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BA works out the meaning of customer service

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British Airways has announced a company-wide initiative to train and empower its staff to be more service orientated.

Some of the terminology BA is using in its press statement announcing the initiative is a little quaint; BA customer service agents are now “hosts” who should treat passengers like “their own family”.

I can’t help think that for some families, this may not be a positive…but the initiative is well-intentioned.  You just wonder what took BA management so long for the light bulb to flicker on and realize that, in its own words, good service is “a simple idea”?

Starting with its home hub, London Heathrow T5, BA staff will be armed with iPads, be permitted to roam the floor and be proactive in solving customer issues, BA says.

Good news indeed. But many other airlines have long-since worked out the empowered agent and the iPad tool.

In December, I was among the passengers who saw BA’s un-empowered, desk-shackled approach to its customers. A very light snow shower brought T5 to a halt and there was total chaos in the airport. BA staff-the very few who could be spotted and most of whom scuttled for the exit as soon as they could—were about as unhelpful and unapologetic as it gets.

As I said at the time, even if they didn’t have the tools to help their customers, a look of caring and a few sympathetic words would have gone a long way to those who spent the night on a freezing cold, filthy dirty terminal floor without any information on potential new flights, no knowledge of where their bags had gone, or even a bottle of water.

So good for BA for embarking on this “new approach”. But COO Klaus Goersch has a long way to go to deliver on his promise that this will result in “exceptional customer service that will set us apart from other airlines.”  And winter, with the next dusting of snow on Heathrow, is just around the corner.

Karen Walker karen.walker@informa.com

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