After a recent flight with British Airways, I received a link to a questionnaire. Not only was it too long, it also contained many questions which I couldn’t answer – either because I simply didn’t know the answer or because I didn’t use the service asked about. It prompted me to write this blog in the form of a (slightly cheeky) letter…
I recently experienced a very pleasant flight on one of your planes from Oslo to London Heathrow. Everything was fine – you were on time, your staff was friendly, your plane was clean, comfortable, and you pretty much lived up to your ‘proud national flag carrier’ airline image you like to portray. Well done for that!
Two days later you sent me an invitation to a customer satisfaction survey. I was happy that you wanted to check that I had a good experience. I do also use other airlines frequently who never ask me, so when your email containing the feedback link arrived, I was pleased and felt that my custom was appreciated. As I work in the feedback industry, I was eager to give you some glowing feedback and clicked on the link.
You helpfully stated the flight details at the top of the feedback page in case I had taken more than one flight recently. And you asked whether I actually took the flight. I did give you my boarding pass and showed you my passport, just as requested – don’t you remember? I was the balding, middle-aged guy wearing glasses and a brown coat. Your whole crew said goodbye to me and wished me a pleasant onwards journey when I left the plane!
In your next question, you asked me whether I worked for British Airways!? Surely we both know that I don’t work for you? Do you find it difficult to track who works for you and who doesn’t? I know you employ a lot of people, but I thought that, since there are considerable risks attached with air travel, you demand certain standards and qualifications from your staff? Or were you just prompting me to consider applying for a job with you? Are you hiring? Anyway, I ticked the ‘no’ option and moved to the next questions, where I really got stuck.
Now you wanted to know which class I travelled in. You presented me with a baffling selection of options: First, Club World, World Traveller Plus, World Traveller (economy), Club Europe, Euro Traveller (economy), UK Domestic … 7 different options and I do not have the faintest idea what they are all about and which one I travelled in. I know I didn’t book first class and I gingerly had to make my way to the back of the plane to my allocated seat. First class tends to be at the front and there was no Champagne on offer where I was either. I sat in row 25 – your website told me to sit there (because I didn’t want to pay to choose my own seat). Your website also sold me the ticket (without mentioning any associated club memberships) – so please check with them. The feedback form didn’t offer a ‘Don’t Know’ or ‘Other’ option. Keeping track of your pricing and customer segmentation is your job, not mine; and since you sold me the ticket, surely you can find out the answer? I eventually just ticked any option and clicked on ‘Next’ – sorry for messing up your data but I really wanted to continue with the survey.
Now I got to the familiar rating grids – several pages of what felt like at least 60 or more questions about how much I liked or disliked certain aspects of my travel experience – all using a seven point rating scale as answer options. I rated the punctuality, (was I ‘extremely satisfied’, ‘very satisfied’ or just ‘satisfied’ that your plane arrived on time?) the food selection (there wasn’t any food on offer – just a (free!) soft drink and a bag of savoury snacks (which were yummy!). You asked how easy I found the luggage check-in and retrieval at the other end (I didn’t check in any luggage), how satisfied I was with the safety information provided (thankfully, I didn’t need to put that information into practice!) and the same for the pre-flight information service (again on a seven point scale!).
And so it went on and on. Was I ‘extremely satisfied’, ‘very satisfied’ or just ‘satisfied’ that you had sent me a text message with the correct departure information on the morning of my flight? I thought it was very useful to receive the text – well done! But I took it for granted that you knew from which airport your plane would take off and text me the correct information. I never suspected you would play practical jokes with me by sending me somewhere else! This is just to explain to you why I only gave you a ‘Satisfied’ score for this item. Send me a free invite to your business lounge for a higher score next time!
Dear British Airways, I realise now that you don’t remember me on this flight and could forgive you for that, since I travel frequently, know the drill, follow instructions and am generally co-operative and rarely make a fuss. You carry thousands of passengers around the world so I can’t expect you to remember them all. BUT there are some things you really SHOULD know about your passengers because that’s part of your business of running an airline.
To be honest, I am a busy guy and spending 10 minutes answering questions with ‘Not applicable’ because all you remember is that I was booked on your flight, is not a good use of my time and leaves me feeling that you don’t actually care about me that much. Are you just collecting data to feed some dashboards at your corporate headquarters? Strangely, you even asked me about things you have no control over, like queues at passport control, security checks, public facilities at the airport etc etc – so are you going to share my feedback with local governments and airport operators?
Please don’t be too disappointed with this letter – you did a great job with your flight and I would happily fly with you again. The fact that you are seeking feedback is a good thing, but we’ve moved on from the 90s; Customers are becoming more demanding and would like to be treated as individuals. You do have the technology to do this and you had two days to prepare the feedback link – I don’t mind that you don’t remember that I didn’t buy any duty free stuff on the plane – and there are of course issues of privacy too, so I don’t expect you to act like Big Brother!
But unless you start asking me about MY actual experience, I am not sure whether I’ll click on one of your feedback links again – sorry! But I guess you do need someone with more experience to help you design proper customer feedback processes, so let me know when you’re hiring!
I hope my letter illustrates some important points about measuring experiences – personalisation where possible is very important and more CRM integration would have allowed BA to omit questions which aren’t relevant to me and more importantly – don’t ask questions you should already know the answers to. The more valuable a customer relationship is, the more important this is. How does it make a ‘so-called’ valued customer feel if they are treated like strangers? Keep feedback relevant, personal and respect your respondents and you will receive better and more valuable feedback and create a closer relationships rather than alienating your customers.
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Customer Experience Management
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