Earlier this month it was announced by British Airways (BA) that the airline will be issuing iPads to its cabin crew that will be used to offer a more personalised service to passengers.
The idea is that staff will be able to look up ‘high-profile’ passengers using Google Images, which it said will “put a face to the name before the customer sets foot in the airport”.
By doing this, the airline hopes to be able to offer a more personalised and efficient service to its most valuable customers and frequent flyers. Cabin crew will be able to use their iPads to access ‘dossiers’ containing a range of information about their travel history and any problems or complaints they have made in the past, so staff will be able to apologise and take extra care of these customers to ensure they get a quality service that will ensure they continue to fly with the airline.
A spokesman for BA said: “The most recent advancement of the system enables the British Airways team to search Google Images for a photo of specific customers so they can recognise them and proactively approach them.”
The firm hopes to greet around 4,500 passengers personally through this method when it is fully implemented.
But while using this technology may seem like a good idea on paper as a way of offering a friendlier service that makes the airlines stand out from its rivals, it has raised the ire of several privacy groups, who have raised concerns that the scheme goes too far.
BA’s spokesman insisted the company’s plans are “entirely compliant with the UK Data Protection Act and would never breach that,” but this has not stopped the firm from facing criticism.
Privacy group Big Brother Watch was one organisation to voice its objections. Nick Pickles, director of privacy at the organisation, said: “Since when has buying a flight ticket meant giving your airline permission to start hunting for information about you on the internet?”
He told the Evening Standard that if BA wants more information about its customers in order to improve its service, it should ask for it, rather than “ignoring people’s privacy and storing data without us having any idea what data they are storing”.
With the backlash this plan has faced from privacy campaigners, it is clear that companies looking to boost their customer experience need to think carefully about these implications before initiating such programmes. While the data BA will be using as part of the Know Me scheme is publicly available, some customers may feel uneasy at the thought that a company is effectively keeping tabs on them.
Therefore, if you are looking to make your service more personal, it is vital you are open about how you are doing this and where you are getting your information, as well as ensuring the data is secure.
In recent months, online privacy has become a hot button issue, following moves by major sites such as Facebook to make changes to how they handle data.
As a result of the publicity surrounding such moves, which have been criticised for making it easier to access people’s private data, it is clear you need to think carefully about incorporating such information into your customer service efforts.