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How to Create a BAd Customer Experience: In a Nutshell

If you want to turn your customers into enemies, take some lessons from British Airways

Well, fear not, the friendly folk at British Airways gave me a masterclass during a recent flight, so I thought I’d share some of their helpful tips:

Step 1 –Work your crowd to prep them for the experience

On the run-up to their flight, Spam them mercilessly with offers to upgrade. Once you finally beat them down into paying about £200 for the privilege, however, confuse the shit out of them so that they wonder if they have been upgraded at all.

This can be skillfully achieved through some simple tricks, such as having dozens of ambivalent and similarly-named-yet-entirely-different categories of cabin. On the booking site (the one where you take the suckers in for their cash) they can be called what you expect (Economy-Premium Economy-Business-First) but as soon as they’re hooked you change them over to things like: Club World, World Traveller, World Traveller Plus, European Club… Be as creative as you like, the trick is to get them to stare at their ticket for ages in the entrance to the airport lounge wondering if their £200 bought them a free coffee and better Wi-fi while they’re waiting for their delayed flight (answer: it hasn’t). For full effect, employ a really stuck-up gatekeeper to stare them down in disgust as they ask the question. Watch them skulk away with glee in your heart.

The trick is to confuse passengers as much as possible with an endless aray of ambiguously-named cabin categories

Step 2 — Don’t provide standard services

On an 11-hour flight your customer might like to catch up with some work on their laptop. The fools! Since they’ve already been using said laptop for a few hours at the airport while waiting for your delayed flight, chances are the batteries are running pretty low. When they ask if there’s an outlet at their seat where they can plug in, stare at them in puzzlement until they start to wonder if they’re in the right century. Then you explain to them that this is an old seat that has weird proprietary power plugs, but then make sure that you don’t carry any adapters capable of connecting those plugs to real-world appliances.

Make sure not to carry any adaptors for your outdated power plugs

Step 3 — Make them feel like Scum

Now this is a tricky one to get right, so pay close attention. The best timing for this is midway through those twilight hours during a long-haul flight, just as exhaustion and boredom are peaking. Other airlines will go around at regular intervals with water and juice, or provide at least one bottle of water at your seat. British Airways, however, cleverly set out a selection of thimble-sized drinks at the back, next to a selection of snacks. The boredom — remember that this person has already been cleverly deprived of their laptop, whose battery gave up the ghost many hours ago, and has probably by now exhausted the choice of old films to be watched on the minuscule grainy screens provided — might prompt said customer to take one of those snacks.

Snacks are for business class customers only!

THAT’S when you make your move. Tell them that those snacks are NOT for the likes of you, as they’re for Business Class (or whatever they’re calling that cabin this week) customers. How dare you, in other words, assume that your £200 extra afforded you extra free snacks? They must, after all, be worth at least 50 pence, are you trying to bankrupt them with your thieving ways? Not on their watch you won’t.

Step 4 — Extra bonus round of confusion

After you send your customer back to their 1950s seat, suitably chastised, you will hopefully get them questioning their judgement. Did they, after all, go to the wrong place? Was it their fault? Have they always had secret kleptomaniac tendencies? That did not look like a posh Business-Class area, so maybe they were supposed to go somewhere else for their drinks? When asked that question, a different cabin crew should step in to confirm that, indeed they had gone to the correct place before. To add insult to injury, do, however, casually offer them one of the snacks. Your work here is done.

Make your customer feel as confused as possible, that can only improve their overall experience

If you carefully follow the easy steps above, you should see the results quickly materialize as your customer turns to Twitter for some group therapy:

Finally, express utter puzzlement at the fact that they’re unhappy

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When responding, however, make sure to totally miss the point and focus on the fact you were right to refuse the nuts:

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Written by

Technology writer for FastCo, Quartz, The Next Web, Ars Technica, Wired + more. Consultant specializing in VR #MixedReality and Strategic Communications

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