Frequent Flyer? You’ll Be Googled A Lot By British Airways

    July 9, 2012
    Zach Walton
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Do you have a favorite restaurant? Do the people who work there know you by name now? I visit the Panera near work every morning to get a sandwich or pastry and an iced green tea. For the past few months, the lovely young ladies working there have an iced green tea ready for me when I walk in the door. They know me and provide a personal service that has made me want to keep giving them my business. Could airlines ever give service that personal?

British Airways thinks they can and they’re going to invade your privacy to do it. They will equip all of their flight attendants with iPads and task them to search for frequent flyers on Google as part of a new program called “Know Me.” These attendants will then collect all the information they can on said frequent flyers alongside with pictures so they can identify you and greet you by name.

As you probably guessed, the move has a lot of people criticizing British Airways. In their defense, it seems that they do have genuinely good intentions with the initiative. The company’s head of customer analysis, Jo Boswell, told betanews that they’re “trying to recreate the feeling of recognition you get in a favorite restaurant when you’re welcomed there, but in our case it will be delivered by thousands of staff to millions of customers.”

I can totally get behind BA providing a more personal service. It’s a nice gesture and it will go a long way to make what could be a miserable plane ride at least tolerable. My problem is that they are using Google to look up information and pictures of the passenger. Do they think that every name is unique and that people don’t look alike?

Here’s a better idea for British Airways. They should offer frequent fliers the option to upload personal information (name, likes, dislikes) and a picture to some kind of database. The flight attendants could then use this as an extra perk that they could offer to frequent fliers. I’m sure some people, no matter how often they fly, don’t want to get chummy with flight attendants.

  • http://www.chadofalltrades.com Chad

    Your idea seem much better and I think people will be inclined to sign up for something like that instead of being Googled by cabin crew.

  • http://www.greyolltwit.com/ Grey Olltwit

    I agree absolutely with you there Zach, their idea is absurd. A database would be a much better idea and I bet you wouldn’t have charged them a fraction of the fee that their consultant company probably did to give them the solution they’re going to adopt.

    As a frequent flyer (not on British Airways) I also think I would feel any greeting by someone I’d never seen before would be extremely false. But then I’m English and not terribly keen on the American “Have a nice day!” (no offence intended but I always get the impression that the person saying it, couldn’t really care if I fell down a manhole the moment I left the shop). Having said that I do frequent those sales outlets where they act in the way they do at your Cafe. That is genuine, as they have come to know you and very good business because you are a loyal customer.

  • Julian

    I’ve managed various customer service teams before, and in the end “friendliness” is less important than competence and general politeness. Most people would rather face a surly service person who knows what they are doing and does it quickly.

    Typical for this problem is phone-based or chat-based technical support. Most people have experienced the overly friendly tone “We’re so glad you continue to be our customer” while at the same time being unable to help you.

    Anyway, BA would do much better to make sure that their attendants are generally polite, rather than trying some creepy fake friendship idea. It would be less expensive (no iPads), less error-prone (“Oh, you’re not the John Smith that likes such-and-such?”, and less irksome.