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DEMO: BA’s Beyond the Flight Deck [2014]

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The Beyond the Flight Deck programme is a culture change initiative within BA.

With a premium brand comes high expectations for excellent customer experiences.

Whilst pilots’ primary responsibility is the safe operation of the airframe, when they do interact with customers, they have a huge impact, and can significantly enhance the flying experience and brand loyalty.
There are a number of activities that are part of the overall programme. The centerpiece is a two-day development course, provided for all 3,700 BA pilots by an independent firm of corporate psychologists.

The programme is having a definitive and measureable ROI impact.

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We introduced the Beyond the Flight Deck (BFD) partnership programme with BALPA at a launch event in the Waterside Theatre to an audience of 450 colleagues from across British Airways. We set out with a plan to bring together the needs of the customer and the untapped potential within the British Airways pilot community to play a more active role in their travel experience.

Broadly speaking our objective within the programme at the outset was to equip pilots to improve the customer experience and by so doing contribute to the re-emergence of the BA brand thereby building a measurable competitive advantage and creating a broader professional role that also made for a more fun day out.

At the outset, there was recognition that BFD wasn’t going to take root without investment in people, technology, process and relationships. Accordingly the Steering Group has prioritised the delivery of initiatives in the following areas;

A two-day investment in every BA pilot designed to give you the tools to make the biggest impact on the customer experience.
This course, delivered by third party training specialists OR Consulting, has the best feedback of any current BA training course.

Via the Customer Plan app, provision of customer specific and route data information over the iPad that will enable you and your crew to put in place a flight specific customer plan. This is the first stage of a much wider BFD app development.

Developed by line focus groups, the new facilitative briefing format uses a template that brings flight and cabin crew together to consider safety, technical,
operational and customer information delivered by the customer plan app and made available to all crew via briefing room Apple TVs.

For the first time, customers are now reporting on the impact that pilots have on their customer experience via the new Customer Voice feedback survey.
Initial survey returns for pilots have been strong.

Members of the BFD steering group and from the pilot community have worked with the Customer Transformation Team in the creation of four service hallmarks based on what our customers tell us defines for them excellent customer service.

The BFD initiative has had a significant and measureable impact on both customer satisfaction and pilot behaviour.

Numerical and narrative impact showed a ten percentage point uplift in satisfaction scores for BA customers who had had some form of interaction with their pilot before, during or after their flight, in addition to an 11% uplift in likelihood to recommend BA and an 11% increase in likelihood to travel with BA again. There are many individual examples of great customer feedback.

The feedback from pilots about participation in the BFD programme has consistently been excellent.

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This culture change initiative is highly innovative, and something quite different for pilots, who are more used to rigorous technical training. There has never been anything similar attempted within BA before, and as far as we know, there is no other programme like it with any other airline in the world.

Whilst the notion of pilots interacting with customers is not new, the real innovation lies is the fact that BFD is being introduced in a consistent, meaningful, authentic and thoughtful way as part of a coherent strategy within the airline around customer experience.

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It is the belief of BA and their partners (ORConsulting) that the delivery of the BFD programme has set the benchmark for using colleague engagement to impact directly on customer experience within the airline industry and with reference to the role of the pilot.

There is also much broad learning to be drawn from the programme. It requires a rather unique approach to engage and upskill a senior leadership population within a business with the mindset, skills, behaviours and communication required to deliver excellent customer service, especially when this is not the primary function of their job description.

A key challenge of the initiative has been about how to engage a senior section of the BA workforce in a set of behaviours that is not part of their primary role or responsibility. For a pilot the safe operation of an aircraft always comes ahead of customer service, and thus ‘BFD behaviours’ cannot be mandated or standardised for all. However, the key principle is: the collective impact of small, discretionary efforts has a huge impact on customer perception, loyalty and likelihood to recommend.

Because of these issues, the delivery of the programme has provided significant learning opportunities on the best ways to approach this with a remote, professional population.