Amazon vs BA – A Tale Of Two Service Interactions

Amazon V BA boxing match picture

How often do we come away from a customer service interaction and think “wow”? Unfortunately, not often; so low are our expectations that a company just meeting a service requirement can be a pleasant surprise.

But when companies over-achieve – in terms of getting what you are looking for and being treated in a way you want to be – then we are left with an amazing feeling.


I had this feeling after a call with a customer service agent at Amazon recently and asked myself, “What was it that wowed me?”

Firstly – and this is a big one – they actually trusted me as a customer. Of course, I didn’t need to send them a photograph of the damaged packaging which had meant that the smallest item it should have contained had fallen out at some stage.

Trust – wow!

Secondly, I could choose if I wanted to contact or be contacted by them; and when I selected the 5 minute ring back, it actually happened within five minutes. I spoke to someone who was competent and friendly. She quickly understood and empathised with my frustration that the smallest item in the box was the one I needed most quickly and was able to provide a solution that meant it arrived the following day and I didn’t have to do anything to make it happen.

This wasn’t my first great experience with Amazon – consistency is a key ingredient to great customer service interactions. On every occasion, the person I spoke to was empowered to make decisions to solve my problem. They were obviously encouraged to do the right thing for the customer rather than treat them like an idiot or one who is out to cheat them.

British Airways

I went to Holland with British Airways this week to run a training programme. Waiting to board, a request was made for volunteers to put their hand luggage in the hold if they could, as it was a completely full flight.

What could possibly go wrong?

The man at the gate, to whom we explained how important it was that our mission critical poster tube arrived in one piece – and that we would only hand it to him if he could guarantee that it would arrive in one piece – assured us that it would and that it was going straight into the hold.

We actually saw him putting it into the chute leading to the hold. On arrival at Schipol airport, the carousel went round and round and then stopped.

No poster tube.

BA’s local baggage handler (Avia partners) – having initially told us to “wait a few minutes longer”- then filled out a missing-luggage form describing a wheelie bag (there was a box to tick for that) despite being given the shape and dimensions of the tube.

The luggage handler wasn’t the slightest bit interested that the “48 hours” standard response she kept repeating like a mantra, really wouldn’t cut it. No, she couldn’t call BA for us – “Here’s their phone number, you call them”. No, she couldn’t look on the website – but we could. She demonstrated absolutely no interest in helping us, nor empathy for our situation, nor was empowered to do, or say, anything to make the situation more palatable. “It must still be in London,” was all she continued to tell us.

Compensation? “Go online and have a look at what you can do.”
The good news was that we were running a programme on how to deliver Great Customer Service so had a ready-made case study of how not to do it. Amazon does care. The sad thing is, BA really doesn’t.