With ongoing talks to avert potential strikes by its flight crew and now the latest IT system failures, these are undoubtedly turbulent times for the once iconic British Airways. In this guest post, The Grumpy Git Scott Dixon takes a look at where it has all gone wrong for the airline.
Scott hosts a consumer blog www.thegrumpygit.com which he uses as a platform to convey advice on various consumer and motoring issues. The aim of this is to empower consumers to hold unscrupulous firms and individuals to account, raise awareness of consumer rights, seek redress and improve customer service and standards for everyone.
Equally, he gives praise and compliments where it’s due because it’s only fair that firms who do get things right should be recognised and used as a benchmark for the majority of companies that don’t. You can find Scott on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Here’s what he has to say about BA.
British Airways’ woes have been well documented and even more so this week with pilot strikes and IT failures causing complete chaos and disruption for hundreds of thousands of passengers. Travel loss claims under EU roles are set to cost the company tens of millions of pounds and you can’t put a price on the reputation that has been trashed in the process.
So, where has it all gone wrong?
I am old enough to remember the good old days when BA was hailed as the airline for all others to aspire to. Smartly dressed staff that genuinely took pride not only in their jobs but for the firm they work for, the livery, the premium prices which reflected the quality you took as standard, free drinks and snacks – you were made to feel that you were flying with a first class airline and brand that was the envy of everyone.
The advent of budget airlines heralded a sea-change in the way everyone saw airline travel. The budget airlines stripped out all of the freebies with a low-cost fare that BA couldn’t compete with and offered everyone to fly around Europe and beyond for less than the price of a round of drinks.
BA were caught on the back foot and have tried to play catch-up ever since. This meant that BA had to realign their focus from excellence to cheap and a change of CEO in 2016 with the appointment of Alex Cruz has resulted in the airline’s reputation, brand and value being destroyed.
This points back to Customer Service and Customer Experience. Customers don’t mind paying a premium price for premium quality but they don’t want to be short-changed. If you pay less, you get less. Marks and Spencer have learnt that the hard way. I remember (showing my age here) when St Michael was the brand where 95% of their clothes were made in Britain. Now they are generally made in Bangladesh, Cambodia and other Far-Eastern companies where the people have little or no employment rights, are paid a pittance and the end customers are still charged a premium price for clothes that are not made to last.
Marks and Spencer have also been slated recently for a drop in Customer Service satisfaction with comments such as a lack of staff, cluttered displays, outdated fashion, weird sized clothing that doesn’t measure up properly and just not keeping up with what their customers expect. They have also had a few changes of CEOs over the years that have been paid fortunes that are not aligned to their performance, resulting in shareholders voicing their dissatisfaction at AGMs and loyal customers shopping elsewhere.
So, back to BA. How can they overcome this and restore their reputation?
They need to get back to basics and stop cutting corners for starters. Invest in their IT infrastructure to ensure that no failures are ever repeated would be a good start, as customers are hardly going to put their faith in a brand that can’t even maintain their IT systems properly. That brings GDPR Data Protection issues and risks as well, which customers are becoming increasingly savvy about.
Invest in your staff, as without good and loyal staff you don’t have a customer base to work with that pays their wages and creates profits that can be reinvested to continue the cycle. Keep the circle positive.
Customer Service and Excellence is everything. In an era where everything is much the same, the one thing that sets a firm apart is Customer Service and the Customer Experience. Create a brand that your staff are proud to be a part of, pay them well, treat them well, invest in their training, ask for honest feedback and don’t penalise them for it and listen to your customers. Customers are more than happy to tell you what they want if you ask them and by doing so, you can fine-tune any weaknesses and get back to where you were originally – in this case, the World’s Favourite Airline.
Thanks to Scott for sharing his thoughts about British Airways. Not to be outdone, I’ve written a poem to get my own two-penneth in. Happy reading!
No way BA
Here we go again
Come on BA
This type of thing must end.
What will be the next cut?
Will I even get a seat?
Or will I be standing in the aisle
With my belt around my feet?
Will the flights still be direct
Or will I end up somewhere else?
Will you still transport my bags
Of will I have to sort this out myself?
Will you be there when I ring?
That’s if I can get through
The lines are always busy
And I have better things to do.
Your systems keep on crashing
Because you don’t invest enough
In the things that really matter
Not just the fluffy stuff.
All you care about is profit
Your passengers come last
It’s easy to forget you were
An iconic airline in the past.
With the current threat of strikes
You need to get back to that table
Start listening for once
And do what you are able
To resolve all of the issues
And bring everyone together.
The time for change is now.
We won’t put up with this forever.