jul 17, 2017

Interview with Nursel K. for the APA (Airport Promotion Agencies) Newsletter

For the APA Newsletter we interviewed one of our Brand Ambassadors at Brussels Airport. As a loyal employee, Nursel explains how it is to work in an international environment and the challenges she is facing on a daily basis at the Duty Free shops.

What are some of the biggest changes in the airport if you compare your first working day to the present?
This is my 17th year of working at the airport. And one change I noticed is that passengers have become a lot more demanding. They expect the airport to have every product of every brand. If we can’t provide them with the desired product, their disappointment can be quite shocking. Another change is that passengers are not as relaxed as they used to be. They are stressed and feel the pressure of being at the gate on time. This makes for challenging combination whilst trying to make a sale.

You often hear that the airport is a world of its own. Can you describe the atmosphere that makes the airport such a unique place?
The airport breathes diversity. This diversity can be found on so many levels. The most obvious one being nationality. Passengers come from all over the world, making the airport an international melting pot. Another example is the difference in personality of the passengers. Our customers include professional businessmen and -women, youngsters on their first trip, beauty enthusiasts and so many more. Because of the diversity of our clientele we have to be able to switch from one sales strategy to another. But the focus remains on the speed of the sale. Passengers usually want a certain product of a certain brand and they want it fast. If the sales promotor would elaborate and present the customer with a variety of options, chances are that the customer is overwhelmed and doesn’t make any purchase at all.

What are some of the biggest challenges airport promotors face?
In short: price. We can no longer offer a price advantage in comparison to the local market. Therefore, extra’s like discounts, package deals and presents have become an important part of the sale.

Can you describe your job in 5 words?
Challenging (yes, even after 17 years of service, the challenges keep on coming)
Fun (if you’re open to the beauty of the job, you’ll have a great time doing it)
Interesting (every day I meet people with such interesting life stories to share)
Flexible (the mutual collegiality provides us with the opportunity to be flexible with working hours, breaks, …)
Freedom (we all represent certain brands, therefore you can always ask another colleague to take charge of the sale)

You’ve already mentioned the large variety of nationalities of your customers. What stands out the most in purchasing behavior of Europeans, Asians, Africans and Americans?
Europeans customer differ more in character than based on their nationality. If you provide them with a fast tailor-made service, they will most likely purchase one or more items. The key is to be to the point and offer no more digression as needed. If you offer them too much choice, they will lose interest. Europeans will buy something because they would like to have it, not because they need it. Asians on the other hand shop very purposefully. They want one certain product from one certain brand and won’t buy anything else. Not even on the rare occasion you are able to offer them a price advantage. Africans are very sensitive to price advantages. In fact, the sale will most probably hinge on the possibility of a discount or a package deal. If you can’t offer any extra’s the sale will probably not go through. Of all the different customers, based on nationality, Americans are visiting us the least. We don’t know why this is the case. But in comparison to a couple of years ago, this is a very noticeable change in our clientele.

Can you share your most memorable anecdote while working as an airport promotor?
After 17 years you think you’ve seen and heard it all. But every week I still have ‘oh  my god’ moments. But there’s one moment I will never forget. One day, we had an American customer. I saw him talking to the counter personnel. He was telling an elaborate story and soon all the shop’s personnel and other customers gathered round this handsome storyteller. One of my colleagues informed me that he was a pediatrician who worked with children who were diagnosed with cancer. One of my friends had a daughter who was suffering from cancer and we started talking. After he gave me some interesting insights he left to go find his gate. Much to our surprise, he returned fifteen minutes later. He came to find me and told me that he had missed his plane. I was empathetic about his situation and directed him to the counter at the entrance of the airport where he would be able to rebook his flight. Some time passed and all of a sudden, there he was again. He was very angry that the following flight wasn’t till tomorrow and that the least I could do was to offer him a place to sleep. Since it was my fault to have been talking to him for so long and therefore had missed his flight. I was stunned but I was able to keep my cool. I told him that I was sorry for the situation, but I was not able to offer him any kind of sleeping accommodation. He became even more angry and starting yelling and cursing at me. I was so shocked that I couldn’t reply to any of it. In the end he left and we never saw him again. I will never forget that day.

 The marketing sector is changing fast. What aspect of airports and airport shops should never change, in your opinion?
Change is necessary. Nobody is irreplaceable, but knowledge and service are. In other airports, contact between customers and promotors (and even between customers and products) is disappearing. In my eyes, this is an unmissable aspect in our field of work. The promotor’s sales service is the base of any purchase.

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