An airline, a lost bag, no communication, and a lost customer … a lesson for businesses everywhere.

My wife and I just returned from a fabulous holiday. We were in Europe for 4 weeks. Unfortunately, there was one big hiccup that marred an otherwise wonderful time. The hiccup? My wife’s flight ticket from Munich to London was fouled up and her luggage got lost. As of this writing, it has been gone for 18 days. If you’ve ever been in this predicament, you know that is a long time to be without your stuff.

The airline, British Airways, has always been a favorite of my family. We are, you might say, loyal customers. Well, were loyal customers is probably more accurate at this juncture.

There has been a decline though, and it has been a sad one. Many years ago, this airline was the best. My wife once got stuck in London overnight due to weather issues. She had my young children in tow coming back to the US. My son was an infant and she had only enough diapers for the journey. The flight crew could not have been more helpful and understanding. They bought her more diapers, ushered her and the kids to a hotel in a way that made it easy, got her breakfast the next morning, and back on the plane quickly and efficiently. It was service on a par not often seen. I have used that story over and over in talks and training classes as an example of how things should be.

Well, those days are gone. On this latest trip, the downward spiral started when we were checking in to fly from Munich to London. My wife’s check-in attempt failed. The app told her there was an issue and she had to check in at the airport.  

When we got to the airport early to try and avoid a crowd, no BA staff was there yet. We got there at 8 and no one was slated to be there until 9. When we finally got to speak to someone, they said there was a mistake that was made internally. Essentially, someone from the airline failed to complete a process and my wife’s ticket was being held up. The BA representative said he would have to make a call to get things resolved. I figured he would call a special line open only to staff, but no, he only had access to the same helpline open to the public. (It is ridiculous that employees have no backdoor way to get problems resolved.) So, we waited…and waited…and waited. He finally got it straightened out and we were on our way although we now had to rush due to the wait for this to be resolved.

Once we arrived in London, things were a madhouse. For a variety of reasons that we are still unsure about (one has to do with Brexit and security issues), we were ushered into multiple lines to go through security again and get tickets approved. The staff doing the work were not particularly friendly or helpful. They could not answer questions and, in many cases, seemed to not know exactly what they were doing. Anyway, after this long, strenuous ordeal, we finally got to our connecting flight to Scotland.

Upon arrival at Edinburgh International, we found my bag had arrived but not my wife’s. When we went to enquire and make a lost baggage claim, there was no one available. We had to walk to the check-in counter to find any BA staff and they had to go find someone to help us –and the numerous others in the same corner. We made our claim, gave them numbers and addresses, and left with fingers crossed.

After one week of hearing nothing, we began to try to get answers. All attempts through normal channels of calls and emails, got us nowhere so we resorted to some rather negative messages on social media. Those got responses. We were asked to direct message all pertinent information and they would get back to us. Well, we are still waiting. We entered information …several times… and have got nothing. No word whatsoever.

Now we are back home in the US and still no bag…and still no word, nothing, nada, zilch.

Here’s the rub. If you are a company and a customer has problems, do you think it should be hard work for them to get resolution or, at minimum, some communication so they know where things stand? Absolutely not!

My wife keeps saying, “If I just knew something, even if it’s ‘we are still trying to locate your bag,’ I would be happier, but no communication is really ticking me off. Needless to say, I will never fly British Airways again.” All the mistakes coupled with no help or communication has lost British Airways a customer –a customer, mind you, who influenced others to fly with them. This is a true example of the power of communication –or lack thereof –and how such a simple thing can cause customers to stay or run away.

Think about your business. When a customer has a problem, do you keep them in the loop? Do you respond even if the news is not good? How much effort is required for your customers to get someone to act? How far down a dark alley are your customers when trying to get answers? These are critical things to look at. Simple, open, honest communication can be the difference between customers staying or going. Are you willing to lose because you lack the decency, will, and/or ability to communicate? Don’t be British Airways. Take a higher road. Communicate with your customers, even if it’s hard.

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