Your Company Policies are Killing your Brand Reputation

Janice B Gordon BA tail


Being a Virgin girl, but I was pleasantly surprise when forced to take a British Airways (BA) flight to BWI (BA, the only direct flight from London). Although I was surprised, my expectations were low I was expecting a nothing special service. However, my colleague experienced a less than standard service from BA.

A member posted on Facebook: “British Airways you are a disgrace. You’ve oversold my flight to Amsterdam. What’s the point in buying a ticket if it does not get you on the plane? How am I meant to run my business when I cannot get there? Useless, useless, useless. I now have to hope someone misses their connecting flight”.

Airlines are under pressure to reduce waste and increase profits but at what cost to their brand reputation.

Here are a few of the Facebook responses to the member post:

  • Tweet the hell out of it with the damming hashtag and see if BA exec team come running #BAfails.
  • They have become the worst airline in the world and worse, they do not care. Half their flights are empty, so they cancel them and try to put passengers on the next flight that is then overbooked.
  • I have suffered similar experiences. I remind BA that their strapline is ‘To Fly To Serve’, but it is just a meaningless advertising slogan that no one who works for them follows, their service levels are so ordinary.
  • BA stands for ‘Bloody Awful’.

Overbooking by 5-10% is common placed policy amongst the airlines. Airlines bet on not all paying passengers turning up. Airlines are happy to live with the consequences of disappointing some customers some of the time, for the additional profits. This does not build a brand reputation it destroys it and is self-servicing. Those loyal customers affected are not considered, I wonder how exactly this is supporting the BA ‘to serve’ slogan?

When asked for clarification on how BA decide who are the unlucky passengers not able to fly? They said the priority order is business class, then gold cards, then silver card holders, then people who’ve paid £14 extra for an allocated seat when booking, and then the rest. Can you believe it frequent flier cards accounts for nothing, what is the point in encouraging loyalty and membership and then destroying it in the service delivery?

To gain loyal customers, you must be loyal to your customers.

Overbooking may be standard policy but at what cost to the customer experience and the brand reputation? Brand reputation can so easily be destroyed in social media. In 2013, Mr Syed paid for a promoted tweet that read: “Don’t fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous.”

Six hours later the tweet had been read by thousands of Twitter users, commented on and retweeted. It took British Airways ten hours to pick up the tweet replying: “Sorry for the delay in responding, our twitter feed is open 09:00-17:00 GMT.”

Can you imagine the accelerated impact if this tweet was promoted today? Companies cannot afford to work office hours if they operate in a 24-hour business. So many issues can be nipped in the bud or the impact of neutralised, if picked-up and resolved immediately.

This is why I am a Virgin girl.

Virgin Airlines, is one of the most tech-savvy airlines in the industry, and constantly revolutionises its approach to customer service.

Virgin Atlantic strapline ‘Flying in the Face of Ordinary’ is less of an advertising slogan and more of a company philosophy. In on campaign it scoured the social network Twitter for Virgin Atlantic @VAAintheUSA followers and provided them personal and face to face attention, to adding a splash of colour to their lives.

BA have a lot to learn in reputation management, they can start by being less self-serving and proactively transforming the lives of their loyal customers giving great customer experiences

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