British Airways –
Customer Service at its worst.
Editor Niels Kjellerup Ashgrove December 18th 2001.
Background : This is a case-study of my personal experiences with British Airways. It might be dismissed as ‘anecdotal’, but the consistent bad service delivered by BA’s different Call Centres over a period of 12 months can’t be a coincident and should lead to a major restructure on a senior management level. As a resident of Australia my travels to Europe often necessitate linking up with BA and passing via Heathrow Airport. I most often fly business class, which presumably makes me a ‘valued’ customer. This case is a good example, of how Customer Service Call Centre gets disconnected from the Sales Process & Business Model of the mother company, and deteriorates into a pure cost centre, loosing sight of its purpose & role in Value Creation..
sequence of events :
Passing through Heathrow on my way to Copenhagen my luggage didn’t make
it to the connecting flight and was delivered 6 hours later at my address. My
suitcase was damaged. 3 weeks later, it’s a Saturday, when I return to
Heathrow I go BA Customer Service Desk and explain about my damaged suitcase.
First its refused, as the complaint must be made within 24 hours, but as my
circumstances are understood I’m given a badly Xeroxed
paper slip with a phone-number to call on Monday. I call and am put on hold
for 54 minutes. The girl is great and
tells me how a recent restructure has reduced the number of reps in this
complaint section, which makes it impossible to keep up with call volume.
Needless to say we resolve the problem and after buying a new suitcase and
spending 70 minutes waiting getting my refund, I assumed the matter was resolved.
2001 – Same
story, but this time my Golf-club protection bag arrives torn to shreds at my
hotel in Copenhagen. No worries I know the procedure. Wait time for complaint
line only 46 minutes.
Oh, I forget. While
in Copenhagen I need to change my departure date to London. I ring BA on its
business class priority line in Copenhagen. 38 minutes wait. Then a
lovely Swedish accent answers my prayers, naturally
I ask how this could be? 6 months
earlier BA Nordic management decided to close down the Danish and Norwegian Call
Centres and set up a virtual call centre for the Nordic area in Vaermland
,Sweden – ‘ and since then we have not been able to cope with call
volume!’ ( for those interested in geography this is like relocating to Sioux
Falls South Dakota US or Lancaster
London I get my new, very solid golf-club protection bag – normal refund time
65 minutes. But when I check in for my flight to Johannesburg South Africa
I’m asked to pay overweight, as my new bag is 2 kg’s over the limit (
clever way to raise a little extra revenue from a J-class passenger, needless to
say this claim was dropped after I raised my voice).
I’m on my way back to Europe. This time I fly South African &
Qantas. My luggage arrived with me at my hotel in Bruxelles. Only two encounters
with BA. I had to fly BA Copenhagen – London, and as my new Qantas Club Card
was delayed I was naturally refused entry to the BA lounge in Copenhagen
(can’t used an outdated membership card and no way of checking on the system).
My last experience with BA came on a December morning (1/12), I have to get to
Amsterdam that Saturday morning . I call
the BA priority line and am kept waiting for 38 minutes, while
being bombarded with messages to hang up and use the Internet. Another bizarre
message “ The reason you’re experience this delay, is because we’re
currently training our staff to improve customer service delivery?”. I hang
up, call KLM, get answered in less than 10 seconds and buy my return ticket
comment : Any company, no matter its great past, will be judged by its
customers on the experience it delivers. Current BA CEO Rod Eddington had a
reputation for an uncompromising customer service focus when he was CEO of
Ansett and Cathay Pacific. Maybe its time he removed some senior managers in British Airways Customer Service Delivery Department? Maybe he
doesn’t know how badly managed the area really is? When the Customers Walk Out
it will be too late.
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