The Internet must be central to your business – BA does not realise this

Take a look at this picture from The Sun web site – eye catching isn’t it?

BA in The Sun

Now look at the British Airways web site:

BA Website

Different isn’t it? The Sun is screaming at us that there is a problem, the BA site is much more sober in it’s approach, just paying lip service to the enormous difficulties they created for themselves. What’s important, though, is that BA did not put up the half-hearted apology until after The Sun newspaper exposed the lack of thinking.

This is another remarkable gaffe by British Airways. Airlines now get around 60% of all their bookings – the vast majority – via the Internet. Hence most customers of BA were likely to go their web site to find out the latest information on Terminal 5. It is simply not good enough to wait five days to update the company’s web site.

Apart from the fact that this is yet another example of poor management at BA, it highlights the need for every company to ensure that their web site is the FIRST thing the deal with in any negative situation. Not only will customers be visiting the web site to find the news, but journalists will do the same – which could bring your firm huge negative headlines, as BA has just discovered by its lack of action.

Most big businesses – and quite a few small ones – see their web site or the Internet generally as an “add-on”; something that “marketing” do, or perhaps part of IT. But it is not; the Internet is now completely central to every business. If British Airways had a “Chief Web Officer”, a senior board level director whose sole responsibility was the use of the Internet in the business, action would have been taken immediately on their web site. The problem is for many businesses, the Internet is “sidelined”. It therefore does not get the central funding or viewpoint that it needs.

Microsoft itself learned from its mistakes about ten years ago. It’s market shares were dipping. It was losing out to fresh online competition, but the company was largely ignoring the Internet. Then famously, Bill Gates had an “overnight” realisation that the Internet was important – and went back in to the office and restructured the business with the Internet as central to its operations. And they seem to have done OK with that idea.

Yet, I walk in to business after business to discover that the Internet is “part of marketing” or “we have a team in IT who look after it”, which makes me realise that few companies are aware that the Internet is central to their survival. British Airways will probably not realise it either; instead they’ll be blaming those “bloody journalists at The Sun” – passing the buck again.

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