Is British Airways providing better customer service or are they stalking you?

British Airways has initiated a new customer service program called “Know Me.” The company claims the iPad based system is intended to proactively recreate “the feeling of recognition” a customer often delights in when they walk into their favorite restaurant and the maitre d’ or the owner of the establishment knows their name and greets them personally. Most of us remember the popular television program “Cheers” – the Boston bar where “everyone knows your name.”

The airlines will be searching Google for photographs of their customers in order to recognize them as they enter the airport or aircraft and claim it will be a proactive approach in case a customer’s flight is delayed or to just thank a repeat customer for their “continued patronage.” The search system to be employed will also be able to pull up information about a customer’s previous travel arrangements, prior complaints, meal requests, and Executive Club status.

According to the British tabloid Evening Standard, privacy issues are becoming a hot topic. Passengers purchasing tickets argue that buying an airline ticket doesn’t give the company permission to hunt for one’s personal information. Other passengers seem to care less. Let’s face it; how many organizations that we deal with in our day to day business lives already have our personal information? My favorite Italian restaurant in Palm Beach Gardens knows where I live, my son’s birthday, and even my favorite Bordeaux. My personal shopper at Nordstrom knows my favorite color, my favorite perfume, my eye color, and a cellphone number I only use for my personal use.The difference is however, that I have voluntarily offered the information to the restaurant and to the department store.

Still British Airways state they hope to recognize 4500 customers per day by the end of the year, but it seems rather illogical that customer service agents are going to be able to recognize and recreate that “welcome” feeling most of us associate with the personal touch. After all British Airways have quite the extensive global route. Will the representatives just be specifically using Google to identify First Class passengers? What happens to all of the John Smith passengers of the world? Will they be overlooked, or will customer service representatives use birth date information to get even more personal? What if Susan Smith is no longer a blonde when she next travels to London? Will a customer service representative ask her if the photograph on Google is really her?

The “Know Me” service should be a voluntary program for those passengers who want that extra level of service. With so many people having been victims of identity theft, consumers need to think twice before subjecting themselves to arbitrary Internet stalking just because they need to fly from Miami to London. What do you think?

4 Responses to “Is British Airways providing better customer service or are they stalking you?”

  1. Eptica Blog said:

    Jul 13, 12 at 6:23 am

    I think this is a genuine attempt by BA to provide better service, but really shows the balancing act between receiving personalised service (which customers want) and infringing privacy (which they don’t). Consent is important and this case shows that companies need to be really sensitive not just with regards to the law, but customer’s views – more in the Eptica blog at http://eptica.wordpress.com/2012/07/11/customer-service-vs-data-privacy/

  2. David Cooper said:

    Jul 16, 12 at 6:01 am

    Hi! Great article! I agree with the previous commenter – there’s a fine line between infringing customer privacy and providing personalized service. I think BA’s attempt is genuine, but nowadays everyone is so caught up in protecting their personal information, the number of “haters” will always be greater and louder. Just think of Samsung’s gender-age recognition camera’s they installed in Osaka over billboards to provide personalized advertisement to everyone walking by. They wanted to implement the same in London for the olympics but it freaked people out. Nonetheless, great article! Kudos!

  3. Verslo valdymo sistemos | Ieva said:

    Jul 25, 12 at 4:02 am

    Very interesting topic to consider. Well, in my opinion, that’s too much from flights company. Of course, I would be very pleased that they know my name and my habits but the feeling of being stalked would not let me to relax and enjoy the flight.

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