installment with a fundamental (albeit not particularly sexy) partnership with a tech start-up called Astronomer.

On behalf of CVG, Astronomer has created an essential piece of the big data puzzle.

Astronomer collects data from throughout an organization so that leaders can make sense of that information, transform it into a useable format and put it to work.

At CVG, Astronomer pulls real-time metrics affecting airport operations (including parking lot volume, security wait times, flight performance, and weather), so leaders at CVG can make necessary adjustments that favorably improve the life of customers (e.g., deploy additional resources, open alternative service options, etc.).

How are you doing with the seven steps of customer data collection and use?

How well are you gathering, analyzing, innovating, and iterating data-driven solutions?

I’d love to learn more about your journey, victories, and challenges. Please reach out to us to schedule a time to talk.

I’ll catch you next week for the third installment of this deeper-dive on customer experience improvement at CVG.

Smoke over black background

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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