Why fixing how you use digital tools will not be enough

Paul Boag

There is a lot of buzz around making better use of the digital tools at our disposal (the web, social media and mobile). But that is not going to be enough to secure the future of your organisation.

As I wrote recently digital transformation is not about digital tools. It is about understanding and adapting to the needs and behaviour of the new digital consumer.

Take for example poor old British Airways. Instead of writing to BA, a disgruntled customer decided to pay for a promoted tweet to express his frustration. It read:

Don’t fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous.

This is not the kind of traditional interaction British Airways understands and it caught them off guard. Within hours the tweet was on Mashable and seen or commented on by thousands of people.

It took British Airways over 10 hours to respond and that was to write:

Sorry for the delay in responding, our twitter feed is open 09:00–17:00 GMT. Please DM your baggage ref and we’ll look into this.

In short, British Airways did not understand the behaviour of their consumers anymore. The landscape had changed and they had failed to keep up.

This experience made British Airways rethink things. There social media team now monitors twitter 24/7. But, I believe they failed to learn the real lesson.

I recently got to experience the effectiveness of British Airways digital team first hand.

Myself and Marcus were flying home after consulting with a client in America. Unfortunately our flight was significantly delayed. These things happened we reasoned, but we were shattered. On a whim we decided to upgrade to business class in the hopes of getting some sleep.

The nice BA lady confirmed that seats were available and told us the price. Just as she was about to book the seats her manager intervened and said we couldn’t have them. No explanation, just a refusal.

This was the last straw. Marcus wrote a snotty email to British Airways while I took to twitter.

Sure enough a few minutes later a guy from BA contacted me via Twitter. He asked to call me and we chatted on the phone for a few minutes. He promised me he would get to the bottom of things and would call back.

Being the cynic I am I presumed I wouldn’t hear from him again, but sure enough he called back a few minutes later. He explained that they didn’t have enough meals for business class and that is why they couldn’t sell me the seat. But, he agreed that I shouldn’t have been told seats were available. As an apology he gave me enough BA points to get me a free upgrade next time I travelled.

All in all, it was not a bad resolution. I flew home tired but satisfied. But that is not the end of the story.

The next day I logged on to the BA site to upgrade an upcoming flight with the points I had just received. The site proved next to useless, telling me only that it was not possible to do that online and I had to call.

I tried calling on many occasions over the next few days. Each time I received the same message: ‘our lines are exceptionally busy’. Then I would get the dial tone.

Eventually in frustration I turned again to Twitter. Once again the social media team at BA responded and fixed the issue.

On the surface this all sounds like a win for BA. Yet, in reality it was not. By this point I was still completely fed up with British Airways. They had lost my trust.

Even though the social media part of their organisation worked well, the rest of the experience was poor:

  • Delayed planes.
  • Unhelpful checkin staff.
  • Uninformative website.
  • Useless telephone support.

That is the lesson they failed to learn from the promoted tweet incident. They focused on fixing the social media team. But they did nothing to ensure the customer wasn’t dissatisfied in the first place.

Customers have a higher expectation than ever before. The competition is just a click away and they have the power to damage a brand if they wish. They know this and so they demand more.

If organisations are going to thrive in the digital age, they don’t just need to improve how they use digital tools. They need to improve how they operate as a business.

That is what customer journey mapping is all about. It is about mapping the entire customer experience both online and off, looking for ways to make things better.

If your company is not looking into this then you should be. Don’t make the same mistake as British Airways. Don’t under estimate how much your customers behaviour is changing.