My wife and I just returned from a week of vacation in
southern France.  It was the first
vacation in decades that we can both claim to have completely disconnected from
our daily routine—no cell phones, no Internet, no car, no bills, and no
thoughts about the work we both left behind and that we knew would continue to
accumulate in our absence.
As a Customer Experience Professional, customer experience is
always in mind and I naturally react to any and all personal experiences
throughout my daily existence.  What
sticks out as a highlight in terms of customer experience during this vacation,
you ask?  Please allow me to elaborate.
British Airways was our chosen carrier for this trip and the
overnight six-hour flight from Boston to London flight was uneventful except
for the fact that we flew coach and seating was, shall I say, a little
cramped.  I’m talking “knees meet chin”
here.  Only the skinny can survive in
coach seating.  Post-flight, my wife and
I vowed to not consider BA on any future flights to Europe.
The return trip, however, was quite another experience.  For reasons unknown, when we checked in at our
connecting airport, (London Heathrow) the agent told us that due to overbooking
in coach they were upgrading us to “coach plus” which we figured was something
like an extra inch and a half of space between us and the seat in front.  To our surprise and delight, these were seats
to the left of the main cabin door, (always a good direction) wide enough to
easily accommodate most average to wider-than-average Americans, and with
distance enough to the seat in front that you could actually open a newspaper
without smacking the person next to you in the nose—normal expected seating, in
my opinion.  The seats also reclined and
there was a foot-rest.  In comparison to
Coach, you might have thought we were in First Class.  Needless to say, that experience brought us around
to thinking that maybe we would consider flying BA once again, but how to
negotiate what we would now think of as a normal seat might be the real
challenge.   But the story gets better.
When we originally checked in at the airport in Nice, we
surrendered one bag each which was checked through all the way to Boston.  Our baggage claim tags were attached to our
boarding passes.  So when we lucked-out
by getting the upgraded seating in Heathrow, we received new boarding passes.  The agent there discarded our old boarding
passes and, unbeknownst to us, along went our baggage claim tags.  What could possibly go wrong there, you
ask?  Please allow me to continue.
Upon late arrival in Boston, an airport notorious for taking
up to an hour for bags to be off-loaded from plane to carousel, we waited and
waited and waited—along with many bags streaming by with no people to claim
them (what’s up with that?) and lots of people waiting to claim bags that were
not there.  Mine finally arrived but my
wife’s did not.  I won’t go through the
rest of the process but you know how that works, except that we had no baggage
claim ticket and that created extra work.
We arrived home on Saturday night and my wife’s bag was
delivered to our home the following Tuesday night around midnight via courier—for
whom we left the light on and a small tip for his service.  A little note of appreciation was left by the
courier for us.
Unfortunately my wife’s luggage contained some critical (and
not inexpensive) cosmetics that she needed in preparation for an early Tuesday
morning client meeting.  Not knowing when
her luggage might arrive, off she went to Lord & Taylor on Monday in
pursuit of replacements.  When my wife
explained her predicament to the customer service rep on duty, she was
completely empathetic and began offering little added extras (lagniappe, as
author Stan Phelps would say) that more than made up for the inconvenience and
expense of what had originated as a problem with lost luggage.  My wife was even offered free samples (in flight
compliant sizes) at any time she planned to travel again in the future so that
important and over-the-size-limit items would not have to be relegated to
checked baggage.
What CX lessons have we learned from this?  Customer experiences are immediate and
fleeting and are often determined in the moment by single individual employees.  The BA agent that took our old boarding
passes for example and tossed them out along with the critical claim tickets
attached likely did so inadvertently without thinking.  BA was having major baggage handling issues
at this time due to a computer malfunction so we were not alone.  Getting an upgraded seat (representing normal
and reasonable comfort) was nice and unexpected, but it doesn’t mean that it
would ever happen again, since we are not frequent flyers on BA.  The “knees-in-chest” seating would be the
expected norm.  The ticket price
difference between BA and an alternate carrier would have to be significantly
less for us to choose BA again.  Lord
& Taylor just earned a new and repeat customer in my wife.  They win all 10 stars for exceptional
customer experience this time.  The real
takeaway: Consistently meeting and or exceeding customer expectations helps
secure repeat business and customers for life.

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