Airline Customer Service is Airline Brand Experience

Lufthansa's A380 arrives at SFO | Via |

Lufthansa's A380 arrives at SFO | Via |

(San Francisco, CA) - My first experience with airline social media was with British Airways in 2009. This airline had successfully built responsive, conversational Twitter presence that also dealt, to the best of its 2009 ability, with real-time, on the ground customer queries, questions and complaints. Given that I was working for the company, I was glad to see the social marketing arm of the business striving to help our passengers around the world in "the British Airways way" - customer service with a focus on positive British Airways brand values and ethos, its historic, legacy carrier status, and the airline's unique, one of a kind service on the ground and in the air.

My airline days are behind me, but that experience's most valuable take away is the power of teamwork. That "it's not my job" isn't an acceptable response to the greater, immediate and real-time needs of a team. At British Airways, our job was to receive two (2) 747s of our passengers and their baggage in an efficient manner, with a high level of service, as well as receive new passengers and their baggage for two (2) on-time departures from San Francisco to London, while concurrently doing everything required to make these events happen on a daily basis across every cabin of service.

I recently found out about a less than ideal flight arrival experience via friend and colleague David Landis, CEO of San Francisco's Landis Communications, Inc. Having just arrived from Munich, Germany on Lufthansa, David and his fellow passengers waited in baggage claim for over an hour before their bags arrived - somewhat ridiculous after an 11 hour flight. David flew business class, but even if that's not the case, no one should ever wait that long for their bags without an explanation.

David took to Twitter, inquiring with SFO directly. Why did this happen? This tweet resulted in a San Francisco International Airport Guest Services' phone referral to a Lufthansa employee. David left a message for this Lufthansa employee, but he never heard back from her. Via direct message exchange, David stated the following to me: "I find it incomprehensible that an airline of the stature of Lufthansa wouldn't care about improving their luggage delivery times. It honestly makes me not want to fly them ever again and you can quote me. I don't really want anything out of this other than an acknowledgement and an apology. But I would like them to guarantee that they're going to look into it and try to improve the customer service moving forward. Otherwise, why should we fly with them?"

As "JamesJetsOften" on Twitter and a confirmed #avgeek, I thought I might be able to connect David since Lufthansa USA and I have followed each other for years. Off to direct messaging I went:

David Landis DM LH.jpg

I was hopeful that this would be a direct route to success - pun intended; that Lufthansa's social media arm would alert its San Francisco International Airport team and/or the cited Director of Operations and Airport Services. Unfortunately, none of that happened.

David Landis DM LH 2.jpg

Sam's response was appreciated, but it took my breath away. Why "as social media" do Lufthansa's Sam and his colleagues not "have the possibility to influence" David's situation? Why isn't Sam empowered to send an email to Lufthansa's San Francisco station? Why can't my social media engagement with Sam be followed by real-world engagement between his airline and David, with possible, positive results for all? Undeterred, I immediately jumped on LinkedIn, messaging Lufthansa's SFO Director. To date, I haven't received a response from him or anyone at Lufthansa, but most critically, neither has David.

Clearly, the ball is in Lufthansa's court i.e. the opportunity to engage David in an authentic and meaningful way. However, has the 'use by' date on this situation already come and gone? How many of David's international travel dollars were lost and will be lost if the clock's run out or if Lufthansa service recovery never happens? How many of those dollars could've been / may still be saved if Lufthansa reaches out to David? Now that this blog and an associated #bspokeofficehours video are live, I'm hopeful that Lufthansa will take action, implement service recovery, restore its reputation and perhaps win back David's business.


Originally published via LinkedIn on January 15, 2019.