A non-negotiable customer experience

A non-negotiable customer experience_nlighten_article_2019

Customer Experience is Nothing without the Non-Negotiables

Ok, hear me out here. I don’t want you thinking I’ve got a big case of Anti-British Airways-itis. I want to like them. They’re a stalwart of the flight industry. However, recently I’m again unimpressed.

I particularly want to highlight a recent experience. Why? Because it shines a spotlight on why it doesn’t matter how fabulous your higher-level customer experience is, if you get the basics wrong it’s not good. Let me explain.

Many businesses take a tiered approach to their customers.

However, this should not  mean that organisations view their lower tier as being sacrificial lambs at the expense of meeting the expectations of the higher tiered customers. No, they expect an absolute baseline of quality customer experience.

This should include non-negotiables – the things that are a given, whatever tier you as a customer sit in. Those things should include hygiene (yes, really I’m amazed I have to mention this), professionalism, ease, and friendliness. We expect a certain level of service.

This baseline is about the company’s brand and persona. The absolute minimum you expect when flying with that name, in the case of airlines.

Oh no BA, where are your non-negotiables?

Let me put this in to a real life context. As is often the case with my life, I was returning to Cape Town, South Africa from London Heathrow. It was terminal 3 which was graced with my presence. I was invited by my friend who is Gold Class member on BA, as his guest to the First Class lounge and as one does, I made use of the lounge’s restroom.
the very cubicle_British Airways Article_nlighten_2019
This is a pic of the very cubicle I experienced. Sorry for the TMI.

I admit I may have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder, as  Africa seems to get the raw end of the deal when it comes to Heathrow. We get Terminal 3, the older more decrepit relation of the snazzy new Terminal 5. We get the old planes – thanks BA.

But really, come on, when it comes to basic hygiene? Surely it should be spot on. What’s more, I don’t actually give a fig that I was in the First Class lounge. I’d want to know that the punters in economy get better hygiene than that!

Not impressed. This is basic stuff BA!

What can we learn for customer experience?

The lesson here needs to be that customer experience itself should be a layered approach. It shouldn’t start with the premium end and work backwards. It should start at the bottom with core values and non-negotiables and work up.

BA really needs to get this. Last year, BA (thankfully!) announced that they were investing an eye-watering $4.5bn in a 5-year customer service improvement plan. Yes there have been a few things thrown out at the base level (WiFi being installed in all seats for example). However, they’ve just thrown multi-million pounds of that figure at the food in Club Europe. Great, but seriously, don’t you think you need to get the basics right first?

So please, all businesses, I implore you. Turn your customer experience thoughts on their head. Start at the bottom with the absolute non-negotiables of your brand and then add on the frills for the higher tiers. Whether you’re an airline, a car rental company, a bank or someone else, you need to learn this lesson.

Nathalie Schooling : CEO | nlighten


View the previous nlighten article by Nathalie Schooling: Bye bye British Airways / Comair

nlighten. enhancing customer experience: www.nlighten.co.za


Customer Experience Masterclass: Get results by thinking like a customer experience pro – Invest a day in our value-packed interactive CX coaching. The quality of your customers’ experiences defines your success. | JHB – 9 May 2019 view more