As many of you may know, I spent the week of the 8th November at SAP’s flagship event, SAPPHIRE, in Madrid. I flew, as I often do, with British Airways, because I like Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport (it’s close to my home) and the points system.
But what happened to me on the way back has led me to reconsider the meaning of customer service and what it means to social media in the 21st century. Have you read the story of United Breaks Guitars? If not, then I suggest you do so, here:
And if you empathise with the story that follows and have had something similar happen to you, then please chime in on the comments. United (no pub intended) we stand.
When I returned home after Madrid on BA flight 457 I found that a sequence of events something like this had occurred:
- The contents of my luggage had been removed from my bag (fair enough if they want to search it) – but there was no letter as there should be stating this included.
- All of the contents had been removed (shoe trees from trees, formal clothes, wrapped leather goods, cosmetics from plastic bags and protective wrappers to avoid spillage etc.).
- All the contents had been thrown back in, in a random order.
- An expensive smartphone was missing.
I think you can imagine the damage caused inside the bag. Leather goods, clothes, shoes ruined. It’s why bags are packed carefully in the first place, right? To avoid this.
To my mind this is nothing else than wilful criminal damage. Such a thing could only have been done intentionally, and anyone repacking the suitcase in this way would know the damage that they were causing. I feel that BA have a duty of care to look after my luggage as best they can. Accidents happen, but this was not lost or damaged luggage – it was an act of vandalism.
So, I got in contact with Heathrow Airport on Twitter (@HeathrowAirport) who were fast, efficient and helpful. They took the query, explained that BA are responsible for the baggage from end to end and had sent the response to BA for them to look at. Well done, Heathrow. I also asked the BA Social Media team to do the same, on @British_Airways.
British Airways haven’t quite got the memo on Social Media and need to look at that internally – if you’re listening, I’d be happy to give you some advice on this – but I don’t want to focus on that, because it’s a distraction. Let’s just say that after a couple of days of prodding, nudging and letting my feelings know on Twitter, they picked up my request and ran with it.
And here’s parts of the response from Lisa Aubin at BA Customer Relations – and my comments.
We go to great lengths to take care of our customers’ belongings at British Airways, but of course all of the checked-in luggage has to pass through various hands on its way to and from the aircraft. So on the rare occasions when belongings go missing, it is virtually impossible to pinpoint what happened.
Sure – but that’s your process and system and choice and not mine. You have a duty of care to me, and who you outsource that duty of care to is your problem.
We always advise people to keep anything of special value on board with them during the flight, because of this – and because airlines have only limited liability for any items that do go missing.
I value all my belongings – don’t you? And again – this looks like it is passing responsibility. Let’s be clear – you took my belongings and wilfully vandalised them.
I understand you wish us to contact the authorities on your behalf. Unfortunately we are unable to do this, however if you wish to do so, I would be more than happy to provide any further information you may require.
Yes – I see this as a matter for the authorities and a matter of responsibility for BA – which simply hasn’t been taken in this case. Presumably this is because you don’t take acts of vandalism by your staff or agents seriously.
So, dear reader, my request to you is this. If you empathise with my story, if it strikes a chord with you and you want to help make a change, please spread the word. Make comments on this blog. Tell your story. Share.
And if someone with a head on their shoulders from BA is listening – this is not a winning customer service strategy. United Break Guitars – and BA Vandalise Luggage. It’s not about what happens, it’s how you subsequently deal with it.
P.S. I forgot, I had a request of BA to help me with my booking on the same day down to a booking on my next flight. I asked them if they would help me out. It would have cost them nothing to do so – but it would have required some customer focus – and it turns out I managed to figure it out on my own and I’m OK. But they weren’t interested. Perhaps more on that later.