Disastrous customer satisfaction data for British Airways.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the IAG investor open day.  As an event aimed at investors, it had presentations from across the IAG group, including all of the five member airlines (British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Vueling and Level), as well as some of their core functions.

At the time, I noticed something curious and remarked upon it in my article; all of the other airlines prominently mentioned their customer satisfaction scores.  These are known as Net Promoter Scores (NPS) and are widely used across many industries.  All except for British Airways.

Now we know why.

YouGov, the respected polling organisation has released this report of British Airways NPS over the past few years.  It makes grim reading.

The report starts off by plotting the perception of British Airways amongst all passengers that have flown any airline over the past twelve months.

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That’s not good.  YouGov said:

Perception of the brand’s value and quality have dropped by 11.5 and 13.4 points respectively in the past year

However when they start digging into the details, it gets worse.  They do the same chart, but against those people who have actually flown British Airways in the past twelve months.

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YouGov said:

The data shows that BA has suffered a bigger hit when it comes to its own customers. Among those who have own with the airline in the past year, perception of value has dropped by 20.9 points while quality has fallen by 21.5.

There is an argument to be had that all of the recent negative publicity that has occurred over the past few months about British Airways could have had an effect on the NPS.  However this second chart refutes that argument.  The decline in NPS is double that for customers that have actually experienced the British Airways product.

They also produced an interesting chart that shows the NPS scores over time.  I’ve taken their chart and added in three key data points, listed as orange lines on the chart below:

  • Announcement of buy on board
  • Buy on board actually introduced
  • The major IT meltdown event

Presentation1

The NPS decline amongst their own customers clearly starts to be a key issue when they announced the introduction of buy on board for short-haul economy passengers.  When it’s introduced, the decline continues.  The IT meltdown then precipitates a further decline.

There is also a chart that shows the breakdown by length of travel; this also shows year on year declines across all distances.

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The report is interesting for me in two ways.  The factual data that have can’t be argued with, however I think their analysis towards the end is slightly flawed.

At the end of document YouGov goes into an analysis of which customers are most at risk of defecting to low-cost rivals.  I think this misses a key point – whilst some people will go to the likes of easyJet or Ryanair, most BA customers I speak to are people who like to travel in premium cabins.  These low cost rivals don’t address this market at all.

What’s also missing from the data presented is a premium vs. non-premium split i.e. if the declines are higher, lower, or about the same amongst those that fly economy or those that fly business and first class.

However any way you look at this data it’s bad.  The numbers also are only going one way and given the decline is worse amongst customers, rather than passengers in general, there’s clearly something majorly wrong with the overall British Airways proposition.

There do appear to be glimmers of change.  Announcements like the new Club World bedding and food service, as well as the group boarding process about to be introduced are welcome, but don’t go nearly far enough.

Ultimately there needs to be far reaching improvements to the overall customer proposition to win customers back.  Tinkering around the edges as they are doing at the moment appears to be insufficient.

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