Last week I had a splendid experience flying British Airways. I am shallow enough to admit that on this occasion “splendid experience” does indeed include an upgrade, but it doesn’t always with BA.

I am also not naive enough to know that my nice treatment is not down to my smile, but the commercial reality that I was getting on a British Airways plane five out of every six weeks last year.

However travelling last week, was a particularly fine week, I hopped over to the UK from New York, to Amsterdam, back to the UK and then home to New York.

Each and every BA touch point along the route was either splendid (yes, with an upgrade) or simply courteous, efficient or charming. The weather was kind, so to be fair they had no stress of significant delays, but each flight was full (a holiday week in UK and Netherlands).

So, coming to the end of my trip I tweeted “I love @British_Airways, that is all”.

It got a little ripple of reaction from my little sphere of “Twitfluence”, but to my surprise British Airways replied. Not much in that you may say, maybe they have a bot that auto replies like Pavlovís dog to the bell ringing of a mention of their Twitter handle.

But no.. They replied by saying:

@IanTruscott Thank you for your support Ian, it is appreciated!

Yes, ‘thanks your support Ian‘ not @iantruscott but they’d actually plucked my first name from my profile and made me feel like they were engaging with me.

It’s a small thing, I’m in this business so I know that maybe it could have happened programmatically and not by a real person.

Yet, it appealed to something inside me that doesn’t really want to know if it was a machine, it felt like British Airways had connected with me and I want to go along with that.

If you’ve ever got the “Dear {customername}” emails where something has gone wrong, and a placeholder appears where your name should be, you know what I mean. The indignation comes because the illusion of a company engaging with you is shattered.

Of course, like a lot of things social media, this is not new. For years remembering and using your name has been a standard technique of sales people, building rapport and trust whether you are buying a house, car or some enterprise software.

Personally, I try to apply this to Twitter – whilst it’s probably true that I am not in sales as I can’t remember anyone’s name – when I’m sharing a link through Twitter – I try to seek  out the authors twitter handle and name. Even if these aren’t immediately apparent. I do that to connect and to say that I liked what they wrote, not what some huge online publication that they write for churned out that day.

Also back to my BA experience, for organizations engaging with you – knowing your name and using it bestows a sense of individual quality in the service. When you sit nearer the front of the plane the flight attendant asks “What would you like for dinner tonight Mr Truscott?”, when you are nearer the back of course they can’t pay that same courtesy.

Of course, there is a flip-side, that over familiar sales guy that crosses that subtle line – there is a risk of turning people off. However, that’s not the focus of this post. If you want to engage with me on-line, it’s very simple; say my name