In any organisation it is perhaps inevitable that mistakes will happen, things will not go as planned, errors will be made, and lessons will go unlearned. After all, organisations are organisms, they are made up of people, and people are only human.
So when something goes wrong in an organisation that results in poor customer service, whilst consumers might get very angry, upset or frustrated, many will also have a thought at the back of their minds that ‘life is not perfect and that we all make mistakes’.
That said, and when on the receiving end of poor customer service, it is how an organisation puts things right that matters. The organisation’s level of effort and focus in so doing will either restore some faith in the customer to use the organisation again, or destroy any trust – resulting in the loss (either for a period of time, or permanently) of future business.
These thoughts about customer service have been top of my mind for the past week. Why? Well because, having flown by British Airways (BA) from Heathrow on Sunday 29th June to Athens to teach the Knowledge Management Module on the International MBA Course at AUEB, I was greeted on arrival with the news that whilst I had made it to Athens safely, my baggage had not.
So where was my baggage I asked (along with tens of others)?
Well the answer was that no one knew, but it was assumed it was still at Heathrow as Terminal 5 had been experiencing problems having suffered a baggage systems failure.
When would I get my baggage I asked?
Again the answer was that no one knew, but having been given a Property Irregularity Report, I was assured that my baggage would arrive (at my hotel) shortly and that I could check online to ascertain the status of my ‘lost case’.
To cut a long story short, my baggage did eventually arrive at my hotel, but not until Friday 4th July – just in time for my flight home to the UK the following day.
I’ll not bore you with the problems the lack of luggage caused, suffice it to say, that in addition to clothing and essentials, my case also contained all of the material I had prepared to teach Knowledge Management to the MBA students. Some of the material was for running a version of The Marshmallow Challenge I use to demonstrate Learning Before Doing, Learning Whilst Doing and Learning After Doing in Action.
With the help and support of the University staff I was still able to run the challenge, and on the evening concerned, the class was joined by the daughter of one of the students. Her father had asked permission to bring his daughter along to enable her to see ‘where Daddy spent much of his time and why he also spent so much time studying at home’ and to experience what this might be like for herself. His daughter’s name was Evaggelia – which I believe carries the Greek meaning associated with ‘the bringer (from the angels) of good news’.
Well young Evaggelia certainly brought some good news and creative/innovative ideas to help a team of students with its Marshmallow Challenge and she made good use of the rest of the lecture time by creating this wonderful collage of a boat at sea – with its mast made of spaghetti and its sails filled with little bits of marshmallow.
If only BA and its supporting organisations could apply such innovation and creativity to their customer service! During the course of the 5/6 days without my baggage:
- The baggage tracking system remained with the status ‘still tracing’
- My email to BA went (other than an automated ‘your email is important to us, but we are busy’ message) unanswered
- My (many) calls (and those of the hotel who provided great service throughout) to the baggage help-line at Athens airport never got past the ‘lift music’ and always ended by me (or the hotel) being cut-off
- Customer Service silence was not golden!
I’m now, of course, left to resolve the situation (claim for essential costs etc.) with BA’s on-line complaints procedure, which is less than helpful and I am not optimistic about ever hearing from them (noting the thousands of others in a similar situation over the last week or so). Looking on the brighter side, and remembering the Greek meaning of Evaggelia (bringer of god news) maybe BA will one day respond to me, or better still, just pick up the phone and say sorry – which for some organisations remains that hardest thing to do/achieve – and not just to a news camera and BBC interviewer – but to me; a customer.