Bed Bugs on British Airways

Insects freak me out… I really don’t like them nor feel any need to come to terms with my phobia about bugs. Reading this story about bed bugs on a British Airways flight made my skin crawl but it was this comment from the un-named BA rep that really made my blood boil:

BA said it was “extremely rare” for it to hear of bed bugs on any of the 250,000 flights it has every year.

This is just about the lamest response that a company can give… in fact, saying something like this just makes people believe they are being untruthful and uncaring. First of all, would they ever come out and say “well bed bugs are actually pretty common on airplanes” or “yes this is a problem”. Obviously the answer is no.

More significantly, parse the statement carefully and what they are saying is that they don’t hear about it, not that it doesn’t happen.

This is the problem with traditional customer service, the old world model was based entirely on contained channels for customer feedback but up here in the 21st century customers don’t immediately go to customer support… increasingly they go to Twitter or Facebook or a blog, so when they actually do go to customer support you had better damn well take care of them because they are giving you every opportunity to make something right before pulling the trigger and unleashing their displeasure in a channel the company cannot effectively minimize.

People elicit sympathy, companies do not… does anyone reading the linked story doubt that what Ms. Selkirk says happened to her is anything but fact? Does anyone reading this story actually believe that British Airways acted with care and compassion while making a good faith effort to remedy the problem their customer experienced?  Done, stick a fork in it… BA needs to go back to school on customer service (and get their planes cleaned while they are at it).


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