Q&A: How smileys will help Narita Airport prepare for the Olympics
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Q&A: How smileys will help Narita Airport prepare for the Olympics

By Ilaria Grasso Macola 02 Jul 2021

With athletes and delegations flying from all over the world for the Olympics in Japan, Tokyo’s Narita Airport has decided to partner up with feedback provider HappyOrNot to gather data from travellers. We speak to the company to understand how smiley faces can help the airport navigate not only the Olympics but also a post-Covid future.

Q&A: How smileys will help Narita Airport prepare for the Olympics
Credit: Public Domain Images.

Despite political tensions and an increase in Covid-19 cases, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which were postponed to 2021 because of the pandemic, will go ahead. Athletes, delegations and journalists will travel from all over the world to attend the Games, flying mainly to Tokyo’s Narita Airport.

To gather feedback on passenger safety during the Olympics and beyond, the airport has partnered with customer feedback company HappyOrNot and will use its Smiley Terminal push-button technology at the airport’s 23 checkpoints.

HappyOrNot CEO Miika Mäkitalo talks about how the technology will help the airport in a post-Olympic and post-Covid world.

 

Ilaria Grasso Macola (IGM): How will your technology help Tokyo’s Narita Airport prepare in sight of the Tokyo Olympics?

Miika Mäkitalo (MM): “The Olympics is one of the most prestigious and spectacular international events, and for the athletes, teams and delegations attending from abroad, arriving in Japan will form their first impression. With this in mind, teams that land at Narita will see our smiley feedback terminals which collect continuous real-time insight on traveller experience.

More specifically, with our terminals positioned at 23 of its security checkpoints, Narita’s management team will be able to identify any areas that require attention early so that even with an increased demand of travellers, efficiency, thoroughness and satisfaction can all be maintained.

 

IGM: How does your technology work? What are its advantages?

MM: Our range of smiley-faced feedback terminals provide airport operators with a reliable solution that both enables them to build stronger relationships with their customers, and at the same time oversee the performance of the entire service, visualised through user-friendly and interactive data analytics reports.

Unlike other feedback management systems, HappyOrNot is extremely simple and adaptable; each terminal is plug’n’play, and can be easily moved so that airport operators can measure traveller satisfaction at each and any point-of-experience, such as check-in, security, washrooms, baggage reclaim, duty free, and immigration. Once in place, feedback can be observed and reviewed within seconds, giving HappyOrNot’s customers a competitive edge by allowing them to react and pinpoint issues instantly.

 

IGM: How was your technology impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic? Did you register an increase or decrease in the number of people using it?

MM: Given the global restrictions and nature of our service, interactions between March and May 2020, for example, were significantly lower (70% in some locations). Fortunately, more recently we have seen a steady recovery, and we are confident that the short drop in interactions was a consequence of restrictions, rather than any aversion to supplying feedback.”

As international travel begins to open up, it would appear there is a strong demand for feedback terminals in the transport sector, and in January 2021, we expanded our network of airports, partnering with Norwegian Airport Operator, Avinor, who are responsible for 44 state-owned airports including Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim, indicating the value of passenger feedback data for operators.

 

IGM: Health and safety-wise, do you think that technologies like yours will still be used in a post-Covid world?

MM: Over the course of the pandemic, we have witnessed a shift in the expectations and needs of the customer, and we believe that feedback systems will play a vital role as sectors and businesses look to evolve their services, in order to help them collect feedback and better accommodate their customers’ new values.

In August 2020, thanks to scientific advances we were able to announce that we were the first feedback company in the world to coat our terminals with antimicrobial protection, proven via ISO standardization (ISO21702), to be efficient against coronavirus. Earlier that year, we also future-proofed our systems by launching a ‘touch-free’ expansion to our Smiley Touch terminals, using QR codes and URL links to allow anyone to give feedback remotely.

Looking ahead, it is also clear that customers want more choice, and when it comes to feedback, we have been working hard to develop new methods and will soon be releasing our most advanced product later this year.