Pilot Light

Inferno is a PR consultancy. This is not. This is Inferno’s blog.

Archive for April 2008

Machine 1 Human 0

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The sad truth

I’m trying to book some flights at the moment and went into the local high street travel agent in Putney to see what was on offer. I had a good chat with a sales advisor and she was broadly very helpful. There was a little bit of trouble with one leg of the journey though and she needed to wait for the airline to get back to her. No drama, she’ll call me when she hears back. Only she didn’t and I had to chase her. I looked up the number of the travel agent on the web, rang them up, and found I’d come through to a central number.

Now surely that wouldn’t matter? This is, after all, the 21st century. We hear all the time about the importance of customer service and there is a whole industry devoted to CRM systems to make the customer experience better. But apparently it does matter. I was told: “I can’t help you because obviously we have different systems, you’ll have to ring the local office in Putney.”

This got me thinking: “obviously we have different systems” – does that really wash anymore? It was the same company after all – surely my relationship is with the company, not with one person in one of their offices? They clearly had some sort of booking and customer tracking system because I was entered on it in the shop. I just find it frustrating that I had to speak to the same person as before to be able to progress my query.

For a company in the business of servicing customers, they seem to have missed a massive trick here. If the information about my query was made available to all the people I speak to, my experience would have been so much better and I wouldn’t be writing this. Maybe I’m over simplifying the issue here, but I see so many case studies of companies putting the customer at the centre and implementing simple processes and systems to do this, that I find it hard to take when I’m told the “computer says no.”



Written by pilotlight

21/04/2008 at 10:45 am

A masterclass of ‘Don’t!’ from BA

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Oh dear

I have not been personally affected but the T5 fiasco really is a case study of what can go wrong with a big, high-profile project on a marcomms and basic business level. I forgot all about the opening, but at Inferno Towers we all could not help but notice the festival of euphemisms that spewed from BA and BAA on the first terrible day – terms like ‘baggage performance issues’ and ‘staff familiarisation problems’ represented the worst part of spin vocab. A kind of marcomms political correctness where language itself is bent and broken to try to take the sting out of a real issue, but just provokes mockery from readers and anger from the affected. Fleet Street veteran Anthony Hilton, now with the Evening Standard, wrote a majesterial piece yesterday listing the failures on every level and it is well worth a read.

In terms of crisis comms the old idea of taking responsibility, providing clear and timely info to the affected and taking visible steps to remedy the problem was rejected in favour of a fog of words and denials that would have shamed a Post-Modern literature seminar.

As Hilton writes, businesses stripped bare of middle managers are left as struggling organisations of low level, virtually unseen executors of a strategy devised by executives in ivory towers who get their information late and manage down by uninformed diktat. Willie Walsh has a rep as a very able executive in his industry, but few leaders can survive open mockery like this game hosted by the Metro. Stay tuned, and look out for some deeply discounted flights in the near future.


Written by pilotlight

02/04/2008 at 1:32 pm

Posted in Business, Media, PR

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