The World’s Favorite Airline – Not Today!

BA5I’ve travelled with British Airways a lot with business and pleasure over the years and I have to say my experience has generally been positive … until yesterday!

I’m off to New York on a short break with the family and my story begins upon receipt of the email from BA that check in is now open, yay!

Now, the trip involves two flights, one from NCL to LHR and then a second from LHR to JFK. I check into the LHR flight just fine, selecting new seats and printing boarding passes, great. I then check into the JFK flight, select new seats so the kids can have window seats, but is time I can’t print boarding passes, and I get an error message saying I have to go to the check in desk at the airport. This is odd as it’s never happened to me before so I pick up the phone to BA and this is where my poor experience begins…

I have to say that I found the BA IVR experience very poor… as someone who runs a large call centre telephony platform I appreciate the need for IVR, but I also know you need to put a lot of work into making them work well. It’s very obvious that the BA contact model is to push you to their digital channels and they don’t want you to ring them. Again I can appreciate that they are trying to manage costs and people manning telephony lines are very expensive.

However, support lines are very busy estimating a 50 minute wait so I give up. Instead I speculatively ask a question on twitter as to what the error message means. I’m really impressed with the speed of their response, this confirms to me the power of digital and social channels over traditional methods of contact…


I send them my flight number, but then they start to concern me with their next tweet.


So I do just that and contact my booking agent ‘Trailfinders’ who check everything out from their end and it looks just fine, no problems. I tweet back BA that the booking agent can’t see anything wrong at their end… again BA come back quickly with the even more worrying response of…


Now I’m thinking I’ll not be going to New York and so I ring back the booking agent who told me they would ring BA on my behalf… A little later the booking agent rings me back in a pretty annoyed state to tell me that they got through to BA after 45 minutes wait only for the BA agent to tell them they only speak to customers and promptly put the phone down on them. However, the booking agent then told me that they were ringing them back to complain about the hanging up and to escalate the call.

I sent another tweet to BA ask for more information but no reply this time… 😦

Whist this is going on I try again to print the boarding passes and I find that I can print one of the passes but not the others. So I log out and log back in again and this time I can print a couple of the other passes, log off and on again and then I can print the final pass. However, I’m still a little confused as the travel itinerary hasn’t updated with seat numbers etc.

Trailfinders ring back to say that they have finally spoken to someone at BA who would listen to them, and that they confirmed we were listed on the JFK flight. That brings us to the end of Saturday and I’m pretty confident we’ve done all we could to give us the peace of mind we were after.

Sunday morning arrives and low and behold I have a text waiting on my phone to say the LHR flight has been cancelled. Now, this is a huge disappointment but not really a surprise as BA have a tendency in my experience to pull the NCL-LHR flights all too often.

Time to ring the call centre, fight my way through the IVR (option 5 then option 1 is what you need in this instance), and speak to a very helpful chap who re-lists us on a later flight albeit much tighter for the connection, but promises us that BA will re-list us for a later NY flight should we miss the connection. He also says we need to go and check in for the re listed flight as this wouldn’t be done automatically.

A few minutes later I log onto BA.COM and I see the new flight, but it won’t let me check in! So I ring BA again… (option 5 and option 1) and I speak to another helpful agent who tells me we can’t check in online as he’d have to drop us off both flights in order for us to check in to the LHR flight and there would be a chance that we would lose our seat reservations on the JFK flight and the best thing to do would be to arrive at the airport check in desk where they have more options to check us iThat’s the story bang up to date… booking this holiday seemed like a good idea at the time, but I have to say our initial joy and excitement of looking forward to this break for quite some time has turned into quite a stressful experience and we haven’t even left the house yet!

I do hope this is the last you’ll hear about this particular journey!

Updated … A much better experience from arrival at the airport onwards. Check in staff were excellent, everything was sorted out swiftly, we made the connection to JFK and were delighted to discover we had been upgraded.


Amidst the doom and gloom, two great customer experience stories

It’s a well-known fact that bad news sells… and that’s probably the reason that most blogs you read are full of doom and gloom or are pointing out the inadequacies of someone or something. Having just done that with my previous post I thought I’d buck the trend and write about two good news stories instead.

The first is from the Post Office, much maligned over recent years and run down (or at least downsized) in many villages and towns. On Saturday I went to renew my passport at my local Post Office in a small place called West Monkseaton. A very bright and modern post office with lots of very friendly and helpful staff who obviously wanted to take care of people. It was a real pleasure to have a conversation as opposed to feeling like a transaction and this translated into a very good customer experience.

The second one was from a company called We Fix Alloys  This is a small company near Newcastle who I took my kerbed alloy wheels to for repair. Again it was a great customer experience, Chris the guy who owns and runs the company was not only very helpful but the pride he took in his work and in his company was immediately obvious. I have to say when I collected the car later in the afternoon, he spent time telling me what he’d done and generally to make sure I was fully satisfied with the end result which was excellent.

These are examples of two great businesses that give excellent customer service and I’d highly recommend both.

Customer Service whose job is it anyway?

If you follow my blog you’ll be well aware of my recent trials and tribulations I’ve been having with Dell. I suppose like many others before me I innocently thought that when I placed the order that I was buying from Dell and that they would take accountability for my order until it was delivered. Sounds sensible don’t it? Well from the many conversations I have had with them during this debacle this obviously wasn’t the case. For example, here are some quotes I got from their call centre that made me think otherwise:

“Our customer service team is not to blame for mismanaging your expectation; the delay to your order was a supplier issue and it was beyond our control.” – and who picks the supplier?

“Your order is delayed because of a high level of demand at this time of the year.” – I always thought supply was a vendor issue not a customer issue?

“Delivery is now with UPS and you should talk to them about the status of your order.” – erm, I thought my order was placed with Dell not UPS?

It’s quite obvious here that Dell didn’t take ‘end to end’ accountability for my order and therefore the customer experience I recieved was abysmally poor.

Another example I’ve had recently is with Next Directory, if you’re from the UK you’ll know of them as the catalogue outlet part of high street chain of clothing stores right… well I thought the same but it turns out I was wrong!!! In this scenario I ordered something for collection at one of their high street stores. They sent me a email that it was ready for collection, so off I go to collect. When I arrive it isn’t there, there has been a delay and this is what I’m told by the Next shop assistant?

“Sorry your order isn’t here it’s because Next Directory isn’t part of Next and so it’s not under our control.”

Sigh! How about a simple hang on a minute, I’ll check with the Next Directory people for you… would have turned this into a good experience instead of a poor one.

In both cases there was a clear lack of accountability, if someone had taken accountability instead of saying it’s not my job then they could have dramatically changed my experience.

Now compare this to Amazon (Amazing), and a department store called John Lewis in the UK… they both have amazing customer experience because no matter who you talk to they look after you and their people make sure your issue is resolved whether it is their primary role or not.

The lesson here is very simple… no matter what role you have in a company, you are accountable for customer experience… do everything you possibly can, and then a bit more, to make sure your customers have a good one.

Dell – a story of Great Expectations (but mostly failure)

Dell is probably a very reliable company most of the time, but I’ve seen a very different side lately…

I’ve been a Dell advocate for at least 13 years now… Having bought a number of Dell machines for home use and having lost count of the many many Dell machines I’ve bought and used in a professional capacity. I’ve found them to be very reliable and the spec has always been good especially for high end developer PC’s.

However, after years of being a satisfied customer my respect for Dell has taken a knock. I ordered an Alienware PC (a high spec gaming PC from Dell) in November. The order process was a good one with a promised delivery before Xmas (a box to tick on the web order form) and the estimated delivery date on their on-line order tracking site was set at 19th December. All good so far and I’m tweeting my pleasurable experience on twitterverse.

Needless to say I was getting a bit concerned as xmas drew closer and my fear was justified when on the 16th December Dell sent an automated email from their manufacturing system saying revised delivery date was now 5th January.

Obviously very disappointed to hear this as it is ‘the’ Xmas present for my son, so I call support at Dell. A very polite technician promised to investigate and get back to me same day. However, to add to my already disappointed state the technician didn’t get back to me. I have to say at this point someone promising to get back to me and then not just makes me annoyed.

So now I’m disappointed and annoyed and as with my earlier tweets praising Dell, I’m now sharing my disappointment on twitterverse.

A few days later @DellCares picked up one of my tweets and asked me to follow and DM my order details. They responded with DM and said they were expediting the order. Not wanting to appear stupid but I asked what that meant exactly. A day later I asked again and they said the order would be prioritised but they couldn’t guarantee delivery due to high seasonal demand.

High seasonal demand… so now it’s other customers that are causing my problem. Surely managing the logistics around seasonal demand is the vendor problem. I’ve lost words to describe how I’m feeling now…

Now we’re two days past the original delivery date and I go to the web site to look for a new date and it’s still showing estimated delivery of the 19th December. So I followed up by phone to see if they have any more information. The technician was a nice guy from the Philippines who didn’t have any more information to share, but said as it’s been expedited we would be allocated an account manager to keep us updated with progress (we have never had one single piece of information from our designated account manager).

So now its Xmas eve and I make another phone call and get an update to say the order has shipped and it could be with us by the 29th December… At last a bit of good news, I.e. whilst it didn’t make it in time for Xmas, there was a good chance it might arrive before new year. At this point I have to tell my son that his xmas present won’t be arriving on time but there could be a chance it could get here during the holidays.

Xmas comes and goes and now it’s the 28th and we’ve still not heard anything more so I send a few more DM’s to @DellCares, no further information other than its shipped. However, upon checking the website there’s a tracking number is on there. A click through to the carrier reveals that it is being delivered by UPS and a glance down the screen reveals that it won’t arrive until 3rd January. As if this wasn’t disappointing enough the shipping date is actually the 28th December and not the 23rd December as previously communicated.

This means that my countless phone calls and DM’s and the expediting (prioritisation) has come to nothing really.

Anyway, I try ringing UPS to ask if they can deliver sooner. The lady on the phone is very honest and sincere (and very apologetic even though it wasn’t her fault) telling me that because the consignment is now on route they can’t change the priority. Whilst this is disappointing news to hear, I feel I am being treated well and appreciated the honesty.

Before ringing off I ask if it could have been delivered sooner, and what I hear next was unbelievable… yes it could, there are a range of options including next day etc… but Dell have sent the order by the lowest possible priority that UPS support.

Flabbergasted at this I contact @DellCares to ask how this can possibly be when they have expedited the order… to which they reply they expedited the production not the delivery!!!!!!

Need I say more?????

UPDATE… Unfortunately it seems there is more to say after all. It’s now the 29th December and today I find out that only 2 of the 3 boxes in the consignment have been despatched. Another call to the call centre and yet again they are nice people but they can’t tell me what’s going on.

You really couldn’t make this up…

UPDATE… 31st December … All my endeavours to expedite the order have unfortunately failed. The consignment (hopefully all three parts) is in a depot only 5 miles away and despite my efforts today I couldn’t get them to release it to me, so I’m going to have to wait until next week.

I have to say that whilst I’ve found the Dell call centre a complete waste of time and on occasion rude during this fiasco, I have had a better experience using the @DellCares twitter route… It would only be fair of me to shout out to someone going by the call sign SS who has been the only person to reliably get back to me…

If this should ever happen to you, and I hope it never does, then track down @DellCares as you’ll be wasting your time with the call centre.

Amazon = Amazing Customer Experience

I’ve not posted for a while but I feel the need to blog tonight about the most fantastic service I experienced lately from Amazon.

If you’re a regular visitor to my blog you’ll know that I’ve previously raved about the Amazon Kindle. It’s a fantastic device and I have to say that it’s been used daily since the day I got it. Well sadly on Saturday gone it gave up the ghost, the screen was showing corruption and despite trying the reset instructions it was kaput.

So, I googled the problem and came across a URL for Amazon support. I logged in with my normal Amazon credentials and was presented with a support page with a button saying something like “press here if you would like someone to call you back.” Well the next bit was amazing, I pressed the button and my phone rang immediately, I mean within milliseconds.

Upon being greeted by an agent who was knowledgeable about the Kindle, as opposed to someone who merely logged my call and put me on hold for someone else, we went through the details of my problem.

When it was apparent that the device was faulty I was transferred to another department to sort out a replacement. Again this was instant, no being put on hold etc.

A few more details were taken about the source of the device etc, which happened to be a gift, but at no time did I think my integrity was being challenged.

Anyway the upshot was that two days later my replacement Kindle arrived free of charge, and Amazon have covered all costs to have the faulty one collected.

Now that’s an extraordinary customer experience… will I be shopping with Amazon again?

You bet I will…