As we head into the holidays, here’s a heart-warming story of good customer service and the use of social media to spread holiday cheer — and from an airline, no less.
You might have heard that a couple weeks ago British Airways‘ flight attendants’ union voted to strike over the holidays. The union scheduled the strike from December 22 to January 2, throwing millions of travel plans into chaos. After a week of back and forth, of tough talk by both labor and management, the airline sued the union, arguing that the vote was invalid due to a technicality.
Last Thursday, the High Court agreed with the airline, calling the vote invalid and declaring any ensuing strike illegal.
Without commenting on the merit of BA’s lawsuit, or of the union’s industrial action in the first place, I will say that I’m personally happy about the High Court’s decision. That’s because I’m scheduled to fly to London tomorrow night, Christmas Eve, on British Airways, and for a week I tossed and turned, wondering whether I’d be able to make it across the pond. Christmas was saved!
The day after the High Court decision, I got an e-mail from the manager of British Airways’ Executive Club, the airline’s frequent-flier program (or “frequent-flyer programme,” if we’re using the Queen’s English):
Dear Mr Hoover,
Thank you for your patience and support.
We would like to thank you for your patience and continued support during the recent period of uncertainty caused by the threat of industrial action. We understand the anxiety this may have caused you, especially given the time of year.
As an Executive Club member you are very important to us, and we hope 10,000 bonus BA Miles will go some way to show our appreciation for your support & loyalty during this difficult time. There is nothing you need to do to claim these bonus miles, they will be automatically added to your account after you have taken your flights.
Please accept these BA Miles as a gesture of goodwill.
We hope you have a very happy holiday and New Year.
Executive Club Manager
That was an unexpected gesture from the airline, and even though it’s a small one I thought it was a nice touch. BA had communicated quite well with its customers during the crisis — providing a dedicated Web page with constant updates on the strike, with information on how it would affect travelers, and lifting ticket restrictions so that people could change their travel dates without penalty, to name two things — and they continued even after it had come to an end.
So I did what any self-respecting social media nerd would do: After receiving the e-mail, I tweeted about it. About 15 minutes later, @BritishAirways sent me a direct message over Twitter: “You’re welcome. Happy holidays.”
It’s that personal touch — the small, free, easy act of communicating with a customer — that has me blogging about British Airways today, and telling many of my friends about it.
This isn’t a Twitter success story. That direct-message over Twitter is just one piece of it. The real reason it works is that British Airways displayed something much more basic — good customer service. As my colleague John Procter said when I told him this story, “Imagine that: Here we are, talking about an airline giving good customer service.”
British Airways followed the steps of communicating in a crisis, and even followed some basic rules about using social media in a crisis (hat tip to my client Marty Ordman at Dole Food Company, who sent me that link). And as a result, they won a convert.
Well played, BA.
And happy holidays from Gibraltar Associates!