Hostile Customer Marker

Old Sep 24, 23, 8:50 pm
  #1  
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Hostile Customer Marker

So. This is my first ever major issue with BA (and maybe it’s just a rite of passage after many years) but I just have to ask for some advice/opinions on this from you fine frequent flyer folk.

I’m currently in Washington (stormy but having a great time) and my flight out on Tuesday is in premium. About 2pm I got the below email:


Now to me, I assumed they were saying that if I called and agreed to change my flight I would be upgraded to Club complementary.

So after a while trying to actually get a number to call I got through to someone who didn’t appear to even understand the policy or request being asked. When I mentioned the exact terms above I was told this was “outside policy” and that it only applied to those already booked in Club World. I spent a while trying to explain I was emailed by BA and I was trying to help them, but she didn’t seem to believe I what I was saying.

Eventually she asked me to forward the email to an address to prove I actually got it. Already this is slightly insulting, but fine, this was done. I probably spent about 10 mins holding after this, to be told that I was being granted an upgrade outside of policy because they could see I was sent this email. Another slightly insulting comment.

No flights from Washington or Baltimore on the day I was due to fly but something in the day after. Fine, book away. Went on with my life.

BA app didn’t update for hours, but saw that the flight was changed to Baltimore on BA website. My first error is I should have checked the date of the changed flight but I saw the airport and went ahead booking the seats.

I booked a non-refundable Marriott hotel for Baltimore for the additional night. Then a few hours later got an email from BA confirmation of the changes. I noticed the date was for the day initially booked to fly out, which would mess with the hotel booked and not what I had said over the phone.

No worries, let’s call BA to just reschedule. Oh boy. The man spoken to was rude almost immediately and dare I say it slightly aggressive. Saying he had listened to the call and confirmed I agreed to that change. Given I was on hold for a minute at best it seemed unlikely but I wanted to just have some confirmation that this was actually agreed. Was told this was 28 days to confirm. I asked if there was any way of just changing the date of the flight.

I may as well have been asking for him to cure cancer. It was an immediate no without any chance to look. I’m still convinced I didn’t agree to the same day change but I just didn’t expect such an aggressive representative from BA shouting at me for even wanting him to look.

I was then told to “call customer services” to change it. I then made the mistake of asking who exactly I’m on the phone to now. I was told to just call another number.

Ok: here was when things went very dark. I said “is this number different to the silver executive number or is it a direct number to the UK call centre?”

”this is a racist comment” I was met with.

genuinely stunned. I said “no I just don’t know who you’re asking me to call”

”this is a racist comment. I am marking you as a hostile customer” and the line went dead.

Out of desperation I called Marriott to see if they could help with the redundant hotel booking. 8 mins. *8mins* later I was told “as a platinum member I’ll get that cancelled for you with no charge” with a super pleasant person.

question: what on earth is a hostile customer marker, and should I expect bad issues going forward? It’s genuinely startled me in so many ways.
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Coffeemadman is offline  
Old Sep 24, 23, 9:09 pm
  #2  
 
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Originally Posted by Coffeemadman
So. This is my first ever major issue with BA (and maybe it’s just a rite of passage after many years) but I just have to ask for some advice/opinions on this from you fine frequent flyer folk.

I’m currently in Washington (stormy but having a great time) and my flight out on Tuesday is in premium. About 2pm I got the below email:


Now to me, I assumed they were saying that if I called and agreed to change my flight I would be upgraded to Club complementary.

So after a while trying to actually get a number to call I got through to someone who didn’t appear to even understand the policy or request being asked. When I mentioned the exact terms above I was told this was “outside policy” and that it only applied to those already booked in Club World. I spent a while trying to explain I was emailed by BA and I was trying to help them, but she didn’t seem to believe I what I was saying.

Eventually she asked me to forward the email to an address to prove I actually got it. Already this is slightly insulting, but fine, this was done. I probably spent about 10 mins holding after this, to be told that I was being granted an upgrade outside of policy because they could see I was sent this email. Another slightly insulting comment.

No flights from Washington or Baltimore on the day I was due to fly but something in the day after. Fine, book away. Went on with my life.

BA app didn’t update for hours, but saw that the flight was changed to Baltimore on BA website. My first error is I should have checked the date of the changed flight but I saw the airport and went ahead booking the seats.

I booked a non-refundable Marriott hotel for Baltimore for the additional night. Then a few hours later got an email from BA confirmation of the changes. I noticed the date was for the day initially booked to fly out, which would mess with the hotel booked and not what I had said over the phone.

No worries, let’s call BA to just reschedule. Oh boy. The man spoken to was rude almost immediately and dare I say it slightly aggressive. Saying he had listened to the call and confirmed I agreed to that change. Given I was on hold for a minute at best it seemed unlikely but I wanted to just have some confirmation that this was actually agreed. Was told this was 28 days to confirm. I asked if there was any way of just changing the date of the flight.

I may as well have been asking for him to cure cancer. It was an immediate no without any chance to look. I’m still convinced I didn’t agree to the same day change but I just didn’t expect such an aggressive representative from BA shouting at me for even wanting him to look.

I was then told to “call customer services” to change it. I then made the mistake of asking who exactly I’m on the phone to now. I was told to just call another number.

Ok: here was when things went very dark. I said “is this number different to the silver executive number or is it a direct number to the UK call centre?”

”this is a racist comment” I was met with.

genuinely stunned. I said “no I just don’t know who you’re asking me to call”

”this is a racist comment. I am marking you as a hostile customer” and the line went dead.

Out of desperation I called Marriott to see if they could help with the redundant hotel booking. 8 mins. *8mins* later I was told “as a platinum member I’ll get that cancelled for you with no charge” with a super pleasant person.

question: what on earth is a hostile customer marker, and should I expect bad issues going forward? It’s genuinely startled me in so many ways.
That sounds bizarre. On both calls you appear to have been misunderstood and to have received poor service. One wonders whether the racist / hostile customer response is due to the agent being out of their depth and wanting to end the call rather than admit their lack of knowledge?

But the only people who can help you, I assume, are BA themselves who will hopefully have a recording of those calls. Unfortunately you'll have to raise it with them, probably as a complaint if you feel you didn't receive the help you needed and were then unfairly accused of being hostile. They can then judge for themselves what happened and clear your name should any kind of 'mark' been made.

I can understand why you feel startled. It remains to be seen if the agent you spoke to genuinely misunderstood you and was also startled. However, even if that were the case, cutting you off without answering your question seems extreme. I would expect them to at least ask you to clarify what you said and allow any misunderstanding to be cleared up. And that's why I wonder if they just wanted to end the call rather than admit they didn't understand you.
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Old Sep 24, 23, 9:43 pm
  #3  
 
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Anecdotal evidence here: I’ve always found US call centre personnel to be much more aggressive and unhelpful than any other BA support staff.
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Old Sep 24, 23, 10:42 pm
  #4  
 
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I would recommend calling BAEC post flight and raise a complaint regarding the hostile customer marker, I would also be requesting the recording of the call to be pulled, and listened back to.
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Old Sep 25, 23, 12:35 am
  #5  
 
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To prevent any issues, it may be worth submitting a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act for a copy of the telephone recordings, meaning that you are in control of the recordings should they go “missing,” or if BA tries to claim anything untrue about the encounter.
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joepatr is offline  
Old Sep 25, 23, 2:12 am
  #6  
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The USA doesn't have a contact centre anymore, I think the JAX centre was closed down a decade or more ago. So this is either the contact centre in India (typically) or South Africa (at certain times of the day). There is a published policy for this event, and an agent can simply look on their system for it on their system, so the first agent was clearly unaware of this. Either way the usual process with BA agents is that once the agent has made the change, the agent then clearly reads back the revised booking and this is the point when attention to detail is important by both sides to the call. It is a bit odd that didn't happen.

Beyond that it is difficult to give advice, for the purely simple reason in that in the years I've been operating here, through all sorts of events and calamities, I've never come across a sequence of events like this. I don't think I've heard of a hostile customer marker, but I can imagine such a thing would exist in order to protect contact centre staff from people who really are awful at phone calls - some people really are. Some NHS patients have something similar but like BA we still have to treat them, the marker is to ensure someone extra experienced (old, in other words) handles the call and doesn't put up with any nonsense so I am the one who gets these calls. Racist behaviour is the most usual trigger, when the NHS clearly cannot operate without its diverse workforce. From the way it's been laid out above, someone appears to have jumped to an extra early conclusion on that one, if it was perceived that you wanted to talk to Newcastle rather than Cape Town, I guess staff there do get more nakedly racist comments in this area.

I would indeed check after travel about this, I think it is worth a SAR and a carefully worded note to Customer Relations after travel, include a telephone number because this sounds like something best discussed, if BA are open to that. I wouldn't worry too much though, because this is so much one anecdote, one incident, a disturbing one from your perspective, you can't really see any long term implications of this, it isn't going to happen to you again. By all means discuss this with someone you really trust whether your voice or tone or choice of wording or speed of delivery has unintended impacts at the receiving end Hopefully not, but I have noticed the hostile calls we get are often rather loud (I don't have full hearing so that doesn't trigger me) and fast, but being loud and fast certainly isn't a crime. Some mobile phones and PCs (etc) also seem to have failures on their attenuating microphones, these are usually very good at handling voice calls but sometimes they fail, so perhaps check that out too.

Short version: it was almost certainly a one-off.

Last edited by corporate-wage-slave; Sep 25, 23 at 2:18 am
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Old Sep 25, 23, 2:26 am
  #7  
 
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This sounds to be an example of panic and hang up by the agent. The op here is simply trying to make the nessecary amendments to his flights.

As way of background I've worked in some Public Sector contact centres. For what the agent has described as putting a marker down. This simply would not have happened in my areas of work without many layers of management getting involved and signing off on it

At least two managers would listen to the call initially and make a decision on it. For obvious reasons it would not be for the initial agent to decide and it certainly would not be told to the customer on the phone.

This sounds like very poor service to me, agent got in a flap too. There should surely be proper escalation routes in this scenario.

I have noticed that BAH are much more helpful and can make changes without a long hold than the Customer Service centre.
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Strongly agree to do a SAR if you want resolution on this.
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Old Sep 25, 23, 2:28 am
  #8  
 
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There is the "sensitive customer" marker in the full SAR dataset which I suppose is likely to be a candidate.

Beyond that I guess one thing always to remember on calls is that call centre handling is a recipe for frustration and anger. From the customer side, you have usually a long hold, you're stressed because of a problem, and then you are likely when you get through to hit procedural blocks or lack of expertise. From the agent side you are being measured on call length and resolution rate, and you are dealing with angry customers who have a problem, may have difficulty expressing themselves cogently, and who at some stage are likely to want your name (with the implication of follow-up), and to talk to a supervisor. All this is ignoring the demographic makeup of call centre staff, which is also a factor.

So a lot of slack needs to be cut in any interaction. What I always try to bear in mind (not entirely successfully, because I certainly have a temper) is that an agent who isn't being defensive because you're on the attack is more likely to find ways to help. It's not an issue at all for me with BA because I get the GGL line, but I am aware of the potential for problems from other interactions. It's really an artefact of the way meaningful human interaction is being removed from value chains.
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Old Sep 25, 23, 1:36 pm
  #9  
 
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No idea what the BA process/database is like, but I've had 25 years of poor treatment on (very occasional) use of another airline, where I am marked as "hostile" somehow, for the "crime" of standing next to a colleague who protested quite firmly - but not abusively - at being downgraded from business to economy.

Which is to say - although it's likely that nothing has been done and you were just talking to a lying idiot, I would absolutely insist on receiving a full explanation and confirmation in writing from BA, and a SAR is a good starting point. Don't risk doing nothing and finding every interaction hereafter is made harder.
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Old Sep 25, 23, 2:54 pm
  #10  
 
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Originally Posted by Coffeemadman
question: what on earth is a hostile customer marker, and should I expect bad issues going forward? It’s genuinely startled me in so many ways.
Sounds like call centre rep lies to me. Nothing will happen, so you can rest assured there.

However, if you want the rep to be spoken to / the case escalated, you'd need to make a formal complaint post flight. If you want the calls listened to, telling them your mobile phone number and the dates and exact times and durations of the calls will be a huge help.

Usually in cases like this the calls will be pulled, listened to and then the third party outsourcing company will be contacted and asked to review the calls. They will do that and then come back to say they heard it and they will train the agent some more. That's pretty much it, so you need to make your own decision as to whether that outcome is worth your time.
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Old Sep 25, 23, 3:40 pm
  #11  
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Thanks all. At the end of the day it’s all worked out fine (but mostly thanks to being able to cancel the hotel!) and the line quality was *horrendous* so there is every chance mixups happened.

My main issue would just be having some marker against my name, and possibly the fact the first representative flat out didn’t believe the “offer” applied to me. I’ve made this known to the Twitter folk and they will pass that along, and agreed the representative should have known about the offer.

So I’ll likely put in a letter of… not necessarily complaint, but just to try to ensure that if BA are going to send out texts and emails to customers that all their staff are aware of what to do when a customer calls to help BA out when they have reduced capacity. I’ll throw in the marker comment just to see if that has any legs to it.

Cheers guys! I should try to go and actually enjoy my birthday trip rather than argue back and forth with an airline 😂
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Old Sep 25, 23, 4:26 pm
  #12  
 
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We’re very sorry we were unable to process your upgrade recently. This isn’t what you should expect of us, and we understand why you needed to let us know about it. We’d also like to thank you for your patience while we got back to you.

We don’t underestimate how important a complimentary upgrade is to your enjoyment of the flight, so we’re disappointed we didn’t meet our usual standards this time.

Please be assured your feedback is already making a difference. I've shared your comments with the managers in the relevant teams, who will use them to help focus on how we can improve our services for the future.

We value your loyalty as a Silver member of our Executive Club, and know this experience did not meet our usual standards. I’ve added 5,000 Avios to your Executive Club account, and hope this goes some way towards making up for what happened.

Once again, please accept our apologies for your experience on this trip. We hope to welcome you back on board soon.
You'll get a reply somewhat like this. Nothing else will happen.
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Old Sep 25, 23, 4:47 pm
  #13  
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Originally Posted by bisonrav
You'll get a reply somewhat like this. Nothing else will happen.
We did get the upgrade eventually; just flying from a different airport.

Funny enough the initial flight which was an A380 that changed to a 777 (it was after this that we got the emails about reduced capacity) is now back to being an A380!
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Old Sep 25, 23, 5:41 pm
  #14  
 
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Sounds like great customer service!

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You should never tell a psychopath hostile customer they are a psychopath have a hostile marker set. It upsets them.
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Old Sep 26, 23, 8:25 am
  #15  
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Well just a quick update, according to BA:

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