British Airways begins to examine its customers

The familiarity you feel at a restaurant or bar you're considered one of the 'regulars' at is difficult to really emulate. It hasn't stopped companies from trying to project a more human face on to their business, attempting to make customers feel more welcomed. British Airways is one of the companies trying to push for this feeling with their brand, by finding out information about you.

British Airways' official explanation is that they want to "deliver a more personal touch" with their "Know Me" programme. The programme basically boils down to the British Airways staff taking a trip to Google and finding photos of their customers, so staff can welcome their passengers personally. They'll also be checking their data to see if a frequent traveller has encountered delays in the past, so they can offer apologies. So far, it seems alright, but it has drawn some controversy for this.

Big Brother Watch, a British pressure group named after the omnipresent 'Big Brother' of George Orwell's novel 1984 has been quick to criticize, arguing that the airway should have no right to investigate your life beyond being a paying customer on their flights. For all that the airline seems to want to do with it, nothing really seems too bad. If the images are on Google anyway then there's a fair chance you've been found by other people. The idea seems rather cool, in a way, if it could be done correctly. Jo Boswell, the Head of Customer Analysis, said the following:

We’re essentially trying to recreate the feeling of recognition you get in a favorite restaurant when you’re welcomed there, but in our case it will be delivered by thousands of staff to millions of customers. This is just the start — the system has a myriad of possibilities for the future.”

If you're a conspiracy theorist, or someone who is naturally suspicious of ulterior motives being present, then you might see an issue here. What possibilities are they talking about? If they wanted, couldn't they look for your accounts on social media and find out what you've said about your experience? That could be problematic, since British Airways has had a few problems in the past with privacy complaints and their general conduct. Socialite Kim Kardashian claimed that the staff took some "irreplaceable" handbags from her luggage during a flight. Due to her high-profile celebrity lifestyle these complaints were taken seriously, so if British Airways knows their clientele inside and out then they could observe people's reactions to their experience.

Both arguments seem fairly reasonable. While Big Brother Watch's view might take the idea to extremes, the fact they've shared their opinion on the action could help draw attention to something customers may never realise had happened. With British Airways having had some financial issues in the past the company may need to try taking a measure such as this to retain customers. If they can feel they are part of the brand it could potentially help British Airways to maintain a loyal customer base. The "Know Me" programme should be worth watching from the sidelines, to see how reactions to it are taken.

Source: Evening Standard

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